It's time to ship your products!
Whether you sell in an online store, direct to consumer, or make B2B sales, there's a lot more that goes into shipping and handling than using an SKU generator to organize products, then throwing items in a box.
We'll run you through calculating shipping costs, how to pick a shipping solution, and what eCommerce software options you have.
How to Ship eCommerce Products
Shipping eCommerce products includes all services and materials used to get your products to your customers.
Follow these steps:
- Determine shipping methods and rates. You need to figure out what shipping options you'll give your customers. The most common are flat rate shipping, expedited shipping, international shipping, and overnight shipping. Offering free shipping is one of the strongest growing eCommerce trends, but it can be hard to do if you're starting an eCommerce business. Make this decision early, as your fulfillment and sales operations rely heavily on this. Include it in your eCommerce business plan and in your shipping policy template from the start. You can also read up on how to print shipping labels at home to reduce costs. For food suppliers, BlueCart eCommerce is the best choice. With integrated reporting and custom shipping rates, it's an all-in-one solution that gets the job done.
- Calculate shipping costs. We'll go into more detail below, but figuring out shipping costs by weight is vital in understanding your overhead expenses. If these get out of hand, you can quickly run into issues. Learning how to calculate shipping costs and getting a shipping label printer will establish optimal pricing so you can maintain a substantial profit margin. This is especially important if you're learning how to ship large items or how to ship frozen food.
- Establish packaging and marketing plans. Learning how to measure a box for shipping will help keep costs low and avoid inventory losses. You can also brand your packaging as an easy method of B2B marketing or DTC marketing.
- Get insurance. In addition to eCommerce business insurance, you'll need product liability insurance. This provides legal and financial coverage for instances when your products cause damages. These damages could be to a person's property, bodily injury, illnesses, or even wrongful death.
- Invest in a tracking software. What is eCommerce shipping if you don't know where your shipments are? You can invest in standalone tracking software or pick an eCommerce platform or online marketplace with integrated tracking. You can inform your customers and avoid unnecessary returns (see RMA meaning) or complaints. Sending a packing slip and including a tracking number on each packing slip with each order ensures that your customers are kept up to date on their purchase.
How to Calculate Shipping Costs eCommerce
Managing eCommerce shipping costs is the key to running a successful shipping operation.
Since eCommerce shipping rates vary, here are the factors you need to consider when calculating:
- Package dimensions and weight. Most shipping companies charge based on something called dimensional weight (DIM). This takes into account the amount of space a particular package will take up in their shipment. Actual weight may also be used, though only if the number is higher than the DIM. This is true whether you send one package or do bulk shipping as a B2B business or wholesaler (see what is wholesale), so pay attention to package sizes and weight. It may actually be cheaper to ship products in multiple packages. This comes in handy for certain business types, like if you're learning how to ship food, how to ship cookies, or how to ship alcohol.
- Shipping destination. Unsurprisingly, shipping to a faraway or difficult-to-reach destination is more expensive. In the U.S., most carriers use shipping zones to calculate their shipping rates. Get a map from your carrier and you'll easily be able to determine how expensive it will be to ship to any given location.
- Delivery speed (delivery times). Faster shipping process and same day delivery are always more expensive, but it's also becoming an industry standard. Try to find the balance between fast and affordable shipping. This will ensure customer satisfaction while avoiding excessive costs. Shipping speed has different values B2B vs B2C, so try to stick with the trends you see in your industry.
- Product value. High-value products will cost more to ship than other items, since they'll need gentler handling. Their packaging costs more, and carriers will not want to take on the risk without adding on costs. You'll also need better insurance to cover any prospective losses. If you regularly ship expensive products, make sure you factor these costs into your plans.
- Unexpected problems. Shipping issues happen. Products get damaged or lost, address labels are incorrect, or packages are sent to the wrong place. Factor these issues into your estimated costs so you aren't overwhelmed when they happen. Inventory shrinkage can happen even with in transit inventory, so beware.
What Is the Best eCommerce Shipping Solution?
There are many shipping options available for small to mid-sized businesses. The best shipping solution is the one that matches your budget and is capable of growing with your business. You don't want to have to scramble and find a new solution every few years.
The eCommerce shipping industry is constantly changing and evolving, so it's important to choose a shipping solution that can grow with your business. 3PL fulfillment companies, consignment inventory operations, and in-house shipping solutions are all great options depending on your needs. Pick the right solution for you and your business will run smoothly for years to come.
What Is the Best eCommerce Shipping Software?
While no one best small business shipping platform for eCommerce businesses exists, the best have a few things in common.
Look for these features:
- Manageable costs. Unlike hospitality software and hospitality procurement software that's often priced based on user seats, most shipping software for small business is priced based on the number of products shipped each month. Find one that matches your company's size and won't eat up your profits. Some also have discounted shipping rates through certain fulfillment companies, so keep an eye out if there's a particular company you want to ship with.
- Built-in reporting. Knowing how much you ship, how quickly, and when are vital parts of inventory management. Stick with software that has these eCommerce analytics reports built in. Otherwise, your staff will have to waste valuable time tracking this information themselves, and your inventory control manager will not be happy.
- Easy integration. Your business likely has multiple types of software and platforms. If they don't communicate with each other, you're adding extra work for everyone. Stick with shipping software or B2B eCommerce platforms that can automatically send and receive data to increase eCommerce sales. For food suppliers, BlueCart eCommerce can easily integrate with most shipping solutions. It even comes with Shippo integration right out of the box.
Who are the Best eCommerce Shipping Companies?
There are many eCommerce shipping companies on the market, each with pros and cons. When looking at prospective shipping partners for eCommerce, you want to find one with experience serving your industry. They are more likely to understand your unique needs and challenges.
You'll also want to go with a company that matches the size of your business. Don't go with a bulk shipping company if you'll only be mailing small packages. Your relationship will likely be long-term, and you’ll need to be in sync.
What Is eCommerce Dropshipping?
eCommerce dropshipping is a business model where you sell items from your supplier to your consumer without stocking them yourself. This model allows small businesses to operate without covering high warehouse expenses.
Dropshipping profits were over $4 billion last year and growing. It is a growing industry, and more suppliers and third-party companies are available to pick from each year. You can often find drop shipping companies in a wholesale directory, though these are mainly used for people to know how to find vendors. This is a good option if you don't have space, or are looking to turn your eCommerce business ideas into revenue as quickly as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions About eCommerce Shipping
A core eCommerce responsibility is learning how to ship a package and send it out on time. It may seem simple, but it often requires more time and resources than people anticipate.
To better understand eCommerce shipping, we pulled together some of the most commonly asked questions about it. Check out our answers below:
What are the Three Types of Shipping?
There are three types of shipping are:
- By air (Airfreight)
- By land (road or rail ground transport)
- By water (Ocean freight)
How Does eCommerce Shipping Work?
eCommerce shipping combines several complementary factors: warehousing, picking and packing, transportation, and delivery. However, warehousing isn’t needed if you dropship--a form of sending products to customers without inventorying them yourself.
Warehouse organization is key to the efficient flow of inventory. First, the company that sells goods stores them on warehouse shelves. Second, pickers and packers retrieve products according to customer orders and package them up.
Third, the business gives the packages to a shipping carrier or 3PL -learn what is 3PL here- company. Depending on the shipping company's services, they may transport goods to a distribution facility or deliver them themselves. Fourth, the customer receives their order from the shipping carrier responsible for the final stage.
Like our shipping blog posts? You may also love our warehouse content. Check out our warehouse management eBook here.
What Is an eCommerce Shipment?
An eCommerce shipment is any physical goods, whether packaged or unpackaged, delivered to a customer. eCommerce shipments may include shoes and clothing, books, food subscriptions, cosmetics, or any product that can be bought through the Internet. Shipments are usually sent in cardboard boxes, plastic mailer bags, or custom subscription boxes.
What Is the Best Shipping Method?
The best shipping method is any shipping method that suits your type of business, budget, and customer needs. Since every business varies, it’s impossible to state that one shipping method works well for every company.
For example, a business learning to ship frozen food will have drastically different needs than someone who sells handmade jewelry. The former product is heavy and temperature-sensitive, whereas the latter is small and less affected by temperature fluctuations.
The best way to find out what shipping method works for your business is to research options and consider what similar businesses do. If you see a competitor experiencing success with their shipping method, it’s worth emulating.
What Percentage Should Shipping Be?
15-20% of your total net sales is a good rule of thumb for shipping costs. Of course, this number can change based on a number of factors, including the type of product you're selling, the weight of the product, and the distance it needs to travel. But in general, 15-20% is a good starting point for estimating your shipping costs..
Ensuring shipping is a smooth and easy process goes a long way to making a business profitable. Invest in the right software, manage your costs, and grow your business. You should also check out our full eCommerce business guide for more tips on how to grow your bottom line.
You’ll need to take a multi channel approach to sell as an online business. This means having an omni channel order fulfillment system in place. If you're selling coffee online, learning how to sell baked goods online, sell whiskey online, selling liquor online, or sell beer online, just know that there are much stricter regulations for the sale and transport of alcohol so you'll need to use a top shipping company that can fit your needs.
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