Like any new undertaking, there’s bound to be a learning curve when you move your business operation into the online arena. If you’ve been running a brick-and-mortar store for a while, you’ll probably have many essential systems and procedures in place already. But if you’ve decided to start your enterprise online without the benefit of managing a real-world store beforehand, you’ll have to learn your way around all kinds of new processes, including packing and shipping goods to your customers. Along those lines, here are just a few basics for ecommerce newbies that will help to ensure that your products arrive in good condition, in an expedient manner, and at an affordable price.
- Pay attention to size and weight. Many novices to the shipping industry incorrectly assume that the price of shipping is based solely on the weight of the package. Unfortunately, the size and shape can also play a role in pricing. Both UPS and FedEx have adopted pricing standards based on something called DIM (or dimensional) weight. What this means is that the length, width, and height of your package could contribute to the cost. For example, packages that exceed certain DIM measurements are automatically pushed into a higher rate class, increasing your costs. The point is that you need to make sure you have a variety of packing boxes to suit the actual sizes of products. You might save some money buying large boxes in bulk. But when you ship smaller items in them, you’ll end up paying more for both packing materials and potentially, shipping costs.
- Use the right packing materials. Just because you can save on the purchase of foam, Styrofoam, or paper packing materials doesn’t mean they’re the best deal. You need to take time to calculate all related costs before you select packing materials. Bubble wrap and air pockets might be a bit pricier up front, but because their cushioning comes from the air inside, they’re also lighter weight, which means they’ll cost you less in shipping charges. And they could provide the best protection during transit, resulting in less breakage and fewer returns or exchanges.
- Look for flat rates. It’s not easy to find flat rates for shipping, but the USPS offers options for flat rate shipping boxes and bubble mailers, giving you the opportunity to save on small, but heavy items when shipping.
- Offer customers options. Of course you want to save money on shipping. And you’d probably prefer to pass savings along to customers, or even offer free shipping whenever possible. But not every customer is willing to wait longer for orders to arrive just to get free or discounted shipping. Some would rather pay more to get packages sooner. You should therefore offer a variety of options to suit the needs of every customer.
- Look into mail consolidators. When shipping products that are small or lightweight, you’ll probably find that mail consolidation services like FedEx SmartPost, UPS Mail Innovations, and DHL Global Mail can save you money. They are able to do this by taking several small packages going to the same region and shipping them in one larger box. Of course, the downside is that this method could lead to longer shipping times, but it could allow you to offer low-cost or free shipping options to customers willing to wait. The cost of packaging and packing materials could be high, although you can certainly save with bulk rates on Shipper’s Supplies. So any time you can cut costs in the packing and shipping process, you’ll improve your business and increase options for customers.
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