Customers’ expectation for lightning-fast shipping and delivery continues to defy expectations even as bigger brands offer more services and options.
Although customers are having a field day, for small businesses, it can be an extreme challenge that can be detrimental to the success and survival of the company.
An efficient supply chain and shipping management are among the key components that can help small business owners to keep up with the competition.
In addition, cost-effectively executing these processes is vital to the success and longevity of your small e-commerce business.
This small business shipping guide should serve as your handy guide, especially if you’re not sure where to start.
A guide for small business shipping
Find the right shipping partner
Before you can start shipping out your packages, partnering with a shipping partner is the first step. A third party shipping will influence the shipping times and shipping options that you can offer your customers.
Most importantly, working with the right shipping company will help you keep your costs low and run a successful business.
Choose the platform to sell
It is not easily affordable for most small business owners and start-ups to start off with a dedicated website. However, there are several solutions as you can sell your products and services on a number of marketplaces.
Amazon and eBay are the primary choices for most small business owners. In addition, Shopify and Etsy are also among the credible names that you can consider for multichannel selling.
Marketing your products on these channels is not completely free of cost since you have to pay a certain amount of fees.
However, these nominal fees are a better option than building a website from scratch, especially if you need to hire a professional web designer to do it for you.
Decide your shipping zones
Much of the shipping costs will be determined by where you are going to ship your products. Local shipping is understandably a cheaper option than if you choose to ship internationally.
For instance, third-party shipping companies calculate their shipping costs based on the zones and postal codes.
In addition, the speed of shipping and delivery times will also be determined by the geographical location of where you plan to ship.
Local shipping within a province or a country is a smart move for small business owners. As your customer base increases and so do your business profits, you can consider expanding your shipping perimeter.
Invest in a shipping software
Shipping software is a feature that not many small business owners consider at the start. This is understandable since some of the top software comes at a premium price.
However, shipping software can automate a lot of the processes and improve the entire shipping management.
With shipping software, you can – reduce shipping rates, generate shipping and return labels, and have a summary of shipping history, so you don’t have to manually keep track of addresses and other important details.
Finally, shipping software is relatively easy to use and has no learning curve. It is as simple as hooking it up to your computer and running it in most cases.
Consider your package/printing label solutions
After you nail down which shipping carrier is best for your business and other important details, it is worth deciding how to package your products.
This is a crucial consideration because the product/package is what will reach the customer’s hand and is the only contact between them and your business.
Statistics reveal that more than 72% of shoppers value a good packaging experience, greatly influencing their buying decision. It includes the package design, color of the packaging, information on the packaging, and so on.
The same survey also reveals that an increasing number of online shoppers prefer sustainable and eco-friendly packaging solutions.
Paperboard packaging, carton-based packaging, and using recyclable materials appeal to customers and make them want to buy from the brand.
When it comes to printing labels, the volume and frequency of your shipments can help you decide the best options. Smaller businesses that send out a smaller volume of packages a few times a year can very well manage with handwritten labels.
On the other hand, getting a good printer will get the job done if your small business orders are more frequent.
Regardless of the labeling options you choose, legibility with good writing or large fonts and protection with clear tape are among the top good shipping experiences.
Decide if you need a fulfillment center
Most successful smaller businesses that have taken their business online, first ran the fulfillments in their spare room or a garage. However, this may not be feasible or convenient if your small business has a steady customer base and you ship regularly.
Partnering with a fulfillment center can seem unnecessary, but there are several advantages that you can enjoy.
Reducing shipping costs and expanding your shipping perimeter are among the top reasons why fulfillment centers can be invaluable to small business owners.
But similar to working with a third-party shipping company, collaborating with a fulfillment also requires upfront payment. But of course, working with these third-party companies is an investment worth considering.
Develop a good shipping strategy
Running a small business successfully, especially in the first few years, can throw up a lot of challenges and drawbacks.
And shipping management is one of them. Customers greatly value a good shipping experience, and it starts with working with great partners, deciding the package, and so on.
However, if you have a great shipping strategy in place and you can calmly and professionally handle this part, you are set for a great start.
Not only will you be able to work efficiently when your customers engage with you, but you will also run a successful business for several years to come.