Determining the best way to ship your products to customers can be a bit tricky. Fulfilling orders as a business is more than printing out shipping labels and boxing products; you’ll need to consider different fulfillment, packaging, and shipping options, as well as a whole lot of additional details. Here’s our advice on how to ship your products to customers.
Deciding on your fulfillment strategy often takes some serious thought, and there are a few factors that you need to keep in mind when choosing the right one for your business. You have to consider each fulfillment model in the context of your business – what works for one company may not work best for you. When determining which fulfillment option to utilize, consider the volume of orders your business receives, the types of products you sell, and the amount of work you’re willing to put into fulfillment. There are three main types of product fulfillment:
Self-fulfillment, also known as in-house fulfillment, is a common practice for sellers who are just beginning their ecommerce career. It involves the merchant following each step of the fulfillment process on their own. One reason this model is popular is the control sellers have; self-fulfillment gives you 100% control throughout the entire fulfillment process. This strategy is also relatively low cost for new merchants. While this may be practical when starting your business, there are a number of reasons you may discontinue this strategy down the road. First, it takes up a considerable amount of your time, which could often be better spent on other aspects of the business, like product sourcing and marketing. It’s also easy to become overwhelmed as your business picks up speed, necessitating a re-evaluation of your fulfillment strategy.
If you sell on Amazon, you may choose to use its Fulfilled By Merchant (FBM) program that allows you to process customer orders yourself, keeping control of your fulfillment process. Alternatively, Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA), is Amazon’s merchant-fulfillment option. With FBA, you send Amazon your stock and they take care of the rest.
3PLs (Third-Party Logistics)
Working with a third-party logistics warehouse is a great option for sellers who are worried about spending too much of their time on fulfillment or those who require additional space to house their inventory. 3PLs take care of the entire fulfillment process for you, dealing with packaging, labeling, returns, and quality control. The 3PL you decide to use will depend on your business’s specific needs. Shipping through a 3PL is advantageous not only in the amount of time and space you’ll save but also through better shipping rates (3PL’s ship more items than a single business, meaning their discounts are likely to be greater).
Utilizing dropshipping means that the seller does not come in direct contact with the products being sold through their store. Instead, when an order is placed, the information for that order is forwarded directly to the manufacturer, who then ships the product directly to the customer. There are a number of advantages to this type of fulfillment strategy: first, dropshipping is easy to start and requires very little of you. Dropshipping also allows you to advertise a wider variety of products. On the other hand, dropshipping doesn’t allow for the customization of products, as they are sent directly from the manufacturer to the customer. Quality control is also harder to keep track of because you don’t actually see the products.
Your packaging and the unboxing experience are the first impressions customers will get of your brand. So, it’s important to spend some time when choosing packaging materials. You’ll need to set a budget and consider what types of packaging supplies your products will require. Ideally, you want to give your customers the best unboxing experience possible, especially since they won’t see your products in person until they interact with the packaging. Customization is a great way to keep your product packaging exciting while presenting your brand to your customers.
Getting the Best Bang for Your Buck
Here are a few money-saving tips when it comes to packaging products:
- Minimize Dimensions: Minimizing the packaging dimensions required for your products helps keep your packages smaller and lighter, saving you money on both materials and shipping.
- Use Strong Packaging: It is important that your packaging is strong enough to keep your products protected. Broken returns can add up quickly, so it’s best to avoid them when possible.
- Buy in Bulk (when practical): Purchasing packing material in bulk can be a great way to save money.
When Amazon Prime began offering free 2-day shipping, it set the bar for all other online sellers. Now, online customers expect to receive their ecommerce purchases quickly and at no cost (or at least low cost). That means that ecommerce sellers have to pay close attention to shipping options and costs, or they run the risk of deeply cutting into profit margins. There are a number of different shipping options available to online sellers. Here are a few of the most common shipping options:
- Flat Rate Box Shipping: This type of shipping involves basing your shipping fees on the height and weight of the boxes you’re using.
- Table Rate Shipping: This shipping method allows sellers to set different shipping rates based on location, shipment size, and weight.
- Per Product Shipping: Per product shipping allows you to add fees onto specific items (large and bulky or hard-to-ship items). That way, only the customers who purchase that specific item are charged extra for its shipment.
There are many different carriers available for shipping ecommerce products, and choosing the right carrier is important, especially when looking at shipping expenses. Here are a few of the most popular carriers:
Saving on Postage
Here are a few tips when it comes to saving some bucks on postage:
- Use different carriers, so you always get the most cost-effective option.
- Offer several shipping options, as customers may be willing to pay additional postage to get their items faster.
- Offer Free Shipping When Possible: Free shipping is a great incentive for customers, but remember to offer only when practical or costs could add up quickly.
- Outline Your Shipping Policy: Outlining your shipping and return policy clearly for customers is important when it comes to avoiding disputes down the line.
- Choose a Shipping Software: Using shipping software is a great way to keep track of your orders.
- Consider Shipping Insurance: Shipping insurance protects you if any of the items you ship are damaged, stolen, or lost by most major carriers. Shipping insurance is particularly important for high-end products.
- Send Confirmation Emails: Sending confirmation emails is an easy way to positively interact with your customers.
Start Shipping Your Ecommerce Products
Determining how to ship products to customers can be a complex process. With the above information, that process is a lot simpler for you, and it will result in happy, loyal customers who will buy from you again and again.