Shipping is a key part of your business when you’re selling online. It’s one of the few ways that you can directly interact with the customer. Here are five things I learned about shipping from my own online business ventures.
1. Buy a Digital Scale
It is very important to have the correct weight for your packages. This will save you time and money since you’ll know the exact amount it will cost to ship an item when you list it. Knowing the correct weight also allows you to buy postage online (see #2). Plus, you don’t want your customers getting a ‘postage due’ package because you guess-ti-mated the weight incorrectly.
I suggest buying your scale on eBay. You can find good prices there since this is a competitive field. Don’t buy one at a local big box office supply store, you’ll pay at least 5 times more for a comparable scale. And don’t get an analog scale. They just aren’t as accurate unless you buy more expensive models.
2. Buy Your Postage Online
PayPal makes this quite easy and it doesn’t cost you anything beyond the postage itself. All you have to do is fill in a few blanks, like the weight. If the customer is paying through PayPal their confirmed address will already be filled in but if they’re paying by another method you’ll have to enter the address. Print it out and place it on your package then you’re ready to ship.
Most local post offices will allow you to drop off your packages at a designated business package drop point so you don’t have to wait in a long line. This is a huge time saver. In some cases, your local postal carrier will pickup packages for you at your home or business so ask about that if it’s something you’re interested in doing.
For larger volume shipping operations, there are a number of other services that provide more features but they also charge a monthly fee. As your sales volume grows the extra services offered may make them worthwhile to you.
3. Offer All Levels of Shipping.
Make sure you offer next day, priority, and regular shipping to your customers. While most will select the less expensive option there will be the occasional customer who has to have it now. Providing this service will often win you a customer that a slower moving competitor will lose. For example, I had a discontinued fishing lure in stock that a semi-pro fisherman wanted for tournament that was beginning the next day. They were quite happy to pay for next day shipping since I could get it in time. If I hadn’t offered overnight shipping I wouldn’t have made the sale plus repeat business from the same guy.
4. Package Professionally.
Bubble wrap and other shipping supplies cost money so it’s tempting to cut corners. However, having good quality, clean, new packing materials makes you look professional. You don’t want to look like someone who is desperate to save every penny, even at the customer’s expense. Some people reuse boxes and this is OK for the occasional eBay hobby seller but if you want to operate a real business, look professional.
Avoid buying packaging from the big box office suppliers or from WalMart. This will make your shipping costs too expensive. Instead, buy from a local supplier who allows small lot purchases or buy online from sellers on eBay and elsewhere.
Another strategy that I’ve seen a few sellers take is to declare up front that they recycle materials and brand themselves as being environmentally friendly by doing so. This can be effective as well, depending on your niche, but it’s important to let customers know this up front.
5. Be Honest About Your Shipping Costs
You have to be honest about what it costs to ship an item both to your customers and to yourself. You have to know how much it is going to cost you to ship an item. If you overcharge, you will risk annoying customers who figure out that you’re profiting from shipping and handling charges. If you undercharge, for example by offering free shipping, this eats directly into your profits. Managing costs and customer relationships in this area can make or break an online business.
Do you have any tips to add? Please leave a comment if you do.