New online retailers who sell physical products may be overwhelmed by the idea of shipping their items to consumers. From packing the orders to monitoring related expenses, an effective shipping process can make the difference between success and failure of an online retail business. This is one area of commerce where it will behoove brands to learn from the successes and failures of others.
1. Product Weights…and More
While it may seem obvious to talk about actual product weights, calculating the cost to ship an order is not necessarily a one-step process. A product’s shipping weight may not be its actual weight. Depending on the item being shipped, you may have to include packing materials that add to the total shipping weight of the package. For extremely fragile products, you may need to use strong, corrugated cardboard boxes that are heavier than normal shipping containers. And don’t forget that even the tape used to seal the box will add to the shipment’s weight. In such cases, you have to know the total weight of the package once all of the components are taken into consideration.
Another unusual example is if you sell products that are quite light but bulky in size. Shipping carriers don’t just charge for package weight, they also charge based on what is called dimensional weight. Dimensional weight pricing charges shippers either the actual weight of a package or the average weight of a package of approximately the same size, whichever is greater so you could end up paying a lot more when you ship since dimensional weight pricing would cost more.
While some products do not have uniform weights and would be difficult to automate, for the vast majority of items you might ship, identifying and setting up individual product and packaging weights will save more time than anything else. Create a spreadsheet that includes the product names, SKUs, and product weights to save time and frustration.
International sales are not as complicated as they once were. Many carriers give direct international rates and more website platforms are supporting international rates. It doesn’t hurt to start small by offering your products to a limited number of countries first and then expand when you are confident in your ability to work through the process for other countries.
2. Flat Rate and Regional Shipping
Flat rate and regional rate shipping services are not always the least expensive way to ship, these choices can take some of the guesswork and stress out of shipping. More often than not, they are competitively priced and usually offer the easiest to understand shipping options available. Regional and flat rate services also provide shipping boxes which can save time, money, and storage challenges.
3. Shipping Software
Shipping software allows you to purchase shipping and postage online. One benefit this strategy provides is that these online purchases are typically less expensive than the same purchase at a local post office or UPS store. Shipping software also provides other features, including integration with marketplaces, better tracking, or some level of shipping automation.
4. The Packaging Matters – It Represents Your Brand
Savvy consumers read into everything, including the materials you choose to package and ship your products. From your shipping label to your water dissolvable (or not) packing peanuts, be purposeful. Say “yes” to recycled and recyclable materials, say “no” to repurposing a box you received supplies in. Make the best first impression possible when your product arrives. An unmarked or company branded box, professional label, and clean, first use packing materials.
Using a properly sized box when shipping orders is also important if you are looking to maximize your shipping savings. While it would not be practical to keep an individually sized box on hand for every single product you sell, you can make wise choices when matching an item with a box. This strategy will help with both regular package weight and with dimensional weight pricing.
The “inside” of your packaging is also a great place to connect with your customers on an emotional level by getting personal with either a thank you message or welcoming them to your brand. The more consumers connect with your brand, the more compelled they will be to make future purchases. The impact of something as simple as a (neatly) handwritten thank you note can go a long way!
5. Budget for Unexpected Shipping Costs
Sometimes shipments will cost more than you anticipated or you may have more product returns that you would like. (Yes, we believe the company should pay for the return.) It is all a part of doing business. Understand how shipping impacts each individual order but when analyzing overall shipping costs and practices, look at things over a period of time like a week or month to keep your focus broad enough to be productive.
When the experts at Strategy Driven Marketing are not working with a Squarespace based customer, you might easily find them busy with one of our customers who utilizes the Shopify platform. We mention this because Shopify Shipping has discounted rates to the point that they now offer the best USPS rates available anywhere. The platform allows customers to manage everything from one account and provides an easy to use Shopify Shipping calculator to figure out how much it will cost to ship with the USPS.
New for Shipping via Shopify
Even though prices are increasing everywhere else, the Shopify Shipping rates offered for First Class Package International (FCPIS) remain unchanged. Businesses will pay the same discounted 2018 rates for all of 2019. This represents a savings of up to 21% off retail shipping prices and the best rate available from any shipping platform or app for FCPIS. The even better news is that these rates have already been enabled in customers’ existing accounts.
On the Shopify and Advanced plans, Priority Mail Cubic pricing is now available to merchants. Cubic pricing is a deeply discounted rate for shipping small packages that weigh under 20 lbs and use your own packaging. This feature provides businesses a great incentive to offer free expedited shipping to customers.
Two cost-effective shipping methods, Parcel Select Ground (for large or heavy packages) and Media Mail (for shipments of media like books and music) are now available as options when businesses purchase shipping labels. They are not the quickest methods of shipping but do provide more options for you to include as part of a free shipping strategy.
Shopify also offers deeply discounted rates for UPS and DHL Express, return labels for domestic orders, discounted package pickups, packing slips, and more.
IMPROVE CUSTOMER SERVICE WITH SHIPPING
Excellent customer service should be more than a goal. It should be integrated into every aspect of your brand. The fulfillment of orders is the closing of the deal. If you think about it in restaurant terms, you don’t want to be that server who is amazing from the greeting through the meal and then disappears without delivering the check. Here are some tips for improving customer service in regards to the shipping process.
Provide an Estimated Delivery Date and Tracking Updates
Customers want to know when their package will arrive when their package has physically shipped and have started to expect be given the ability to “watch” the progress of their package’s journey. Send tracking information and shipping updates via text or email messages.
Offer Multiple Shipping Options
Many customers want free shipping, no matter what. They are happy to wait the extra number of days and are even willing to add items to their cart to reach the minimum purchase price necessary to earn free shipping. Other customers, however, may have an immediate need for an item and are more than willing to pay extra to have it delivered as close to instantaneously as possible. And yet other customers are simply seeking a shipping option that balances cost and delivery time. Flexibility in your ecommerce shipping options will keep as many customers satisfied with their purchasing process as humanly possible. So, do a bit of extra work to understand the different methods you might put on the table for your consumers.
Improve the Order Fulfillment Process
Reduced time between order placement and shipment provides a better user experience for your customers. Have real-time inventory updates available to avoid running out of popular products. Automate the creation of shipping labels and invest in a software system that will help your team minimize any potential errors that might be made in the fulfillment process.
The experts at Strategy Driven Marketing would love to learn more about your brand and business goals. We have extensive experience helping organizations create and maintain ecommerce websites that are an expression of their brand and a direct channel to their customers. From creative and front-end development to functionality, responsiveness, and more, SDM can help you provide an amazing user experience that will create a buzz about your brand and keep customers coming back time after time. Contact us today to learn more!