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eCommerce Shipping: Solutions and Software

By
Joshua Weatherwax
Table of Contents

So, you've hired an eCommerce fulfillment team and invested in eCommerce packaging. Now what?

It's time to ship your products!

Whether you sell direct to consumer or make B2B sales, there's a lot more that goes into shipping and handling than just 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:

  1. Determine shipping methods and rates. You need to figure out what shipping options you'll give your customers. Free shipping is one of the strongest growing eCommerce trends, but it can be hard to do if you're just starting an eCommerce business. Make this decision early, as your fulfillment and sales operations rely heavily on this. If possible, 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 further 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.
  2. Calculate shipping costs. We'll go into more detail below, but figuring out shipping costs by weight is an important part of 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 also let you establish optimal pricing so you can maintain a strong profit margin. This is especially important if you're learning how to ship large items or how to ship frozen food.
  3. Establish packaging and marketing plans. Learning how to measure a box for shipping will help keep costs low and avoid inventory losses. Not only that, but you can brand your packaging as an easy method of B2B marketing or DTC marketing.
  4. Get insurance. In addition to eCommerce business insurance, you'll need to pick up 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.
  5. Invest in 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. This way you can keep your customers informed and avoid unnecessary returns (see RMA meaning) or complaints. Sending a packing slip with each order will also help.
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How to Calculate Shipping Costs eCommerce

Managing eCommerce shipping costs is the key to running a successful shipping operation.

eCommerce Shipping Statistics

Since eCommerce shipping rates vary, here are the factors you need to consider when calculating:

  1. 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 are 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Delivery speed. Faster shipping is 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 value B2B vs B2C, so try to stick with the trends you see in your industry.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

eCommerce Shipping Solutions

There are many eCommerce shipping options for small to mid-sized businesses. Whether it's through a 3PL fulfillment company, a consignment inventory operation, or handled in-house. Pick the solution 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.

eCommerce Shipping Software

While there is no one best shipping software for eCommerce businesses, the best have a few things in common.

Look for these features:

  • Manageable costs. Most shipping software offer pricing tiers 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 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. Luckily for food suppliers, BlueCart eCommerce can easily be integrated with most shipping solutions. It even comes with Shippo integration right out of the box.
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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 that has 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 a long term one, and you'll need to be in sync.

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 having to cover high warehouse expenses.

It is a growing industry and more suppliers and third party companies are available to pick from each year. You can often find dropshipping companies in a wholesale directory, though these are mainly used for people to know how to find vendors. Dropshipping profits were over $4 billion last year and growing. If you don't have space, or are looking to turn your eCommerce business ideas into revenue as quickly as possible, this is a good option.

Frequently Asked Questions About eCommerce Shipping

Learning how to ship a package and sending them out on time is a core eCommerce responsibility. It may seem simple on the surface, but often requires more time and resources than people anticipate.

To get a better understanding of eCommerce shipping, we pulled together some of the most commonly asked questions about it. Check out our answers below:

How does eCommerce shipping work?

eCommerce shipping is the combination of 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.

First, the company that sells goods stores them on warehouse shelves. Warehouse organization is key to the efficient flow of inventory. 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 company. Depending on what services the shipping company provides, they may transport goods to a distribution facility or deliver it themselves. Fourth, the customer receives their order from the shipping carrier responsible for the final stage.

What is an eCommerce shipment?

An eCommerce shipment is any physical good, whether packaged or unpackaged, that is 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 how to ship frozen food will have drastically different needs than that of 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.

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Ship Happens

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 business.

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 shipping company that can fit your needs.

Now that you know all about shipping, it might be time to take a look at your customer's experience on your site. A headless eCommerce platform can make your site easier to edit and a more enjoyable experience for your customers.