eCommerce Shipping Options
At the outset, it might seem like eCommerce shipping options would be a fairly brief topic - there are only a handful of major carriers and only so many ways to get an object from point A to point B. In some respects this is true —eCommerce shipping options, like all shipping, usually come down to the same players moving goods around the country and world. Thinking specifically to your own business, however, eCommerce shipping is far more involved than just carrier selection. How and why you ship should be directly reflective of your shipping strategy and policy.
In terms of a shipping strategy, it is—as with any other aspect of your business—good to have a goal. What is your current shipping process versus where you’d like it to be? You can list out whatever changes and metrics are most relevant. Perhaps you’d like to increase your site’s conversion rate and thereby its shipping volume, or you’d like to expand into a foreign market.
Once you've determined the goal, it's time to determine strategies for achieving these goals. Being aware of your current shipping practices and how you'd like them to run in the future and while still recognizing that there may be efficiencies you haven't even thought of greatly helps clarify what eCommerce shipping options are most suitable for your business. Recognizing that there may be efficiencies that you just haven't thought of shouldn't discourage you - there are numerous resources available for finding ways to optimize your workflow. We'd recommend starting with our Fulfillment Efficiency Scorecard so you can find out areas of improvement in fulfillment and how to save money in shipping.
Once you have a strategy nailed down, it’s time to explore different eCommerce shipping options to help you achieve your goals. More often than not, this will often mean partnering with a carrier or third-party shipping company. If you’re already a big enough shipper, chances are you’re able to work out your own negotiated contract with a carrier or carriers of your choice to best reflect your shipping practices and strategies.
For smaller shippers, a third-party shipping consolidator can grant access to many of the perks and discounts offered by those negotiated contracts, often with all of the major carriers at once. For those in between, perhaps it’s time to outsource fulfillment entirely to a third-party logistics outfit which can store, inventory, and ship your goods for you, often from several hubs throughout the country.
Regardless of size, we've found that diversifying your carrier mix with regional carriers also offers numerous benefits - both in terms of meeting customer delivery expectations as well as reducing shipping prices.
Also applicable to big and small eCommerce businesses alike, implementing an automated shipping software is an increasingly valuable eCommerce shipping option. As customer expectations continue to rise and fulfillment continues to increase in complexity, it is vital to have software that not only helps streamline the shipping process, but can also integrate into existing systems, whether they are warehouse management systems (WMS) or intermediaries between the front and back-ends of your eCommerce business. And as most eCommerce customers now expect delivery updates as well as tracking information, manual shipping practices are quickly becoming obsolete. Software that automatically prints shipping labels, creates pick and pack lists, and informs you what packaging material or box is best for which products saves valuable time while also cutting down on human error.