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Shipping is a vital cog in the machinery of your eCommerce business.

But, more than just a necessity, did you know that a good shipping process can actually give you a competitive advantage?

Just as delayed or cancelled orders can lose customers, seamless shipping that gives them exactly what they want can make your store stand out above the rest.

From getting items out of your warehouse quickly to properly communicating with your customers, read our guide to improving your shipping process and winning over your customers this year…

How to Improve Your Shipping Process…

1. Don’t waste time with your order processing

When looking at improving your shipping process, the first point you might be tempted to look at is last mile delivery – meaning, the journey from your warehouse to your customer’s door.

But, it’s vital that you also look at how much time is spent between when the order is actually placed, and when it is actually shipped.

Keeping this process as streamlined and efficient as possible can have a huge impact on overall shipping times, which could help you edge your way ahead of competitors.

Your order processing checklist should look something like this:

  • Order is received
  • Details are recorded and confirmation is sent to the customer
  • Correct items are picked from your inventory
  • Inventory is updated with which items were removed
  • Quality checks are made
  • Invoice is printed for the customer
  • Items are packaged to your liking
  • Any returns forms are included in package
  • The parcel is weighed and measured
  • Shipping label is printed and attached
  • Delivery is arranged with your courier
  • Items are dispatched
  • Customer is notified that their order has been shipped
  • Tracking details are sent to the customer

It’s a long list, but all of this should all happen within a matter of hours – orders shouldn’t be sitting there for a day waiting for somebody to fill them.

So, if you are struggling to get orders out of the door fast enough, you need to look at improvements.

Do you know when an order has been placed? Are you picking and packing yourself when you should have a dedicated team getting on with it? Or, maybe your stock storage layout isn’t optimised, meaning your warehouse team has to waste time locating SKUs?

If you don’t use an order tracking system, implementing one could be the best way to improve your shipping process and allow your business to start growing.

What’s more, by having a strong process in place, you can be quick off the starting line to impress your customers with speedy delivery.

2. Shipping: fast or free?

You could say there are two types of customers out there – those who want to get their order as fast as possible, and those who just want it delivered for free.

Those who want it fast are usually willing to pay for expedited shipping.

Those who want delivery for free are more willing to wait longer if it means they can save money.

If you want to make your shipping a competitive edge, then find out which is most important to your customers. Then, make this your USP.

However, it’s important to remember that there will always be customers with different needs and priorities. So, being able to offer a choice of delivery options can give your eCommerce business a great competitive advantage

Multiple delivery options can get confusing at the fulfilment stage, so again, make sure your order processing system is up to the job.

3. Keep in touch with customers

Customers don’t like to be left hanging. They want to be sure that their order is safely on its way.

Do you send out a confirmation email with an estimated delivery date? Do you let them know when the order is dispatched? Do they get tracking information from your courier?

If you aren’t doing these things, your competitors could be retaining loyal customers that you don’t have yet. Improving communication is a key improvement you can make in your shipping process.

This is even more important when inevitable delays happen. If your customer’s order doesn’t arrive on time, the chances are they will contact you and could even be a little disgruntled.

So, beat them to it. If there is an issue with getting the order fulfilled on time, let them know and apologise for the inconvenience.

4. Don’t overspend on couriers

Shipping costs shouldn’t only work for your customers – they need to work for your business too.

If your delivery options cost less than your competitors, it’s sure to pay off.

First of all, it can help in attracting customers, ultimately meaning more revenue for your eCommerce business.

Secondly, if you are absorbing the cost of delivery yourself, it can also keep costs as low as possible.

So, always look into various couriers and try to negotiate the lowest shipping rates that will benefit your eCommerce store.

5. Offer international delivery

Finally, if you haven’t already, consider the competitive advantage you could achieve by offering international shipping.

There is a huge opportunity to be had by offering your products to the rest of the world. If your competitors aren’t doing this, you could be reaching an untapped market, bringing plenty of new revenue to your business.

For those new to international delivery, it can be intimidating. There are certain regulations you need to follow, paperwork to provide and costs you need to bear in mind. Not to mention the fact that a longer shipping process often means there are more opportunities for things to go wrong!

So, it’s a good idea to work with some experts, like a 3PL, who are experienced in international freight forwarding.

For some more information, take a look at our Guide to International Shipping for eCommerce Stores.

P.S, want to find out more ways how improving your shipping process could offer a competitive advantage?

Contact 3PL for a chat about how we can help today

Find more eCommerce business and order fulfillment advice on our blog…

5 Ways to Improve Your Order Fulfillment Process | What is the Best Way to Manage & Keep Control of my Inventory? | How Do Fulfillment Centres Work?

Barry Ryan

Barry Ryan is Marketing Manager at 3PL. He researches and writes everything you need to know about eCommerce fulfilment and logistics.