If your company is selling and taking orders via an e-commerce site, you will need to know about shipping easy and delivering your product to your clients.
So, You’ve spent the time setting up your website and developing a great product. You’re attracting customers and getting orders – but the deal isn’t closed until your customer has their goods in hand.
Shipping easy and delivering efficiently make up a large portion of complaints from online customers. Not having your delivery strategy worked out could be your downfall before you’re even off the ground. On the other hand, thoughtful packaging and efficient delivery could be another opportunity for you to delight your customers and get them raving about your company.
That’s why it is so important to make sure that this part of your business runs smoothly. You are delivering more than just a product; you are delivering an experience. You are delivering your brand experience – in a box – and customers have come to expect this to be part of their shopping experience.
There are various aspects of the shipping and delivery process to hone down if you want to exceed your customers’ expectations and make an impact. It’s so much more than just getting your product to them in one piece.
Key Shipping Easy Factors
Before finding a courier or vendor to fulfill your shipment needs, you need to assess exactly what your needs are so that you know exactly what you are looking for in a delivery service provider.
What are you shipping? What will the average weight be for shipments and how will that effect your costs?
What are your sales volumes? How many sales do you expect to make in the average week, season and year?
What are your handling expenses? Does your product need special packaging materials? What materials do you need to pack your goods?
Distance from key vendors. How far away are your vendors? What will transport costs be like if you must drive around to collect and drop off shipments?
What’s your time frame. What is the fastest that you can prepare a package for shipping and get it to the courier, and how fast can your courier deliver? How many of your orders need to be by express delivery? Can you offer a slightly slower and more cost-effective courier to most of your clients or will the majority want same-day or over-night delivery?
Tracking. Whatever you’re shipping, you should find an option that enables tracking and progress reports all along the way.
Choose your Vendors
As a small start up you might rely on companies like FedEx and UPS (or other local courier brands) to handle your shipping needs. As you grow, however, you will need to look at better long term options. Take the time to asses the exact requirements of your business and find a multistep shipping vendor who can provide you with these options at a reasonable rate.
You also need to look at where your product needs to be delivered to. A vendor may be the best in your area but not service outlying areas that you want to ship to. Do a bit of research and make sure you find a number of vendors to cover all areas that you ship to.
Find out what the vendor’s average delivery time is. Then find out what they charge to deliver over weekends and public holidays. Find out what they charge for same day delivery and for overnight. You need to compare times and costs of your various vendors to find the best overall option for your business. You also need to these costs so that you can work them into the cost of your product (if you are offering free delivery over a certain spend amount).
The Basics – The Shipping Process
Needless to say, there are certain common sense measures to follow which will make shipping easy.
To start off with it’s of paramount importance that you keep an organised stock room. You should keep your stock arranged by whatever system makes the most sense for your product. You don’t want to waste valuable time hunting for stock – it should be accessible and well mapped out.
Keep a strict inventory. Your inventory should be up-to-date at all times and your e-commerce website should be automated to indicate if you are out of stock of something, or if it will take longer than usual to ship and deliver. If you make a sale only to find that you have run out of stock you will not only lose a sale, you will also damage your reputation.
Packaging. This is a great branding opportunity for your company. Your packaging needs to be not only functional, but enticing too. Your customers should feel delighted to receive their package, even before they open it. Invest the time and energy required to find a packaging solve that compliments your brand, your product and pleases your client. Remember that packaging which is overly bulky is going to end up costing you more to ship, too. So try to be clever with your packaging.
Label fastidiously. If you’re shipping more than one order or one product on a shrink-wrapped pallet, make sure to label each individual box in case the load is broken up before it reaches your customer.
How Small Businesses Can Minimise Shipping Costs
As a small business you are probably looking for the most cost efficient way to ship your products. Now while you can’t afford to skimp on quality or reliability, there are various shipping options you can look into that could help you minimize your shipping costs.
Third Party Logistics (3PL)
There are facilities available who will both store and ship your inventory volume for you. Often smaller businesses can share a facility to save on costs. This means that you are not responsible for the shipping and delivery of items and you don’t need to have large onsite storage areas. This combined service often works out to be more cost effective than hiring separate couriers and storage facilities, as well as staff to man them.
If you are an online retailer who does not manufacturer your own products, you may want to consider drop shipping. With this option you will send your customers order directly to the manufacturer who will then ship to the client directly, saving you from having to become directly involved in the shipping process.
Relationships and Leverage
Build relationships with your service providers and find the few that suit you best. You may need to have shipping vendors across the country, so it’s best to ensure that you have a good working relationship with them all. If you have only one vendor make sure you know who your relationship manager is and make use of their services. They are there to help you.
In some instances, it may be more cost effective to have a private carrier take your delivery part of the way and let a larger company handle the final drop off.
Try to locate storage facilities or drop shippers who are near to your client base to minimize shipping costs. It may be more cost effective to large scale ship to your facility and then do the smaller deliveries from there.
Another cost consideration is your return policy. Because customers are buying online they are unable to sample, try on and examine your product before they purchase. This often leads to high return rate. Now while you may be thinking you don’t need the extra expense, you must way up the odds for your business. If people know that they can return an item for free they are more likely to purchase. So although you may have a higher shipping cost, you stand to gain customer loyalty. It is up to each business to work out what the best option is for their own unique needs in this regard.
Shipping Technology and Analytics
Thanks to barcodes, the internet and modern technology, you can now keep track of exactly where your goods are at any stage of their journey between you and your customer. This allows you to update your customer on their order’s progress, too, offering them a more thoughtful service.
Technology also allows you to save yourself from costly disputes down the line. You can have real-time surveillance, tracking and analytics the whole way along the supply chain. This information can help you optimize your systems and reduce discrepancies or problems as they arise.
Keep a record of your shipping and delivery analytics, because you should re-evaluate your shipping strategy every six months in the first three years, and at least once annually thereafter. You will have to reassess your needs, your customers’ needs and your service providers’ performance.
Take out a pen and paper and go through the list above. Do some research about what’s available in your area and make sure you give all of your options proper consideration before you make a choice.