- If you’ve ever wondered how important shipping is for an ecommerce business, look to Amazon. Users ship more than 5 billion items with Prime every year, and more people are signing up for it.
For most ecommerce operations, Amazon’s delivery options are out of reach. Amazon has distribution centers and freelance delivery drivers to make shipping faster.
If you want to compete, you’ll need to pay close attention to the shipping options you offer your customers. What ecommerce shipping solutions are out there, and how do you choose the right one?
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the choices you have. We’ll also point out which shipping options are the best in certain situations. You’ll have a good idea of how you can provide better shipping for your customers, without breaking the bank.
Table of Contents
Identify Your Shipping Needs
Before you look for an ecommerce shipping solution, it helps to look at what you need. After all, you want to ensure you’re choosing services that fit those needs. If you choose the wrong service, you may end up facing extra fees or angry customers (or both).
Different online businesses will have different needs. If you ship small, handmade necklaces and bracelets, you don’t need to worry about weight limits. You might be more concerned about the speed of shipping or how fragile items will be handled.
You’ll also have different concerns if you ship locally versus internationally. Some shipping solutions only make sense if you need to ship across state lines. Others may make sense only if you’re shipping locally.
As you consider your needs, think about the following:
- The types of products you ship
- The volume of parcels you ship
- Where you ship
- How sensitive your customers are to shipping costs
Many customers see shipping fees as a reason to choose a different ecommerce store. If your customers aren’t willing to pay for shipping, then your business will need to handle the costs. Keeping the costs of shipping down is in everyone’s best interests.
Identify Shipping Goals
Another way to look at your shipping needs is to think about what you want to achieve. Do you want your customers to receive their orders ASAP? If so, you’ll want to think more about speed of service and reliability.
Maybe you want to offer them a low-cost solution, so you offer free shipping on orders over $25 or $50. In this scenario, costs are the most important factor.
If you deal with high-priced merchandise, then you may want to offer your customers peace of mind. Certified and registered services allow them to track their order. Insurance protects the shipment, for both you and the customer.
You may also want to offer your customers a mix of shipping options.
That way, they can choose the service that best suits their needs. If they need the product now, they can choose express services. If they can wait, then they can choose free shipping and save a few dollars.
What Ecommerce Shipping Options Are There?
Now you know what your business needs. It’s time to find the right services to help you achieve your shipping goals. What choices do you have for shipping merchandise?
You may be aware of some of the big players, including the post and large carriers like FedEx or UPS. There are also hundreds of other options. One of them might make sense for your business.
The Big Carriers
Most online business owners look to three or four big players to ship products to customers. Three of them are courier services:
- United Parcel Service (UPS)
- Federal Express (FedEx)
- Dalsey, Hillblom and Lynn (DHL)
The other big player is the United States Postal Service itself. USPS sometimes gets a bad rap for being slow, but it’s often on par with these large couriers.
The main advantage of any of these solutions is the reach of their services. UPS and DHL are international in scope, so they can help you ship around the world. The USPS ships anywhere in America, and you can even ship internationally with them.
Most of these organizations offer different levels of service as well. You may be able to choose from options like:
- Regular shipping
- Express shipping
- Expedited shipping
- Overnight shipping
Some, like the USPS, also offer tracking. Certified mail tracking provides a more in-depth record of where a parcel has been and where it’s going. You and your customer will be able to keep better tabs on delivery attempts and more.
Each of these carriers has its advantages. USPS, for example, has the lowest dimension weight costs of all. You may also be able to find lower rates if you work with a label provider.
FedEx and UPS excel when it comes to dealing with heavier shipments. They also have better options for quick shipping.
DHL is your best bet if you want to go global because they offer more hubs than anyone else.
Local Courier Services
In addition to the big players, there are many smaller courier services. Many of them serve a smaller, local area. In some cases, they’re even subcontractors of a larger courier.
You may think about working directly with a local courier service. It may make sense in the following situations.
- Your business only ships within the local area, due to the nature of the product
- You cannot ship outside of a particular region or state due to regulations
- You only want your products making short trips
An example of the first situation might be some food items. An example of the second might be certain plants, foods, or animals. In the third situation, you may want to keep your business local or restrict shipping to help offset your business’s carbon footprint.
Whatever the reason, a local courier may be the right choice.
Depending on the nature of the products you want to ship, you might need to consider specialized freight services. Big organizations like UPS and USPS may offer the services you need, but they may not be the right choice.
Suppose your online store sells refrigerators. Customers can buy from you online, and you’ll arrange for home delivery. Shipping through USPS or UPS may not be possible.
Instead, you may want to look at specialized freight services. These providers are experts in transporting big, heavy items to all destinations.
Another example might be foods that need to be kept refrigerated. You can certainly ship these products, but you’ll need to ship them via refrigerated services.
Use an Ecommerce Shipping Platform
As ecommerce has grown, many specialized solutions have cropped up. Some of those include platforms specifically designed to help you manage shipping.
These platforms typically allow you to choose from several different shipping options. You may be able to provide registered mail from USPS and expedited shipping through another courier.
The platform works with many different courier services. They pool the collective shipments across all users to get the best rates and discounts for you. Every time you need to ship an order, the platform analyzes your options and picks the best solution.
In some cases, the platform may plug into your website and display shipping options for your customers when they place their orders.
An example is Shopify, which offers access to pre-negotiated rates with top carriers. Any store using the platform can also show shipping costs at checkout.
The Art of Ecommerce Shipping Negotiation
Just because you picked a shipping solution doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it. Also don’t be fooled into thinking the advertised rates are locked in. Many ecommerce businesses successfully negotiate lower rates with shipping companies every day.
If you’re just starting out, the best solution is to work through a platform. As we said, these platforms negotiate with couriers on behalf of all their customers. That qualifies everyone to take advantage of bigger volume discounts.
If you’re an established ecommerce business shipping thousands of packages, then you may be able to negotiate your own discount.
It’s also possible to find discounts by working with other companies. Mail label providers are one option. DHL has programs that offer discounts to vendors with accounts at one of their partner companies.
Finally, don’t be afraid to offer your customers multiple shipping options. You may need to work through a platform or with more than one carrier, but more options will mean more happy customers.
Keep Calm and Ship on
Now you have a better understanding of how to ship products to customers. There are many different options, and each has its advantages and disadvantages.
So, which ecommerce shipping solution is best? It’s the one that fits your customer’s needs. From free shipping to overnight express, you can find the right shipping solution to keep your customers smiling.
Looking for more ways to build your ecommerce empire? We have more advice, tips, and tricks to help you on your journey.