Shipping…what a nightmare right?
There are so many problems that can occur when dealing with shipping, whether its lost parcels, damaged products or some cheeky hidden fees that no one knows about until it is too late…
Before you even begin the shipping process you might be put off straight away by the awfully long paperwork and the numerous hoops you have to jump through, just to send a small package an hours drive away.
Thankfully, there is always a solution, whether it be a simple one or something you have to out-source…it can always be resolved. You have done the hard part of setting up your business and selling products…and now comes the logistical side, which can sometimes be problematic!! So therefore, below we have listed the most frequently come across issues with shipping and some tactics you can use to fix them (hopefully once and for all!)
Even if you don’t really want to target a market overseas, (even though you should be!) you might end up with customers on the other side of the world without even meaning too. This means you need to be prepared for the event that you have to send a parcel via plane, van or even train. International shipping can seem terrifying and almost impossible. You have to deal with couriers you have never dealt with before, communicate with companies who don’t speak the same language as you and the taxes and duties cost are a whole extra issue which could scare you off completely.
As scary as international shipping is, it’s not as bad as it seems. There are lots of online tools and guides to help you send your products worldwide and it is often not as expensive as you first may think. For example, to send a small parcel within the UK costs £5.10. To send the same parcel to Germany is only £13.80 and this includes tracking and signature requirement! Granted, it is more expensive but definitely affordable!
Most couriers will have an online forum for you to refer to, giving you the basics on international shipping and how each courier ships internationally. If you already know the courier you wish to use then refer to their guides as much as possible as these will be specific to the company.
You need to ensure your customers are aware of any duties and taxes that they may have to pay when the products arrive in their destination country. Maybe have a section on your policy page talking about taxes and duties and maybe even refer to it at checkout, ensuring your customers do not have any nasty surprises when the products arrive. The last thing you want is to put all that effort into shipping internationally to only have an unhappy customer at the other end.
Another way to get around the problem of shipping internationally is to use the thefullworks system. On our system we are able to offer multiple carrier options and along with our extensive database of taxes and duties, we can apply all these costs at checkout. This then allows your valuable customers to see the real and full cost of the product including taxes and shipping. No surprise costs equals a happy customer! We also are able to link our own webstores Shopify and Woocommerce stores, so if you have an existing site that you love why change it! This allows your shipping process to be fully integrated for hassle ( well most of the time!) free shipping.
Filling in the correct paperwork for overseas shipments is incredibly important. If not filled out correctly it can lead to the product not being cleared and never making it to the customer; goods being returned to you at your cost.. Accurate paperwork means the package should sail through customs with no issues. But remember, getting through customs can be a lengthy process so always ensure your estimated shipping time frame reflects this – don’t promise a shipping date that you know is impossible.
Packaging Products Safely
Once you have decided that shipping internationally is a step forward for your business, you then need to start thinking about how to make sure your products make it through the journey in one piece. Depending on your products this may be an easy task, or a very difficult one so we have some handy tips for you to ensure safe delivery.
Packaging requirements for freight shipping is very different in comparison to your standard parcel and mail delivery. It is best to check with your carrier to find out their specific requirements when it comes to packaging but it also is a good idea to check with the destination country – ensuring you are sticking to their guidelines too. However, below are some general tips to ensure everything arrives in one piece:
o Use a proper pallet for larger shipments: the pallet you use for your shipment should be made of either wood or plastic and should be able to stand the stress of being moved around frequently. Check the pallet you are using and make sure you do not exceed the weight limits – all pallets are different!
o Choose strong packaging: even though your box may be strong enough to hold your products, will they be able to withstand the weight of many other boxes being stacked on top of them? Whilst waiting to be shipped boxes are often stored in small spaces meaning boxes and boxes will be stacked on one another – think about this when choosing what you are going to send your products in! Make sure you pack out any empty space with packing peanuts and bubble wrap to further prevent collapse. Double walled cartons are a must as a minimum!
o Secure your shipment: don’t leave boxes hanging over the edge of your pallet – you are asking for a collapse! You also need to ensure the top layers of your shipment are flat in case other shipments or boxes are stacked on top of them and also use load protectors to prevent damage from outside factors such as chains, straps and other pallets. You may also want to use a stretch wrap once you have stacked your shipment in order to hold your boxes down and reduce the risk of losing or damaging any.
o Use our services! Through our network of warehouses we can repalletise / repack items ready for onward shipment
Ridiculously high shipping costs
Have you never wanted to ship internationally because you have always thought that it would be too expensive and you wouldn’t see a return? You need to ensure you are keeping on top of your shipping budget and not letting it get out of control – don’t just ship anywhere if you are going to end up losing money!!
Here are some tips on how to keep your shipping costs low, margins high – all without compromising your high quality service.
o Buy and print discounted labels through 3rd party providers such as Shopify: this is a great way to keep your shipping costs down – Shopify often offer up to 50% off shipping labels!!
o Compare prices between carriers: all carriers have set prices and unique services to reflect their prices so make sure you research what they offer and which one will be most appropriate for your business and fits the needs of your store.
o Use carrier-provided packing where possible: many carriers often provide packaging which fits their specific requirements. Sometimes it is worth using this packaging to make sure you don’t end up with unnecessary costs.
o Invest in flat rate shipping: some major carriers provide packaging for a fixed-rate shipping, based on how far the package is travelling and its end location. If your company often ships to certain locations you may want to investigate whether flat rate shipping could work for you.
o Outsource to a third party logistics provider: this is where we come in! If you decide that you really haven’t got time to deal with the shipping side of things, or you simply don’t want too, you can outsource it to companies like thefullworks who will take care of everything for you. We give you options, whether you would like to outsource part or all of your distribution and fulfilment services and also whether you would like us to deal with your returns. As an added extra we can also store your products for you if you seem to be running out of storage room!
Choosing a shipping rate?!
Choosing a shipping rate is actually more important than many think – you need to calculate this carefully in order to keep your books balanced. For example, if you put your shipping rates too low you are risking losing money and ending up paying for shipping out of your own pocket. On the flip side if you put the shipping rates too high you risk scaring away potential customers if they aren’t willing to pay the shipping costs.
When deciding on shipping cost you need to make sure you cover everything that costs YOU money within the fulfilment process. You need to think about labels, packaging and the shipment method itself.
There are many different ways to work out how much to charge for shipping. You could set a flat rate across all products/shipments. A good way to do this is work out the average weight of your shipments and where they are being shipped to. Add together the individual weights of your products and divide it by the size of your catalogue. Take that average and multiply it by the average amount of items in each shipment.
Once you have found the average order weight contact your carrier and find out how much it would cost you to ship this shipment (remember to cover all your shipping zones) and use this price to help you work out how much you will be charging.
Or, if you are lucky enough to have already signed up to our platform you will already know that you have access to discounted rates from couriers and those costs and options will be calculated at checkout. This is often based on a variety of factors such as shipment weight, destination and type of product being shipped. This is another reason why using thefullworks platform makes your life so much easier – you can skip the calculations described above allowing you to concentrate on marketing your business!
Replacing lost and damaged products
Sometimes, even if you take all the precautions necessary, your shipments can still end up damaged or lost and this is unfortunately out of your control.
Having a broken product turn up at your customer’s door can often be frustrating for them but if you deal with it with an excellent attitude then this will have a lasting effect on your customer rather than the negative impression that they previously had. As a business owner you need to be prepared to deal with these unlikely situations quickly and effectively – ensuring your level of customer service stays high.
Purchasing shipping insurance, as a business owner, it is probably the best thing you could do if your products are of a higher value. Firstly, it protects you financially in regards to the manufacturing price of the lost or damaged products but it also gives you peace of mind knowing you don’t have to worry about the worst case scenario as you are covered!
If you are shipping your products through a major carrier, shipping insurance is usually not too expensive and gives you that peace of mind for a small cost. Some carriers, like UPS for example, automatically include shipping insurance for any deliveries under £100 so make sure you research which carriers include insurance and which don’t as this may influence your choice of carrier.
Shipping insurance is a small investment in the grand scheme of things and is definitely worth while. You will have a method of getting your money back if something unfortunately goes wrong with your parcels and it will also allow you to provide the best customer service possible, ensuring your customers keep coming back!
Handling backorders and inventory issues
Surprising or not, selling more products than you initially anticipated can actually be a curse rather than a blessing. Unexpected success can lead to out of stock products and low inventory which can lead to frustration from customers and eventually loss of business.
Even if you don’t have the (awful!) problem of running out of stock you can still experience inventory problems such as having unreliable manufacturers, wholesale delivery delays or just having limited access to products. All these are frequent and normal issues but if happening regularly can lead to loss of customers!
Sometimes, if your products are too popular out of the blue, it is impossible to keep up with demand, but if this does happen you should keep your customers informed and in the loop of when these products will be restocked.
Within thefullworks platform we have features that can do exactly that! First of all there is a ‘low stock’ warning which can be activated across your store(s). This sends out a warning email to your chosen email address warning you of low stock. You can choose what you set this limit to…do you count low stock as 100 or 20? It’s completely in your control.
Another feature which you may wish to consider is restock alerts. These work if a customer wishes to be informed of stock coming back in. They are able to sign up to receive an alert via email or text when a particular product they are interested in is back in stock online. This is an important feature as it provides your customer with the satisfaction they will be one of the first to know when the product is available again – giving that excellent customer service!
Both above features can help manage customer’s expectations. We don’t want your customers to be disappointed finding out there is no stock, but at least you are giving them the option to be notified rather than them having to keep coming back to check if stock is back in. If your customers have tools to make their shopping experience easier then hopefully they will be happy and in turn help build your business reputation.
Hopefully we have given you an insight into the potential, or maybe even current, problems that can occur when dealing with shipping. We hope our solutions are useful and you are ready to make your shipping life easier!
Have any more questions about shipping? Still suffering with low service levels? Drop us a comment below or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will be able to help!