It all starts with a shipping philosophy or approach that works for you. You may not know what the right one is at the outset, but there are basically three schools of thought when it comes to shipping – break-even, make money and free (which is really lose money and you have to recover it elsewhere). We do not have the space here to go into the pros and cons of each approach, but here are a few key points:
- Different online channels don’t need to have the same approach
- Experiment with multiple approaches
- Analyze customer behavior (abandoned shopping carts, surveys, free shipping)
- Look at what your competition is doing
- Gather metrics, do the analysis and revise and refine your approach
Once you have a strategy, it is all about how to efficiently implement the strategy, and streamline your operations. Here are some of the areas to focus on for improving shipping operations.
Do all of you shipping at one time (or two) rather than throughout the day. Don’t be order-driven (see many smaller merchants doing this), rather shipping deadline or cut-off driven. It is far more efficient to process all your orders at one time, rather than throughout the day. So if you FedEx deadline is 5pm, and you get on average 10 orders per day and it takes you 5m per order on average, you can start your shipping at 3pm and process all orders received by 3pm. You can even publicize this on your site as a competitive advantage “All orders that are received by 3pm in your time zone ship the same day”
Aggregate orders in one place
It is far more efficient to process all your orders from multiple channels in one place, rather than deal with them channel by channel. An order is an order is an order – whether it came through 3DCart, or Amazon, or over the phone. Look for solutions that allow you to aggregate all your orders across channels in one place, including even orders that may not be from online channels like phone orders.
Setup default shipping profiles
Depending on the shipping option selected by your customer – you can set up default shipping profiles. This could be like mapping Standard Shipping to USPS FCM and Expedited Shipping to USPS Priority Mail, so that you only need to change this if needed.
Automate weighing of package
Assuming your shopping cart allows you to specify the weight of items and access this weight through its API, you want to take the time to set these up ahead of time, especially if they are accurate and are accurate to include packaging weight. The other option is to use a scale to weigh the package before shipping especially if this transfer to your shipping program.
If you insure any of your packages, you should set up automated rules to allow you to determine which packages need insurance. Normally you may want to insure packages over a certain value, or international packages, or packages shipped via a particular carrier service.
Update order and email buyer
While many shopping carts allow for exporting their orders and importing shipment information, this involves many manual steps and is error-prone and time consuming. In addition if you are using more than one carrier and more than one channel, the process is further complicated. By utilizing a solution that provides direct two-way integration, the process is greatly simplified. The cart is automatically updated with shipping information and the tracking details automatically sent to the buyer.
Occasionally, you may have to handle more complex shipping needs like partial shipments, or multiple package shipments, or split shipments. Or even combine shipments to the same destination from a buyer to save costs. If you ship internationally, handling international forms. Make sure you have a way of identifying and handling these complexities.
Have a clearly defined returns policy and the ability to process returns easily. Nothing will turn off a customer from shopping again with you than a difficult returns process. That is why many merchants even choose to put a pre-paid return label in the box. However, this encourages more returns. In either case you need to have an easy process for the customer to return items if they need to.
To learn more about OrderCup and how you can streamline your shipping, join us for our webinar with 3dcart Friday, November 18, 2011 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm EST. Sign up here.
Aloke Nath is CEO and co-founder of OrderCup, a SaaS order management and shipping solution for small and medium sized ecommerce businesses. It automates, simplifies and standardizes their process to easily handle multi-channel, multi-carrier ecommerce, while providing many value-added services such as returns, discounted shipping and insurance.