There is nothing more frustrating for business operators than outdated shipping and fulfillment technology that slows your warehouse staff down and prevents orders from getting out the door. As the pandemic accelerated the already high eCommerce demand, many independent businesses have found their growth being hindered by basic shipping software that relies heavily on workers making manual decisions and using multiple systems in the warehouse– making it impossible to increase order throughput and scale their business.
What Unique Shipping Challenges Do eCommerce Companies Face?
Whether it’s slow order processing times due to heavy reliance on manual decision-making, high shipping costs due to the use of excess packaging materials, high rates of shipping errors and mis-shipments eating away at your bottom-line, or all the above – these common shipping pain points plague eCommerce businesses and are usually tied to outdated technology in the warehouse. Let’s discuss these challenges and what you can do to address them.
1. Over-Reliance on Manual Decision-Making
The more manual intervention needed throughout each stage of the fulfillment process (pick, pack, ship, etc.)– the more likely your warehouse isn’t as efficient as it can be. Many prospective customers have shared the frustrating experience of warehouse workers having to manually input order details because their shipping software doesn’t directly integrate with their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system– leading to costly shipping errors like order data not syncing correctly from system to system.
Another common manual decision in the warehouse is employees have to answer is the “which box” question, prior to packing an order. With the pressure to get orders out the door, a worker may just look for a “good enough” box, resulting in poor use of space within the box and excess use of packing materials to fill the volume of the oversized box.
Relying on manual decisions in the warehouse may give the illusion that you have more control over your shipping operation when in reality, it opens you up to so many costly mistakes and errors. By choosing an automated shipping software that streamlines tasks throughout the stages of an order– workers get time back to focus on higher-value tasks that result in getting more packages out the door, efficiently and accurately.
2. Inefficient and Overly Complicated Warehouse Workflows
Clunky, delayed, and inaccurate are not words you want to describe your warehouse processes and workflows. Not only does slow shipping software prevent more orders from getting out the door, but it’s also frustrating to your warehouse workers who just want an easy-to-use solution that empowers them to do their job.
Our team has worked with customers that were using 5+ different systems to operate their shipping operations– the result is extremely high order processing times. One customer, in particular, made the switch to ShipHawk’s centralized solution and their average order processing time went from 45 to 5 seconds per order.
Workflows that require multiple systems are not only inefficient but can impact your data integrity. If data isn’t syncing correctly and warehouse workers have to write down order details from one system and type those into another– your rate of shipping errors is likely very high. If not addressed, these mis-shipments and errors can add up causing major financial leakage to your business.
However, with an automated shipping software that directly integrates with your ERP and provides more functionality than a basic level shipping software– you can consolidate your fulfillment systems and more importantly reduce your order processing times.
3. Excess Use of Packaging and Shipping Materials
Put on your consumer hat for a moment – have you ever placed an order for a relatively small item, only to have it turn up on your doorstep in a huge box with a ton of excess packaging materials inside?
Not only is that an annoying experience for the customer, but imagine that same packing configuration for the hundreds of orders leaving your warehouse daily. The cost of materials adds up so optimizing your packing process is an opportunity to save on shipping spend and provide a frustration-free experience for customers.
What’s more, the environmental impact of excess packaging waste and oversized boxes is immense. With 33 percent of our landfills filled with packaging materials and the average box being 40 percent too large for its contents, cutting back on overpackaging is critical for a more sustainable future. Retail expert, Ben Conwell, summarizes it best, “When it comes to packaging, what’s good for business is good for the Earth.”
Fortunately, an automated shipping solution with features like carton optimization can help your shipping operation cut costs on packaging materials while lessening your carbon footprint. With ShipHawk’s Smart Packing™ technology, the “which box” question is answered automatically and guides warehouse workers on how to pack each order in the most optimal way to utilize materials cost-effectively.
4. Labor Complexities and Costs
With heightened eCommerce demand spurred on by the pandemic – it’s possible you saw orders for your eCommerce business skyrocket almost overnight. Perhaps your initial thought was, “I have to hire more people to get more orders out the door to meet this demand”. You may have had the same thought heading into peak season during the holidays. However, that outdated shipping software that’s slow and clunky for your current warehouse team isn’t going to get any faster when you add more workers to the line.
Additionally, even if you want to hire more workers to support your scaling efforts, labor shortages in the warehousing and distribution sector are staggering. Currently, nationwide, it’s estimated that this sector alone is half a million jobs short of current requirements. What’s more, retaining your current workforce is another labor challenge because you can’t afford to lose the all-star employee(s) with tribal knowledge of all the tricks and workarounds to make your current shipping software function daily.
While the outlook seems grim, the true bottleneck keeping you from overcoming these labor challenges is your basic shipping software. It’s the thing that’s keeping you from processing orders faster at your current headcount and it’s also making the fate of your business reliant on a couple of workers.
With automated shipping software, you eliminate the need for manual decisions, so your business becomes less reliant on a team member with tribal knowledge to onboard new team members. Also, with less manual intervention needed, your order processing times are significantly reduced, so it’s likely you won’t need to add more people to your team after all.
5. High Rates of Mis-shipments and Shipping Errors
As discussed in previous sections, heavy reliance on manual decision-making and having workers jump from system to system to fulfill orders is not only inefficient but it leads to costly shipping errors and inaccurate orders arriving on customers' doorsteps.
High rates of mis-shipments and order inaccuracies are like a leaky pipe. A few drops here and there may not be much cause for concern, but what happens when your business grows and you need to increase your throughput? As demand for your products increases, if you don’t have a shipping solution that automates your fulfillment for improved accuracy and directly integrates with your ERP, that leaky pipe is going to become a much bigger problem.
By making the shift to ShipHawk, customers have experienced incredible results when it comes to order accuracy and shipping error reduction. One customer, in particular, Redcat Racing, was able to improve their order accuracy to nearly 100% and in turn double their daily throughput. Having an automated solution in the warehouse is critical to tackling this challenge– your outdated basic software just isn’t going to cut it.
6. Lack of baseline reporting and shipping metrics
The saying goes in business– if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Not having visibility into the status of your shipping operation is keeping you from being able to make strategic data-backed decisions that can improve your fulfillment process. Surprisingly, we hear from many prospective customers that they don’t have any sort of reporting or baseline metrics that they are tracking.
If you’re looking to grow your business you need to have insights into what is not working so you can improve it and also, what is going well in your operation so you can find ways to replicate that success. Without reporting and visibility, you are basically flying blind and hoping for the best– which is not a scaling business strategy.
With an automated shipping software, you gain real-time data and analytics reporting that give you the visibility and controls you need to take your shipping operation to the next level.
ShipHawk Helps eCommerce Companies Overcome Shipping Challenges
If your business is experiencing some (or all) of these challenges, it's likely your business is “making it work” with basic shipping software. Unfortunately, “making it work” when your business has outgrown its current solution will only hinder the growth of your business.
ShipHawk strives to help our customers turn their shipping operations into profit centers by overcoming these challenges and automating their fulfillment processes. If you’re ready to take your shipping software from a growth bottleneck to an essential tool for scaling your business, reach out to our team of shipping experts today.