Well organized shipments and using winning formulas can make a successful online store thanks to little tricks with organization, choosing the right logistics company, and optimizing your eCommerce shipping management processes. eCommerce shipping can be one of the biggest expenses and hassles that an online store will have, so getting the costs down and fine-tuning the process is essential. Not only do you need to reduce your costs as much as possible, but you also need to minimize your customers wait time for delivery.
Every little detail that you tweak can contribute to the big picture so using the right shipping strategies and knowing how to ship products for online businesses is crucial. This guide is going to detail some strategies and solutions you can implement to optimize your delivery processes and get the best results for you and your customers, so let’s get started.
eCommerce Shipping Best Practices
The average shipping costs for online shopping vary depending on your niche and what you sell. Also, the country that you ship from, where you ship to, and the size and weight will contribute to this greatly as well. There is no clear-cut amount that you can say is going to be accurate without taking all of these factors into account. In addition to your shipping costs, your delivery times are going to be your next biggest problem. Once you have these two factors sorted, you can work on other components that make up your delivery process and get the best solution possible.
When you ship physical products the delivery time is usually considered to be the second-most important factor for the customer, right after cost. As time and technology progresses, people are expecting faster delivery times when ordering products online. There are many variable factors which can influence your delivery times, and some of them you will not be able to control.
Goods in Stock
Indicate an estimated delivery time clearly for the buyer to see. This can be added to your product pages or on the checkout page. People want to know how long it will take for them to receive what they order, so making this information clearly and easily available to them can expedite the buying process.
Not Yet Available
Indicate the expected arrival time. If the goods arrive within 3 days there is no point saying that you have this item in stock. Once you factor in the delivery time on top of this the delay for the customer it may be too much for them. Don’t think that the customer will be OK with waiting an extra few days or a week without them knowing in advance. They can just do a chargeback with their payment provider and these are very hard to win, even if you ship and successfully deliver the goods.
Many people use this proven business model. It’s best if you can synchronize your store with the supplier to automatically order the product as soon as your customer orders it. Also, make your estimated delivery time 2-3 days longer than your dropshippers estimation to cater to potential small delays. This way, your products should arrive earlier than the estimated time for the majority of your deliveries. This can lead to some very happy customers and positive reviews for your dropshipping business.
Under-promise and over-deliver = Winning
Clarity and timing are fundamental. You need to employ the best methods to source your products and deliver them in the fastest amount of time, even if it costs you more to do so. People are more impatient than ever when it comes to ordering goods online and they can have high and sometimes unrealistic expectations. The majority of your customers will be completely fine, but there are always going to be the ones who expect the world for nothing and you’re going to have to manage and support them effectively. Good customer service will be paramount and can resolve a lot of issues before they become bigger.
Clearly displaying estimated delivery times, a Shipping and Delivery Policy, a Refund/Return Policy, and an easy way to contact you builds trust and could be the difference in generating sales and reducing potential problems that may arise.
Additional Shipping Services
Depending on the logistics company you use, you may be able to offer additional options for the customer when it comes to their delivery.
This could include same-day delivery or in-store pickup if possible.
You should almost always offer free shipping to the customer. This is very standard today and a lot of people expect it. It’s also a great way to reduce your shopping cart abandonment as well, which you could find makes up for a lot of lost sales. The common method of doing this is to build the cost of the shipping into the retail price of the product.
• Let’s say you sell a product for $5 and it’s a really good price compared to your competitors.
• Your shipping company is going to charge you $1.20 to ship this item for you to a large metropolitan area, and $4 to ship it to a regional area.
• You can charge a retail price of $6.50 to all customers, regional or metro, and offer free delivery.
This is very common and a little unfortunate for the metropolitan consumer, as they are essentially subsidizing the cost of delivering to the regional consumers.
On face value, the consumer gets a good deal, which can be true if the product is still cheaper than your competitors and better quality.
The retailer also wins as well by making more money on metro deliveries, which are usually the majority of orders.
Knowing how to calculate shipping costs for an online store is essential, and it’s common practice to build the cost of your delivery into the pricing of your products. As long as you are providing a quality product, timely delivery, good pricing, and superior customer service, this practice is completely ethical and benefits everyone involved.
How you price your shipping costs will be dependent on many factors.
If you have costs such as size and weight, same-day delivery, in-store pickup, zones, additional extras, and guaranteed delivery, then your websites checkout system will need to be able to calculate all of this automatically.
Don’t worry, this is easily done if you are using Shopify or WooCommerce and doesn’t require you to know anything about web development or coding.
There can be a big difference in sending a package from New York to Boston than from New York to Los Angeles, especially if the customer wants more than the standard package and wait time.
Here are some shipping calculators for the most popular countries and providers you would be shipping to and using:
You may also want to check out the business account programs that these carriers offer. These types of accounts can save you and would give you much better value than just using the standard service. Also, each country has its own set of customs and duties policies, so you would want to look into these for each country you’re shipping to as they would vary.
Product Size and Weight
The size and weight of your products are going to play a part in your shipping strategy too.
Generally speaking, the bigger and heavier your product is, the harder the logistics process will be. This could also make it more expensive too, so getting the weight down is ideal.
Depending on what you sell and where you sell it to, you may need to think of additional shipping charges for your customers if size and weight is an issue. You may want to try out those shipping calculators listed above if sizing and weight is an issue for you so you can get an idea on which carrier would be a better solution for you.
The further away that you send your product, the more likely it will cost you more to do so. You might have to set up the shipping on your website that calculates the rate according to where the customer is located. This is also easily done with Shopify or WooCommerce.
This can also be achieved by setting zones that you classify as having a set cost involved for delivering to. You would especially need to do this if you ship internationally, as that would drive up the costs of delivery as well.
Depending on your store, where it is, and what you sell, you could also just offer a flat rate for shipping. Say you’re in Winnipeg, Manitoba and only deliver to the Winnipeg Metropolitan area, you can just offer a flat rate of $3.95 for every order, regardless of the order value for example.
Table rate shipping categorizes the shipping fees by certain characteristics of the delivery.
For example before when we mentioned that you could create certain zones depending on your customers locations, that could be set by a table rate.
Z1 – City Center
Z2 - City
Z3 – City Metro
Z4 – City Regional
A table rate could also be applied to the total order value upon checkout as well.
Orders up to $50
Orders $50 - $100
Orders over $100
This one is actually very common, and quite a few clothing retailers will offer this pricing model for their shipping.
The packaging is incredibly important and should not be skimped on. You need packaging that is sturdy and can survive being transported, while also not looking like you shipped the customers product in some discarded box you found.
If you ship heavy goods, use packages with at least double reinforced layers. Always fill in the empty spaces, with paper, cardboard, bubble wrap, styrofoam, or other filling material. Remember to protect the entire product with not only the sides or the top, but also the filling on the base in case of crushing or water damage.
Use packaging that’s suitable for your product. If you sell crystal chandeliers for example, do not use cartons but wooden crates instead.
Have a look at our guide on Packaging for Products so that you can streamline your process by choosing good suppliers and design elements.
If your product is prone to breaking or getting damaged, then you want to be sure it’s protected during transport.
Think about the types of boxes or crates you would need to use.
How heavy-duty do they need to be?
What should they be made out of?
Do you need to fill them with foam or other protective material?
Do they need to be highly secured so they don’t move around?
You wouldn’t like it if you ordered something online, waited days or weeks for it to arrive, only to open it and see that it’s broken and of no use.
It’s not always your fault, as the courier company could be responsible for the damage, but you are still responsible for rectifying the situation for your customer, even if it’s at your expense.
Damaged / Lost Goods
This is somewhat borderline because if the package arrives broken or is stolen, someone is going to be blamed. The customer will probably come to you first, as you were after all the place that sold them the item.
The problem is that once an item gets shipped out through the supplier you use, you can’t control anything that happens. It’s more than likely not your fault if the goods are damaged or stolen, but the customer is going to address it with you, even if they know the delivery company and have a tracking code.
It can be very hard for the consumer to disassociate you with other parties involved, as you are the one they are directly paying their money to. Even if you are not at fault, you are still responsible for getting the issue fixed. Sometimes, you will have to eat the extra cost to make the customer happy.
Quite often, situations where you absorb additional costs can lead to a customer leaving you an amazing review, and thus, you can get more business as a result. It’s very possible to turn a negative experience into a positive one, and sometimes you going the extra mile and taking a loss can lead to something much better in future.
This will not be applicable to every type of business, but you could offer an additional option on the checkout page for the customer to purchase some sort of warranty to cover this if this does happen. You could also look into third-party insurance providers for your packages such as InsureShip and Shipsurance.
Quite often people will buy products online as a gift for someone and would like a bit of an extra touch added to it. You can offer a special gift box, ribbons, cards, etc. for a small additional cost so the customer can personalize their gift.
This can make a big difference to a lot of people, and also helps your brand to stand out from the competition.
Some websites would have additional fields on the checkout page where the customer can tick certain boxes to add additional extras for a small fee. Once again, very easy to integrate if you’re using Shopify or WooCommerce.
Guaranteed shipments are when you guarantee delivery within a given day and time. These services have extra costs and are more or less made available by the courier companies for an extra charge.
Whatever the courier charges you for this service, pass on the exact same cost to the customer. It’s important to create a list of suppliers, with the services provided and the costs applied so you have the best solutions available for every situation. Some customers really don’t mind paying extra for this because they just want it now, so it doesn’t hurt to offer the option if it’s available to you.
After ordering the goods on your store, the minimum a customer expects is to receive an email with purchase confirmation and details about the delivery. This can, of course, be done in separate emails.
eCommerce CRMs such as Shopify and WooCommerce can send these emails automatically and can also be integrated with some logistics companies as well. Automation can save you an immense amount of time and headaches with your website and will be essential if you have a large volume of orders.
Remember that your customer will have expectations and commonly expect your package to arrive exactly within the estimated timeframe. Delivery time and communication will greatly contribute to your customer retention and can be the difference between them purchasing again or telling everyone they know never to buy from you.
If you see that a shipment has not been loaded, is delayed, and not going to be delivered by the scheduled time, contact the courier and get it sorted.
You have to be polite and courteous with the courier, even if they screw up. If the courier really messes things up and it costs you a fair chunk of money, let them know what they did and how it affects you. There’s a possibility that you can be compensated for their mistake and at the end of the day everyone makes them so keep cool and be professional.
It’s better to behave civilly and sort things out in a professional manner, even if the other party is not doing so.
Behavior breeds behavior and remember; you can cut ties, but should be careful burning bridges.
Communicating with all parties involved in a timely and courteous manner can make all the difference. When it comes it eCommerce shipping, speedy communication and deliveries can win the game for you. The amount of customers that can become repeat customers and leave positive reviews can be astounding if your communication is on-point with them.