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You’ve just had another great week of sales at your eCommerce store. Great! But now you’ve got to get those items to your customer. You need to get them delivered quickly, and you need to get them delivered in one piece. If you’re sick and tired of handing over your products to postal companies that don’t ‘deliver’, then read 3PL’s complete guide to picking the best shipping company for your eCommerce store

Why you need to use a shipping company

There are many reasons why you should use a shipping company, but perhaps the most important reason is customer satisfaction (or lack of it). 

Thanks to companies such as Amazon offering next day (or even within the hour) delivery, consumer expectations have changed when it comes to the fulfilment of their online orders.

Here are some eye-opening stats about the importance of getting your fulfilment right:

  • 55% of consumers will switch to a competing retailer/brand if it offers a faster delivery service.
  • 82% of satisfied customers have shared positive delivery experiences with friends and family. 
  • 44% of millennials have an Amazon Prime membership.
  • According to research by UPS, 71% of online buyers rate free shipping as a top consideration at the time of purchase.
  • 41% of consumers told research firm IMRG that they abandoned a purchase due to a lack of convenient delivery options in the last year.

We could go on…

Whichever way you look at it, you need to get your shipping right or risk losing out to competitors, damaging your reputation and reducing the likelihood of future purchases.

So, what do you need to consider when selecting a shipping/fulfilment partner?

Profile your product

Before you start Googling away and contacting shipping providers, you start by analysing what sort of delivery process your product requires. Undertake a full profile of your product, asking (and answering) as many questions you can that may influence what type of delivery your product will require:

  • Is your product fragile? 
  • Is it mass-produced or is it a bespoke custom product? 
  • Do you manufacture your products yourself or do you obtain them from a supplier?
  • How heavy is your product? 
  • Is it time-sensitive (e.g. is it a food item or medicine)? 
  • What volume of products do you sell (do you sell hundreds of products per week or thousands)? 

Interrogating your product’s delivery requirements will help you to rule out certain delivery partners and hone in on others. 

However, you shouldn’t just take into account your product, but your customers too. 

Profile your customers

The nature of your product will determine many aspects of your shipping requirements. Your customer will determine many aspects of your shipping requirements as well, so make sure you build a profile of your typical customer:

  • Who are they? (As the data at the top of this article shows, different demographics have different expectations. A millennial with an Amazon Prime account may have different delivery expectations to a baby boomer).
  • What delivery options can they get from your immediate competitors? 
  • Do they expect free delivery? 
  • How likely are they to return the item? (For example, clothing retailers such as ASOS factor in a high return rate on their orders). 
  • Do they want to be able to track their order whilst it’s in transit? 
  • Do they want flexible delivery options? (40% of consumers said they would pay more if they could select a delivery time or date, rather than their purchase simply being delivered as quickly as possible). 

As with your product profile, if you can answer all of these questions you’ll be able to build up a customer profile that will help you select the perfect shipping partner. 

Once you’ve done that, it’s time to start researching your potential shipping partners. So,  what should you look for?

Selecting the right shipping company for your eCommerce store can have a huge impact on your business

5 questions to ask shipping companies

Here are five key questions you should ask a shipping company before you give them your business.

1. How much?

It’s the first question on the lips of many eCommerce store managers and owners. But it’s an important one. Get it wrong and the cost of shipping can have a detrimental impact on your profit margins. 

But, don’t simply go for the cheapest option. You don’t just want your product to reach your customers for a low price. You want your products to reach your customers quickly and in one piece. Go for the cheapest option and you run the risk of your orders turning up late (or not at all), arriving damaged or worse. Partner with the wrong shipping partner and you could lose customers and fail to gain new ones if your reputation gets damaged. 

Pricing factors

There are a number of different things that will influence what price a shipping company will charge you. 

One of the most significant pricing factors you’ll see is the volume and weight of your package. So, if your packages are normally heavy and/or bulky then you should expect to pay more for shipping. 

The other significant pricing factor is the destination of your packages. The cost per shipment will change depending on where you are sending your packages; local, regional, national, international. However, if you are sending a larger volume of packages, then a shipping company may reduce the price downwards. In other words, the more shipments, the lower the cost. 

2. What are the delivery options?

As we’ve already seen, the speed of delivery is an important part of keeping your customers happy. Therefore, it’s important to ask any potential shipping provider what delivery options they can provide and the cost of each. 

3. How do you handle returns or delivery problems?

Today, returns are just as much a part of improving customer satisfaction as the initial delivery. 

Ask any potential shipping company if they are able to handle returns. Not all of them do. And some of the ones that do, don’t do it well… 

You should also ask how they handle problems with delivery. What if the customer is not at home at the time of delivery? Do they contact the customer to arrange an alternative time? Do they leave the package with a neighbour? Do they go back the next day to reattempt delivery? These are important considerations and if not handled correctly can really damage your relationship with your customers. 

4. What’s your geographical coverage?

As an eCommerce store you’re not geographically limited in the way that many brick and mortar stores are. You can sell your products nationally, or even internationally. But that’s all for naught if your shipping partner isn’t able to provide coverage in those areas. 

Ideally, you’ll want to partner with a shipping partner that can at the very least provide national delivery coverage. Many shipping companies have agreements with international shipping companies so they can offer international delivery options. 

5. Are they reliable? 

Perhaps not a question you want to ask straight to their face, but you should carry out some research into a shipping company’s reliability before you agree to a partnership with them.

You can do much of this research using review sites such as Trustpilot and Which and comparison sites such as Interparcel. Caveat – many of these websites are focused more on consumers rather than business customers, so treat any reviews with this in mind. Nevertheless they can still be good indicators as to the level of service a shipping company provides.

It’s also worth asking fellow businesses that use shipping companies what their experiences have been with various providers.

If a shipping provider can provide you with a good answer to each of those five questions, then you may be a step closer to finding your ideal shipping partner. 

However, there’s a form of order fulfilment which is completely transforming the way eCommerce stores do business. 

Keep reading to find out more…

3PL offers a truly multichannel fulfilment service

Multichannel Order Fulfilment

If you’re looking to grow your eCommerce business fast, then multichannel order fulfilment could be the perfect choice for your eCommerce store. 

Multichannel order fulfilment is a completely different way of thinking about delivery compared to the more traditional approach outlined above. 

By offering consumers more ways to buy your products, multichannel order fulfilment can not only increase your sales, but it also features technologies and channel integrations that will streamline your order fulfilment process and improve customer satisfaction. 

What is multichannel order fulfilment?

Multichannel order fulfilment is a service in which a shipping partner handles the storage, packing and shipping of your products on your behalf. You may be selling your products on multiple channels (for example, you may have multiple eCommerce stores, an eBay account, an Amazon retailer account, a Facebook Marketplace account etc).

Some multichannel order fulfilment providers (such as 3PL) allow you to integrate these channels into a dashboard system so that it’s easier to fulfil orders on your behalf, as well as giving you better visibility, with data from multiple channels being collected all in one place.

As you can imagine, multichannel order fulfilment will not only free up a lot more of your time (that would otherwise be spent with tedious manual order fulfilment), it can actually help you grow your business.

How does multichannel order fulfilment work

Let’s take a closer look at the end-to-end process of multichannel order fulfilment.

The products

Whether you create products yourself or order them from a supplier, with a multichannel order fulfilment service you have them sent to your shipping provider. 

So, if you order your products from a supplier, under this arrangement you never actually have to handle or store your products directly, saving you money on warehousing.

Channel integration

As well as having your products sent to your shipping provider, multichannel order fulfilment will see you integrate all of your channels with your shipping provider. This could be a single eCommerce store, or it could be several different channels including online marketplaces.Choose 3PL for multichannel order fulfilment and you’ll be able to integrate your channels using our 3PL Fusion dashboard. In addition to integration, this dashboard provides a wealth of benefits that we’ll detail later. 

Quality control

Under a multichannel order fulfilment service, your shipping provider should not only receive and store your products, but should carry out a quality control review too. That’s what we do here at 3PL. It’s a vital step in maintaining customer satisfaction.

Order processing

Once your products are being sent to your shipping partner and your channels are integrated your orders will begin to be processed. 

Because of the integration, your orders will be received directly by your shipping partner, saving you further time that you can use to build your business. 

Order packing

As we’ve written previously, packing and packaging is an important part in boosting customer satisfaction. Here at 3PL our multichannel order fulfilment customers benefit from a bespoke packing service. We can pack orders that are tailored to your guidelines or with custom packaging.

The world’s best shipping rates

Once your order is packaged up, it’ll be sent out. However, unlike many other multichannel order fulfilment providers, 3PL is able to make use of cutting edge technology to get you the world’s best shipping rates, with the world’s best carriers, every single time. You’ll find more detail about this later on in this article.

Order tracking

A good multichannel order fulfilment provider will notify both yourself and your customer as soon as the order has been sent out (at least, that’s what we do here at 3PL!). 

Order returns and exchanges

Should the worst happen and your customer decides they want to return their order, this can all be managed as part of a multichannel order fulfilment service. At 3PL we make this as easy as possible. All returns and exchanges can be managed through our 3PL Fusion dashboard.

You can view a handy visualisation of our multichannel order fulfilment process here.

How do I sign up for multichannel order fulfilment?

Getting started with multichannel order fulfilment is easy. Here at 3PL we have an online portal and web-based user guides which make getting started with multichannel order fulfilment really straight forward.

Registering an account

Simply register for an account, create your products and your carrier rules, sync your store with the platform and you’re ready to make ship happen!

A user-friendly dashboard

Once you’re registered for multichannel order fulfilment with 3PL you’ll have access to our  visual dashboard (3PL Fusion). Through this dashboard you can manage your inventory, amend orders, access invoices and much more. Plus, the dashboard is available 24/7 365. What’s more, 3PL’s network of national and international fulfilment centres means your eCommerce store will have global reach.

Watch this short video below which will give you the full lowdown on 3PL Fusion:

Carrier automation

Worried about having to continually check carrier prices so you don’t fall foul of extortionate price fluctuations? With 3PL’s multichannel order fulfilment service all of that is taken care of for you. We use industry-leading automated carrier management technology which selects the fastest and most cost-effective delivery service to deliver your package. As soon as your order is shipped both you and your customer are notified and kept up-to-date.

We hope you’ve found our guide to picking the best shipping company for your eCommerce store useful! 

Sign up for multichannel order fulfilment with 3PL today

Find more advice for your eCommerce store on the 3PL blog

What Are The Key Factors to a Successful eCommerce Order Fulfilment Process? | 5 Ways to Improve Your Order Fulfilment Process | A Guide to International Shipping for eCommerce Stores

Barry Ryan

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