When you’ve set up your online business and are ready to start taking orders, the final administrative steps to set up shipping may be something you want to rush through. After all, delivering products or services to a customer seems like an easy task - find the right size box and head to a post provider. Once it leaves your hands, your job is done.
This certainly can be the case, but happy customers and a successful business are going to result from a bit more effort.
Without researching and understanding the options, your business could end up with high shipping and handling costs that affects overall revenue. In addition, poorly packed or untimely shipping can result in unhappy customers that return products. All in all, it’s essential that you consider this element of your online business as carefully as you do the rest.
Choices, Choices, Choices
After going through all the necessary steps to get the website up and running, you may be out of steam, but don’t brush off this part of the decision-making as a “no-brainer.”
There are actually many variables that contribute to the overall cost of shipping and they fall into two main categories: packaging and transit.
It goes without saying that purchases need to be packed for safe transport to the customer. You will need to take into account the fragility, size and weight of the products being shipped. There are literally hundreds of choices of box sizes, packing materials, padded mailers and labels for you to weed through.
Tips: Because the cost of transit will largely depend on the size and weight of the package, it’s important to try and keep items packed as small and light as possible. This approach is also more environmentally friendly. Many companies choose the option of carrying a handful of standard packaging sizes to streamline and simplify cost determination for both themselves, and the customer.
In addition, packaging should be considered an extension of your product and customer service. Many companies go the extra step to add a “thank you” note, while others include a discount voucher for future purchasing. Whatever you decide, just remember that a well-packaged product that arrives safely and neatly, will communicate your level of commitment to both the product itself and the customer’s satisfaction.
Deciding on supplies and packing materials is only half the job. The remaining shipping decisions focus on the actual transit of your products. Here again, there are lots of variables that affect transit including: size and weight of package; departing country; destination country; tracking; and insurance.
It may be challenging to compare different shipping options, but you can begin at a higher level by thinking about what type of shipping you want to offer:
- Perhaps… you want to build your customer base by offering free domestic shipping. If so, you will need to determine what part of the business will cover shipping expenses.
- Perhaps… you want to offer international shipping with tracking. If this is the case, you will have higher international shipping rates to cover the cost of tracking. You will also need to consider import fees.
- Perhaps… you want to insure all packages for the full value of goods sold. This is also going to incur additional expenses that need to be budgeted.
Some good sites to check out for starting to consider transit times and options include:
Each business is unique, so you will need to customize the various options to your business model. It may also require you to make changes down the road to accommodate more efficient shipping methods and/or prices.
Some key takeaways to remember:
- Shipping decisions are an important part of the overall business plan
- Customers appreciate products that are packed and mailed with care
- Package inserts such as coupons or personalized notes can boost return sales
- Small and light is key when it comes to efficient and eco-friendly shipping
- Less packaging is more environmentally friendly
- Standard package sizing and pricing may be easier and more cost-effective
- Shipping expenses will need to be paid for by yourself or the customer, or both