You've spent months building your online store and preparing your marketing strategy. You launch your business and cha-ching!, you make your first sale. Now what?
Many new ecommerce entrepreneurs tend to neglect their fulfillment and shipping strategy when they launch. The reason tends to be the fact that the world of shipping is complex and confusing. However, a well educated shipping strategy is vitally important and is a core element of every successful ecommerce business.
In this post, we round up of some of the most practical and important tools, resources and apps to help you develop a rock solid shipping strategy for your business.
Let’s dive in.
Your packaging is important and serves multiple purposes. Not only does it protect your products during transport but it also serves as an extension of your brand experience. Luckily, there are many packaging options available to you.
There are a many resources for packaging supplies online for you to consider. Some popular online packaging suppliers to consider are:
You'll also want to consider local packaging options. Many times, purchasing packaging locally can be cheaper by saving the shipping costs. Check online for packaging suppliers and box manufacturers in your area.
When packaging your products, you'll want to make sure that they can stand up to the abuse they're likely to endure while in transit. The standard test for this is called the 4-foot drop test.
Image courtesy of Shipwire
Your products and packaging should be able to pass a 4-foot drop test onto a hard surface without breakage. Doing this test on your packaging ensures that your products will be able to withstand typical impacts during shipping.
The 4-foot drop test consists of five drops:
- Landing flat on base
- Landing flat on top
- Landing flat on longest side
- Landing flat on shortest side
- Landing on a corner
In addition to the drop test, your products and packaging should also be able to withstand a full minute vigorous shaking without any contents breaking.
Carrier Packaging Best Practices
Each carrier also has specific requirements for packaging. Although these are mostly standard and common, you should review your chosen carriers specific requirements and best practices.
- FedEx - Best Practices
- UPS - Best Practices
- USPS Domestic - Best Practices
- USPS International - Best Practices
- Canada Post - Best Practices
- UK Royal Mail - Best Practices
General Shipping Information & Options
There is a wide variety of shipping options and variables that come into play when choosing a shipping courier. Each courier offers slightly different rates and services.
Below, is a list of shipping service guides from some of the most prominent couriers to help give you a better sense of each of their respective shipping options and services:
- FedEx - Service Guide
- UPS - Service Guide
- USPS - A Customers Guide To Shipping
- Canada Post - Shipping Products and Services for Your Business
- UK Royal Mail - Tool Kit
- Australia Post - Shipping Guide
Calculating Shipping Rates
Shipping couriers base their rates on a variety of factors. Everything from weight and size, departing and destination country, as well as extras like insurance and tracking.
Below is a list of shipping calculators to some of the most popular shipping couriers so you can easily find the most cost effective option for your business needs.
- FedEx - Shipping Calculator
- UPS - Shipping Calculator
- USPS - Shipping Calculator
- Canada Post - Shipping Calculator
- UK Royal Mail - Shipping Calculator
- Australia Post - Shipping Calculator
Customs Duties and Taxes
If you're going to be shipping internationally your customers are going to likely be charged customs and duties on the items you send. These charges depend on many factors and can be confusing to figure out. To get a since of what your customers will be charged, if anything, check out this customs duty calculator. Simply input your country, the country the parcel is going, the product type and value and this calculator will tell you how much your customers will have to pay in duties.
Customs Declaration Information
For more information on the required forms and policies for customs declaration, please see the resources below:
- FedEx Customs Information
- UPS Customs Information
- USPS Customs Information
- Canada Post Customs Information
- UK Royal Mail Customs Information
- Australia Post Customs Information
Business accounts can save you time and money when it comes to shipping. Each carrier offers slightly different discounts and services so it's important to know and take full advantage of the ones most applicable to you and your business.
FedEx Business Center - Sign up with FedEx and manage all your shipment information online.
- UPS Business Solutions - Manage all your shipments, package tracking, billing schedules and package pick up schedules.
- USPS Business Gateway - Set up an account with USPS and get access to the full suite of business tools they offer that can help with label and postage printing, shipment tracking and more.
- Canada Post Venture One - The Venture One account with Canada Post can help you save 5% on shipping and packaging products as well as upgraded services on parcel shipping.
- UK Royal Mail Online Business Account - An online business account with Royal Mail will help you save time by managing all your shipping expense and invoices all in one place.
Australia Post Business Credit Account - A Business Credit Account with Australia Post will allow you to charge many of the common services directly to your account for better management of your expenses.
Labelling Your Packages
If you're like most new business, you'll likely begin by handwriting customer addresses on your packages and taking them to the post office to pay for postage. As you grow there will come a point where this is no longer feasible. Luckily, there are many great options available for labelling your package and paying for postage, right from the comfort of your home or office.
Label/Postage Printing Apps and Services
- Shopify Order Printer - Free - This is a must-have if you're on the Shopify platform. Order Printer lets you quickly and easily print invoices, labels, receipts, packing slips, and more. You can customize and create templates to suit any need or print in bulk to speed up your shipping process.
- OrderCup - $20-$50/month - With over 250 reviews, OrcerCup is one of the original label printers for Shopify stores. With OrderCup you can print USPS, FedEx, UPS, DHL and Canada Post shipping labels in Batch or one by one. With semless integration, OrderCup will also automatically updates your Shopify orders with shipping information and automatically trigger Shopify to send tracking information emails to your customers.
- Stamps.com - 15.99/month + postage - Stamps.com allows you to do almost anything you could normally do at a USPS post office, right from the comfort of your own home. Print postage and labels and prepare all of your packages for shipping all for just $15.99 per month.
- Shippo - $0.05 per label + postage - Shippo integrates your Shopify orders and allows you to print labels with one click. Choose your parcel dimension, pickup date, service type and preferred carrier and you will get your label within seconds.
ShipStation - $25-$145 - Shipstation makes it easier to ship products yourself. It integrates with major carriers, including USPS, FedEx, and UPS, so that you can easily create shipping labels and packing slips in bulk. It offers a great deal of other tools for shipping management as well.
- ShippingEasy - Free - $99/month - ShippingEasy prints labels and sends email notifications to customers for tracked parcels. ShippingEasy is free for up to 50 packages per month.
- ShipRobot - $10-$50/month - Sync orders from multiple sales channels you use in real-time. Create and print shipping labels for all your orders with one solution. Update order statuses automatically once orders are fulfilled.
Using a Fulfillment Warehouse
Using a fulfillment warehouse can be a great option to help automate your order fulfillment. If you choose to use a fulfillment company, you'll store some or all of your products at one of their warehouses. When orders come in, they will pick, pack and ship your items to your customers, as well as handle returns on behalf of your company.
Fulfillment Companies and Apps
There are hundreds, if not thousands of fulfillment companies you can choose from. Below we have highlighted three that have direct integrations with Shopify. These apps will plug directly into your store and feed your orders automatically to your warehouse for fulfillment.
Shipwire (Worldwide Warehouses) - Shopify App
- Fulfillrite (US Warehouses) - Shopify App
- Think Logistics (Canadian Warehouses) - Shopify App
As your business grows and you send out more orders, you'll notice you begin getting more emails from customers asking about the status of their shipped package.
- AfterShip - Free/Paid for Automated Email Customer Notifications - AfterShip helps you auto track all your shipments from UPS, USPS, Fedex and 120+ other couriers. It can even display tracking results right on your store and notify customers when the shipment is in transit, out for delivery, and delivered.
Beyond getting your products to your customer, you also need to consider your rules and policies on getting your products back to you should there be any problems. In this case, a great return policy is needed to provide peace of mind for both your customers as well as yourself.
Shipping is complicated and for many entrepreneurs, a source of major frustration. A good shipping and fulfillment strategy might not necessarily make your business but a bad strategy will most definitely break it. However, armed with this resources list, you should be able to develop the best shipping and fulfillment strategy for your business and deliver a brand experience that keeps your customers coming back, time and time again.
Bonus: Check out our beginner's guide to shipping and fulfillment.
About The Author
Richard Lazazzera is an ecommerce entrepreneur and Content Strategist at Shopify. Get more from Richard on Twitter.