Who's going to fulfill your orders? What types of people are packaging your products? Are you spending too much on shipping materials? Are your customers satisfied with the amount of time it takes to receive an item?
All of these factors need to be considered, yet for some reason, companies are known to leave shipping as an afterthought. That is until they are in dire need of cutting costs.
That's not the time to really focus on your shipping. In fact, you should know your daily shipping procedures like the back of your hand before you even launch an online business. Sure, you'll run into roadblocks along the way, but the point is to have a plan and constantly change around that plan to ensure that you're getting the best deal with your shipping.
Therefore keep reading to see the ultimate guide of tips and tools for handling your shipping.
To get us started, check out the free Return Policy Generator from Shopify. You don't even need to have a website on Shopify to use this, which makes it even cooler. Since telling your customers about your refund policy is one of the first things you should be doing, it's nice to cut out some of the writing you would have to go through to create a page on your website.
Another cool resource is the AfterShip company, which is a tool for those customers who want to track where their packages are located. In the world of Amazon, you'll notice that just about every customer expects this now. Therefore, the AfterShip company provides some free and paid customer notifications that go through couriers like UPS, USPS and FedEx. Hundreds of other couriers are supported as well. Try it out for free, then upgrade depending on how many orders you have going through your store.
Think About Partnering with a Fulfillment Company
A big question to ask yourself is whether or not you would like to make product fulfillment in-house. You have the option to outsource this to a third-party company, where that company stores some of your inventory at their warehouses. Therefore, when a customer makes an order on your website, the third-party fulfillment company selects the item, packs it and ships it to the customer. In addition, the majority of fulfillment companies handle returns as well.
What are some fulfillment companies you can go with?
The ShipWire service and software can be used by anyone throughout the world. The software can be customized for your existing systems, and it has a huge network of global warehouses for you to choose from.
Fulfillrite works for those companies that are looking for fulfillment partners in the United States. Same day shipping is offered for certain items, and flash sales are even supported for those ecommerce shops that choose to offer those on their websites.
Think Logistics is a fulfillment service for Canadian companies. It has a focus on delivering items fast and also making it so that your branding is always intact. For example, your packaging materials and branding items are used when products are sent out to customers.
Putting Labels and Stamps on Your Packages
Whenever a customer receives an item, they see a stamp or label that has details about the shipping address, customer and shipping provider. These labels can also be important for branding and tracking along the way. Which services can you choose from?
ShipRobot has several features that make it worthwhile. For example, you can find real time syncing with the ShipRobot label company, and it creates and prints shipping labels for you. In addition, order status updates are generated automatically, so you don't have to worry about that.
Stamps.com is one of the most popular options out there, and it's used by lots of startups. The system works by letting you click, print and ship your products. It's not as automated as some of the other solutions, but it's an affordable place to start.
OrderCup integrates with platforms like Shopify, Magento and Bigcommerce, and it connects with carriers such as UPS, FedEx and USPS. A standout feature is the one click batch processing, which comes in handy for every type of business.
This is an online shipping software that offers discounted shipping rates and quick label printing. You even receive automated tracking.
Shippo is an integration that connects with most ecommerce platforms and carriers, allowing you to quickly print out labels and send out your products in one swoop.
Setup Your Own Business Accounts
Since you're going to be sending out lots of packages, it's wise to setup a business account. These accounts give you faster systems and often cheaper shipping costs, since each of them have dedicated account dashboards and adjusted pricing models. Once again, it all depends on which carrier you go with, but generally you can setup a business account with each of the following:
- UPS Business Solutions
- USPS Business Gateway
- FedEx Business
- Canada Post Business Account
- Australia Post Business Account
- Royal Mail Business Account
Declare Customs and Handle Taxes
If you plan on sending items internationally, the customers who receive these products are most likely going to have to pay customs and duties. Therefore, you'll want to figure out how much these are going to cost. Some companies pass on the cost to customers, while others foot the bill. Try out the customs and duty calculator for help, and check out some of the customs links below, depending on which carrier you plan on using for your international packages.
- UPS Customs Link
- USPS Customs Link
- FedEx Customs Link
- Canada Post Customs Link
- Australia Post Customs Link
- Royal Mail Customs Link
Find a Packaging Supplier
Another factor to consider when shipping products is the type of supplies you'll use to package your products. Your decision ties into your overall costs and branding strategies, so make sure you locate one that works well for you. The following solutions are all reasonably priced, and you can generally check back in with them to see if rates have changed after the year has ended.
How to Calculate Your Shipping Rates
It's prudent to calculate your average shipping rates before you start sending out products. It all depends on where you're located, and where you plan on sending your items. You'll also want a system that calculates shipping rates for customers on your website. In order to understand your shipping costs as a whole, check out the following list of resources depending on where your business is located.
- UPS Shipping Calculator
- USPS Shipping Calculator
- FedEx Shipping Calculator
- Canada Post Shipping Calculator
- Australia Post Shipping Calculator
- Royal Mail Shipping Calculator
Tips to Keep in Mind for Ecommerce Shipping
1. Surprise your customers with upgrades to their shipping. Imagine being a customer and receiving a gift when you get your package. In the past I've received personalized letters and even coupons that prompt me to go back to the store again. But what about making the shipping rate faster? Zappos is known for surprising customers with faster shipping, and it has turned out quite well for them.
2. Always keep your promises when shipping. If your website says that you are going to deliver an item in two days, make sure that that item gets to the customer in under two days. If your shipping is struggling at the moment, make sure you contact each customer to apologize. Otherwise, you're going to lose some loyal customers.
3. Find efficiencies and capitalize on them. When shipping similar items, you should see a more efficient shipping process. Therefore, it's wise to identify the areas in which shipping is faster and less costly. This way, you may be able to move around your inventory for faster packaging or even get rid of some of the products that are simply dead weight.
4. Automate everything you can. From fulfillment to tracking emails, all of this should be automated so that you don't have to spend money on customer service reps who are forced to speak with customers who are wondering where their packages are located.
5. Under deliver and over perform. Promising a certain delivery time is required on your website, but it's wise to display delivery times that you are certain of accomplishing. This way, your customers will always be satisfied, or blown away, that their items arrived earlier.
6. Be transparent about your shipping. You should post as many details about your shipping processes as possible. Have your shipping and return policies published on your site, and tell people what your shipping prices and times are going to be far before they get to the checkout page.
7. Try to mimic Amazon as best you can. Let's face it, Amazon has mastered the shipping game. They know the best shipping materials, offer two day shipping for most of their customers, and they even have a tool for getting items within a couple hours. Do everything you can to be as close to Amazon as possible.
8. Give every shipping option possible to buyers who come to your store. Do you offer overnight shipping? What about a cheaper, yet longer shipping option?
9. Keep your fulfillment workers happy. The people who package and send out your packages are the ones that are making your company look good in the shipping realm. Therefore, whether or not you outsource or use employees, send these people gifts on occasion to show your appreciation. This could be in the form of a holiday bonus.
10. Think about dropshipping if you have an established business. Dropshipping is where you have a website, but you don't carry any of the inventory in your own warehouse. The supplier makes, packages and delivers all of your items. This can really cut your shipping costs, but it generally works best if you already have a supplier who offers this.
11. Consider third-party fulfillment. As discussed above, you can really cut down on the work it takes to ship by going with a third-party.
12. Outsource your warehousing. Maybe you don't want to outsource the entire shipping process. Maybe you'd rather simply look for a warehousing company that's cheaper than a complete fulfillment service.
13. Analyze carrier pricing to ensure you're using the right shipping products. Every year you should look at the shipping materials and processes being used. This way, you can evaluate what mistakes you have made and try to cut costs with your shipping partners.
14. Spend time shopping for carriers. This should be a no-brainer, but you're probably going to spend lots of time and money on whatever carrier you partner with. Do some shopping around before deciding on an option.
15. Think about not tracking cheaper items. Lots of larger companies cut some costs by not offering tracking codes for super cheap items.
16. Don't let storage hinder your operations. Get creative if you need more storage. Consider renting a small garage or storage space in the area. Look around your office to see if there is any additional space that you can utilize.
17. Keep to your daily routine to cut costs. Check your routine on a daily basis to understand exactly where your efficiencies and inefficiencies are. This way, you can go back and change things around if needed.
18. Remember that shipping is more than half of your business. As we talked about above, you're going to spend tons of time and money on shipping your products. Therefore, it's essential to turn yourself into a shipping expert. If you can't handle it, consider hiring someone who can, because your shipping processes can make or break your business.
Over to You…
There you have it! This ultimate list of shipping tips and tools is sure to get you pointed in the right direction when it comes to cutting costs and establishing an effective shipping machine. If you have any questions about handling shipping for your own online business, feel free to drop a line in the comment section below.