When building a business, your primary thoughts are likely on building a website, creating a social media presence, and fabricating your product. But once someone clicks “buy”, are you prepared to effectively ship their product?
Today we’re going to get you up to speed on shipping your products with ease.
Whether you’re just starting your business or you’ve been in it for years, ALL of you should be offering your goods online whether through Etsy, Amazon Handmade, another marketplace, or (my favourite option) your own website. As you’re getting yourself setup for online sales, take the time to ensure that you’re setting up shipping for the best experience possible for your buyers, and you!
- Know your shipping options and what they cost.
It’s your responsibility as a seller to offer appropriately-priced shipping options. Undercharging for shipping hurts your bottom line, and overcharging for shipping turns away customers. Offering only one shipping option can also turn off buyers. Consider that some people will pay whatever it takes to get their item as quickly as possible. Others want to get your product the cheapest way possible. You also need to consider the value of your product and how insurance or signed delivery protects you and your business.
USPS, my go-to service here in the U.S., has a variety of services with different prices and delivery times. For a small package of jewelry, I can send it First Class which is cheapest, Priority mail which is more expensive but faster (and includes insurance up to $50), or a Regional box which I rarely use. When I buy inexpensive books from destash pages, I insist on them being sent Media Mail because it is SO much cheaper to ship. Sellers with small but heavy items should gravitate towards the Priority Mail flat-rate boxes.
- Know the restrictions for each shipping method.
Every shipping method will have restrictions set by the postal service. It’s critical to pay attention to these restrictions not just because your mail might be rejected and returned, but because these rules are there to ensure that mail makes it to its destination in one piece.
For example, first class letter mail in the U.S. should be no more than 0.007 inches thick. One reason for this is because letters are processed and sorted by large machines and if there are thick items inside, the letters can get caught in the machinery and destroyed. Recently I received a thick item in a standard letter envelope, and I was shocked that it arrived in one piece. However, because it clearly broke the thickness restriction, USPS both required me to pick the letter up from the post office, and pay “postage due”.
This example demonstrates a few things. By not being attentive to the shipping restrictions, you create multiple areas of dissatisfaction for a buyer. First, their package may not even arrive to them in one piece. Then, the postal service may charge an extra fee for the buyer to receive their package. On top of that, you are now forcing them to physically go to their post office during open hours, rather than receiving their package at home.
Don’t send things with shipping methods that don’t apply to them. Check the restrictions, and follow them accordingly.
- Use proper packing materials. .
If you have an edge that seems flimsy or like it may come open in transit, reinforce it with tape. Sending a flat thing like a piece of artwork? Sandwich it between two pieces of cardboard. Breakable item? Lots of bubble wrap in the extra space for when it gets jostled around in transit. And if you think someone throwing it or dropping it may be a problem, buy insurance!!
As we mentioned earlier, mail goes through large processing centers to be sorted. It also gets roughly handled by employees, accidentally stepped on, tossed onto porches, and so on. Package your goods as safely and securely as possible.
- Put a return address.
If you’re running your business from home, you may be concerned about customers finding out where you live. Especially for folks who may have survived an abusilve relationship or stalker situation, this can be a hard pass. In that case, get a PO Box or UPS business address where mail can be sent.
Packages get returned to sender for all kinds of reasons, and not always because the original send-to address was actually incorrect. In any case, there should be somewhere for the mail service to return the package to. Otherwise it will end up in mail limbo and ultimately likely destroyed.
Put a return address.
- Don’t wait in line at the post office and pay retail rates for shipping!
I was horrified when I heard that a fellow business owner was going to the post office with her packages, waiting in a long line, and then buying postage. It’s 2020. We have the internet. Why would you do this to yourself?
If you’re using a marketplace or a website built for e-commerce, there is probably a built in shipping function or an app that you can add to make it easy for yourself. These allow you to purchase postage at a discounted commercial rate and print labels at home.
There are also free and paid services like PirateShip and ShipStation that let you print labels and even return labels for your packages. ShipStation will let you schedule a pickup of your packages, or you can drop them off at the post office. These services also let you import shipments from multiple websites if you like to handle everything in one place.
If you’re shipping many packages, I also recommend you consider your label printing capabilities. You could buy label sheets that fit into a regular printer; just be sure to go into Printing Preferences and set the paper to “label” to avoid nightmarish paper jams. Another option is a thermal printer like a Dymo 4XL or a Zebra that will print 4×6 labels. These work such that you only need to buy the special labels, and never any ink.
Whether you’re a brand new seller or you’ve been doing this for years, we hope that these tips will help you create a more seamless shipping experience for your buyers.
For one-on-one business coaching or to ask a question, reach out to us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.