Starting an eCommerce business is exciting, but you must master your shipping procedures to keep your customers happy. This beginner’s guide to shipping projects will help you get started.
Did you know there are over 110,000 E-commerce businesses operating in the US?
E-commerce gives all prospective entrepreneurs an opportunity to own, manage, and maintain a successful business. Retailers can also reap the benefits of a high demand for online shopping.
If you’re preparing to launch your e-commerce business, it’s essential to have a solid shipping strategy in place. Effectively shipping your products to buyers in a timely fashion can be your secret to maintaining a positive reputation as a trusted seller.
There are many options when it comes to E-commerce shipping. In this post, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about shipping products.
Read on for more insight.
1. Create a Shipping Strategy
Crafting a strategy for shipping and handling is the first step when it comes to mastering shipping procedures. How you ship your products to customers has a lot to do with company finances, branding opportunities, and product inventory.
Shipping should never be seen as an afterthought. It is a mandatory stipulation of every e-commerce site, but it should be treated with care.
Think about the times that you have received a package, either from Amazon or another online retailer. What was the packaging like? How did it influence your perspective of the seller?
In general, well-packaged products delivered in a timely fashion are more likely to positively sway customer response. This is particularly the case when retailers package their products with custom materials. This might include special tissues, personalized cards, and eco-friendly packaging.
For this reason, it’s valuable to view your shipping procedures as an extension of your current marketing strategy. Think about how you want to engage with your customers and what type of branding you can accomplish through your shipping strategy.
A lot of E-commerce business owners opt for custom, branded packaging. They may also offer first-time buyers free shipping in order to endear themselves to initial clients.
In many ways, a shipping strategy emerges from your own capabilities and needs as a business. It also takes time to develop, depending on the types of products you are shipping and the trajectory of your business.
At the very least, take the time to identify your e-commerce platform–if you haven’t done so already. Will you use a platform like Shopify to streamline the online purchase process? Is your online store user-friendly? Will you be building your platform from scratch?
The more solid and user-friendly your e-commerce platform is, the easier it will be to identify a shipping strategy.
2. Crunch the Numbers
It can be tough to estimate how much shipping and handling is going to cost you, especially if you are a first-time E-commerce business owner. A lot of entrepreneurs may lack a lot of liquid cash at the onset to handle shipping costs.
Take some time to crunch the numbers so that you know what to anticipate when shipping products. Your calculations should include postage, handling time or labor, and packaging materials themselves.
You may want to start by calculating the weight of a standard product. Find out how much it would cost to ship this product by standard delivery via several channels including:
- United States Postal Service (USPS)
- Private couriers
Keep in mind that you can put the full burden of shipping and handling costs on your customers.
Other business owners opt to pay partial shipping costs. Some even offer free shipping, lumping the costs of handling into product prices.
Calculate how much you can accommodate for shipping and handling given your current budget. These calculations will also help with the next step, which is to identify your shipping channel.
3. Identify Your Shipping Channel
There are a variety of shipping channels available to E-commerce business owners. The channel you choose will depend on budget, your shipping strategy, and the time you wish to devote to shipping and handling.
Independent or Manual Shipping
Some entrepreneurs choose to take shipping products into their own hands. This means purchasing package materials, sealing up products, and delivering items yourself.
This is a popular option for entrepreneurs just starting out in e-commerce. It can also be ideal if you have employees who can devote the appropriate chunk of time to manual handling.
If you opt for independent shipping, you will likely rely on a national courier like the USPS or FedEx to deliver goods.
There are various pros and cons to using specific couriers. Some private couriers provide rush or same-day shipping, while the United States Postal Service only offers overnight delivery.
Private couriers, on the other hand, require you to provide the packaging and materials needed to prepare items for delivery. For many USPS delivery options, it’s possible to print out postage online. Learn more about purchasing Certified Mail Labels here.
If you opt for manual shipping, be sure to choose a channel that is the most convenient for you.
Keep packaging, drop-off location, courier business hours, delivery options, and postage costs in mind.
Fulfillment or Dropshipping Services
A fulfillment shipping and handling service stores inventory items for you, including packages and products, and delivers them to buyers. These services are typically third-party warehouses.
This is ideal for E-commerce business owners who have large inventories and lack the time to process orders themselves. While fulfillment services can make it more difficult to use custom packaging and branded materials, they can streamline the shipping and handling process.
Plus, you don’t have to worry about storing inventory items yourself. This option does require more financial investment and output than manual shipping and handling.
If you do decide that fulfillment services are the solution for you, take your time in selecting a service. Research warehouses thoroughly. Take stock of your budget and inventory to ensure that dropshipping is right for you.
4. Choose Rates and Delivery Options
Once you’ve chosen your shipping channel, it’s time to identify the rates and delivery options you wish to offer your customers.
Take the time to identify how you’ll charge for shipping costs. Will you blend shipping costs into product prices or offer shipping rates to customers? Will you offer free shipping on all orders?
Some business owners may choose to offer flat-rate shipping, charging the same fee to ship any product listed on their site. Flat-rate shipping is often associated with a specific type of delivery, such as standard.
Others may opt to pay for partial shipping costs themselves. They offer customers reduced shipping fees on their e-commerce platform.
If you are wary of giving all your customers free shipping on all orders, you can always do so as a promotional incentive or special offer.
Whatever you choose, be sure that you reasonably identify how much it costs to ship a single product. Account for this cost in some way, either via your own margins or customers themselves. You don’t want to short yourself here!
The delivery options you offer your customers will depend on whether you rely on a fulfillment service for delivery. If you do opt for a fulfillment service, you may be held to the delivery options they offer.
Otherwise, you can opt to send all your packages via standard shipping. Other business owners enable customers to select two-day shipping, international delivery, or Certified delivery.
If you intend to ship products manually, think about what delivery options you can feasibly offer.
Keep in mind that you may be able to influence customer purchase decisions by offering a variety of shipping options.
5. Have a Trial Run & Adapt Accordingly
This step is paramount when it comes to identifying your business’s shipping solutions.
Establish preliminary rates and delivery options and test out your shipping method with a subset of initial customers.
This can give you insight into whether manual shipping is right for you or if a fulfillment service makes more sense.
If your customers abandon their carts quickly due to shipping costs, you might offer first-time visitors free shipping to compel purchase decisions.
Feel free to adapt your shipping methodology as you go along. In fact, the best shipping strategies are adaptive ones!
Final Thoughts: Shipping Products as an eCommerce Business Owner
Determining a shipping strategy should always be the first step of any e-commerce business owner’s plan for launching a successful business. This strategy should concern what role shipping will play in branding, marketing, and client relationships.
Your strategy also has a lot to do with your budget for shipping and handling. This budget will determine what shipping channel makes the most sense for your business needs.
Many e-commerce sites start out by individually packaging products until they have the means to invest in fulfillment services. Have a trial run of your selected shipping mechanisms and adapt your method for shipping products accordingly.
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