The Best Ecommerce Shipping Tips for Startups & Small Businesses
Everything You Need to Know About Shipping and Delivery for Ecommerce Fulfillment
Ready, set, ship!
When starting a new ecommerce company, shipping costs can be one of the most significant barriers to entry. There are many elements to consider, and shipping costs can often price small businesses out of the market. No one wants to pay $100 in shipping for a $30 pack of ice cream.
It’s no secret that larger companies have more bargaining power with shipping superstars. However, there are several steps even startup ecommerce companies can take to make shipping more manageable and cost-effective. However, if this is your first swim in the shipping ocean, it can feel like there are many sharks out there and no rescue boats in sight.
Now, we are letting the shipping secrets out of the box regarding ecommerce fulfillment. From packaging to planning, here are ten things to consider when establishing a shipping plan for your direct-to-consumer business.
The Best Ecommerce Shipping Tips for Startups & Small Business:
- Yes, You Can (And Should!) Negotiate Shipping with Carriers
- Know the Logistics Players (Major Shipping Companies)
- There’s a (Shipping) Software Integration for That
- Don’t Guess. Calculate Shipping Costs Accurately
- Strategic Shipping Locations Do Matter
- Direct-to-Consumer Packaging – Customization, Liners, and Presentation Make a Big Impact
- Use Custom Boxes and Containers to Build Your Brand
- Avoid Sticky Situations with Good Packing Tape
- Beat Your Competition with Two-Day Delivery
- Keep It Simple with an Ecommerce Fulfillment Provider Partnership
1. It’s time to use all of those negotiating skills you picked up from Suits and Legally Blonde and negotiate with carriers
It’s a common misconception that unless you are Amazon, it is what it is when it comes to shipping rates, but that isn’t the case. Of course, the more you ship, the more bargaining chips you have, but you can start having some negotiating power even by shipping 100 boxes a month. It may be small, but even a dollar package adds up quickly, especially as you begin to scale. Now is a good time to heed the old lesson from your grandparents, “It never hurts to ask.”
2. Be like a Sporting Scout and know the players
Anyone who follows sports know most college and professional teams, and often even high school teams, have scouts, which are simply people who watch their competition play and give a report. This report lets the coach know the strength of the opposing players, who to guard, and how to defend them before you ever step onto the court or field. The same concept should be known and considered for shipping in ecommerce fulfillment. Major shipping companies like USPS, FedEx, and UPS are the players you need to scout. Know their strengths and how you can use them to the advantage of your ecommerce company. Here is a quick overview of the major three.
-reliable and consistent delivery times
-a wide range of shipping options, including air, ground, and freight
-extensive tracking and visibility tools
– strong customer service
-can be more expensive, especially for small businesses and individuals
-may have additional fees for services such as insurance and residential delivery
-may require a minimum volume of shipments to negotiate better rates
– fast and reliable delivery options, including same-day delivery
– extensive tracking and visibility tools
-offers a variety of services, including air, ground, and freight
– Strong customer service
-Can be more expensive than other carriers, especially for small businesses and individuals
-May have additional fees for services such as insurance and residential delivery
-May require a minimum volume of shipments to negotiate better rates
-Offers affordable shipping options, especially for small businesses and individuals
-Wide range of services, including standard mail, priority mail, and flat rate boxes
-Extensive coverage and access to remote and rural areas
-No additional fees for services such as insurance or residential delivery
-Delivery times can be less predictable and reliable than other carriers
-Tracking and visibility tools may not be as extensive as other carriers
-Limited customer service options outside of the Post Office
3. There’s a (shipping) software for that!
Using shipping software, such as ShipStation, can take some of the work and research out of the process. For example, shipping software will help calculate which shipping carrier will deliver the best price for a specific package. Some software can also provide feedback on minor adjustments to a package that can dramatically impact the cost. Examples of these changes can include changing the box size or box dimensions. One great thing about working with a 3PL like Burris Logistics is that we have the technology to integrate directly into software such as ShipStation or Shopify. Integrating technology creates a seamless process where when an order comes in, we can fulfill the order and ship the box according to the exact specs with the best carrier without you ever having to do anything to the order manually.
4. Hold on. Let’s calculate.
If you are not using shipping software, knowing how to calculate your shipping costs is essential. There are two methods that most major shipping companies use. One is simply the weight of the package, which can be measured using a simple scale. The second is called the dimensional, or DIM, weight. DIM takes into account the size of the package. Typically, the carrier will charge based on whichever is greater. Another way to ship is to use flat-rate shipping. Flat-rate shipping takes out the variables of weight and distance.
5. Know where you’re going (and how long it will take to get there.)
Another factor in determining shipping cost is where the package’s final destination is relative to where it started. Most likely, as an ecommerce business, you have packages going all over the country or at least all over a specific region. This is where there is a strategic advantage to shipping from multiple locations around the country using an ecommerce fulfillment Partner. For example, it is much closer to shipping to Kansas City from Oklahoma City than from Jacksonville. Likewise, it is much closer to ship to St. Petersburg from Jacksonville than from Oklahoma. By Partnering with a 3PL with locations throughout the country, you can cut shipping costs just by being in closer proximity to customers, no matter where in the continental US they are located. Most major carriers use shipping zones to determine the price based on the destination, which is why two different points of origin with the same destination can be in a completely different zone. There are eight shipping zones total, so when calculating cost, it is important to know what shipping zone your package originates from and your customer’s shipping zone.
6. Let the secret out of the box: Choosing liners and playing Tetris matters.
It’s not enough to just take your ecommerce product, toss it in a box and call it a day. The order in which the product is packed matters. For one, it creates a better presentation for the customer, and for two, it helps with weight distribution. Also, if you are using dry ice or another coolant, you must be aware of packing safety measures. (Not sure if dry ice is right for you? Learn everything you know about dry ice.) One way to help with ensuring food safety with cold chain direct-to-consumer products is by your choice of liners. The liner can also impact how long a coolant lasts for cold chain direct-to-consumer packages. It also matters that you select a liner that protects your protect not just from tumbling boxes but also from melting coolant. No one wants that effect of a disintegrating paper straw when they pull out their fresh, ready-to-cook meal. You also need to consider if different parts of your package need to be kept at different temperatures based on different ingredients. If so, what kind of liner will best facilitate that?
7. When it comes to shipping, it’s not just what’s on the inside of the box that matters.
That’s right. The box itself matters too. A new ecommerce company should spend some quality time sourcing the right box before shipping. It matters more than you think. Here are a few things to think about when sourcing a box.
- Box Thickness: If you plan to use a coolant such as dry ice or gel packs, the thickness of the box will help determine how fast that coolant melts or sublimates. What that means for a new direct-to-consumer businesses is that while you save a few cents on a cheaper box up front, it could cost you more later because every box will have to have more coolant in it.
- Box Size: Most people think that the smaller the box, the cheaper that is to ship. Have you ever received a larger Amazon box only to open it and find one tiny object inside? I’m sure there have been countless jokes about why that is really necessary. The truth is, it was probably cheaper to ship. Many factors determine the cost, and using shipping software can help point that out.
- Dimensions: Sometimes, it is not just the box size that counts, but also the dimensions. Sometimes using a rectangular box instead of a square one saves tremendously on shipping.
- Personalization: Do you want your logo on the box? If so, you want to look at the cost of branding your package and select a box that will hold the print of the logo well and look good.
8. Let’s wrap this up (with tape.)
One essential piece of packing material that is often overlooked is tape. You want to ensure you select an aesthetically pleasing tape, whether transparent, brown, or a proprietary design. Presentation is everything, and your brand is on display from the website to the delivery of the box to a customer’s doorstep. In addition, you want to ensure it is strong enough to hold the box closed for the duration of the journey.
9. How to set yourself apart, logistically speaking
In today’s world of Amazon, most direct-to-consumer customers are looking for delivery in two days or less. If you are an ecommerce company trying to set yourself apart from a logistics standpoint, this can be a great place to start. Same-day or one-day delivery are great options to exceed your customer’s expectations. If you Partner with Burris Logistics, we can offer 2-day delivery in all 50 states to 215 million households or one day to 85 million homes.
10. Let’s be friends! Partner with an ecommerce fulfillment provider.
If the thought of boxes and liners and coolants (oh my!) has your head spinning, don’t worry. There is help to be had. Partnering with an ecommerce fulfillment provider can offer you much-needed expertise in all areas of shipping and offer you discounted parcel rates. When you Partner with Burris Logistics, we have discounted parcel rates passed down to our ecommerce Partners. We also have great relationships with experts in boxing, liners, tape, branding, etc., that can guide you through the entire process, saving you time, money, and frustration. In addition, we specialize in perishable food fulfillment, a type of shipping that requires specific equipment and a knowledge base. Therefore, we understand how to maintain product quality in a temperature-controlled environment, including inside of a box during transit.
No one starts an ecommerce business because they just love shipping things. Understanding the shipping and fulfillment process comes with getting an ecommerce product you create, love, or source to the customer. Either way, it is a huge and necessary part of the process that is also a significant factor in the success of your ecommerce business. From understanding the fulfillment process to ensuring accuracy to making sure shipping costs aren’t eating into your profit margins, there is a lot to think about when shipping, delivery, and fulfillment aren’t your areas of expertise. Fortunately, though, we’ve got that part covered. We work with shipping companies every day. We speak the language and have the relations. We also have the technology and experience to establish an ecommerce fulfillment process for your brand that ships efficiently and creates a positive experience for your customer. Whether you are just starting and need to establish a fulfillment and shipping process, or if you have been doing this a while but are ready to grow and want to get costs down, Partner with us today and let us share our shipping knowledge, expertise, and parcel rates with you.
About Burris Logistics
Burris Logistics is the operational brand of Burris Logistics offering traditional cold storage, distribution, and direct-to-consumer fulfillment for Ecommerce companies. Since 1925, this family-owned company has expanded its networks of warehouses from Florida to Maine, and now out to the pacific coast of California. For more information about us please visit www.Burrislogistics.com.