With These 5 Strategies
Technology has changed the business world, with improved methodologies leading to higher consumer expectations. Industry leaders have established high standards, and buyers anticipate receiving their packages quickly with minimal fuss. Delays and lost items risk alienating your base, and they have plenty of other places to shop.
Therefore, streamlining shipping strategies is paramount. How can you best let customers see where their product is and when it will arrive at their doorstep?
Fortunately, the same innovations that have led to a smoother user experience when ordering have improved the process for manufacturers and retailers as well. How can business owners simplify shipping?
Here are five strategies that can help.
There’s no replacing the human element for quality assurance. You need highly trained, professional individuals to troubleshoot shipping processes and ensure nothing goes awry. However, there’s no longer a need for an assembly line approach that uses living people for tasks better suited to machines.
Even small players can automate their shipping processes using today’s technology. For example, a Stamps.com membership lets you choose from various first-class and flat-rate shipping options. Shipstation.com connects with multiple e-commerce shopping carts to streamline the process, and it’s owned by and works in tandem with Stamps.com to provide services to large corporations or individual sole proprietors.
Other automation innovations business owners can implement include the following:
- Optimize shipping rules: For example, anything under 16 ounces automatically ships via first-class mail.
- Automated customer notifications: Let customers know when you receive, prepare and ship their product with tracking information that traces the delivery route.
- Branded shipping pages: Many small businesses route customers to third-party e-commerce carts. Opt for those that allow personalization so that buyers know they haven’t accidentally navigated away from the company site.
- Saving customers’ money from unnecessary charges: FedEx Ground charges a surcharge for residential shipments, and FedEx Home Delivery does the same for businesses. Having an automated system verify addresses avoids excessive fees while ensuring the package arrives at the correct destination.
2. Use Freight Broker Services
Shipping plays a crucial role in how big an enterprise grows. There’s a world of difference between a sole proprietor running an Etsy shop and a large retail organization handling shipments from multiple manufacturers and employing a full warehouse to organize and store merchandise until needed.
Investing in a fleet is one option. However, running trucks is a business in itself, and many smaller owners lack the time, capital and expertise to maintain these assets while focusing on their primary enterprise.
Many business owners opt for freight broker services. These B2B companies coordinate between an enterprise and trusted carriers to get goods to customers in the fastest, most efficient manner possible. They also facilitate communication between the shipping company and customers to keep them apprised of their product’s location and potential delays.
These organizations also work for you by negotiating with carriers for the lowest rates. Additionally, they handle compliance issues, streamline logistics and prevent avoidable headaches due to paperwork and insurance matters.
3. Choose the Right Warehouse
Many small business owners need a place to store their merchandise before it lands on customer doorsteps. Although it may not seem a part of the shipping process, the right warehouse solution is critical in overall expediency. Investigate the following elements when deciding on storage solutions:
- Risk management: Security is paramount in warehouse operations, as stolen or damaged goods won’t reach the customer’s hands.
- Flexibility: Can the facility provide adequate space as your business grows? Is additional room available for seasonal surpluses, such as before the holiday rush?
- Production quality: How quickly can the warehouse get the order from the shelves to the truck? What measures do they take to reduce errors? Do they implement innovations such as color-coding priority items to ensure they reach customers quickly?
- Inventory management and purchasing assistance: The right warehouse solution helps you track existing inventory, providing rapid updates about what sells and what doesn’t. Routine reporting helps business owners decide what raw materials to order and what items to manufacture next.
4. Streamline Your Return Process
One of the biggest hassles associated with online shopping is the returns process. While the difficulty of returning inoperable items sometimes works in the manufacturer’s favor — customers simply don’t bother — a complicated process also ensures they will shop elsewhere next time. Building loyalty often results in much greater profitability and improves public relations.
The first step is to establish a fixed return policy, which may vary depending on the nature of the enterprise. For example, customers cannot safely return many supplements or other products that may allow tampering after opening. In such cases, alternatives such as store credit can maintain positive relationships — but what about those individuals who take advantage of such systems to get free stuff? Get your guidelines in writing and train staff to implement them fairly.
Other tips for streamlining the returns process include:
- Analytics: Which items get returned most often and why? Warehouse and freight brokers can sometimes offer insight into trends software omits. Is the problem with the product itself or how the website description portrays it?
- Simplifying the process for consumers: When store credit isn’t possible, printable labels that let customers return items in their original boxes streamline the return process. Another option? Include a return label in the original packaging.
- Proof of purchase: Ensure your staff knows what customers need to supply to warrant a return.
5. Stay Up to Date on the Latest Technology
Rapidly evolving technology can improve nearly all aspects of the shipping process for business owners. However, those who fall behind on what’s available can’t maximize their use of these tools for increasing profits.
Knowing where and how to use certain tools is equally essential. For example, using AI to generate unique blog content for your website can hurt your search engine rankings, as major players like Google consider using AI strictly to manipulate results a violation of their spam policy. However, employing ChatGPT to ensure your product descriptions are thorough on individual listing pages can help you decrease returns by giving customers all the relevant information necessary to make a decision.
How Can Business Owners Simplify Shipping?
Today’s world of rapid technological innovation has customers expecting more. How can a small business owner simplify their shipping processes to get products into waiting hands quickly and efficiently with minimal fuss?
The five strategies above allow enterprises of any size to simplify shipping. Getting this process running like a well-oiled machine goes far toward ensuring ongoing profitability.