So, you’ve just started your new business selling bath bombs/small-batch hot sauce/vegan soy candles/et cetera. Congratulations! Before cracking open the champagne, though, it’s important to consider the less-exciting aspect of running a small business: getting the product to the buyer. Though it isn’t very fun to think about, it’s a fact that the way you manage your business’ shipping, fulfillment, and returns process will strongly impact your long-term success. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with all the questions and options, below are some key small business shipping tips that can help you get started.
Weigh Your Carrier Options
When people set out to purchase a car, they generally don’t just go with the closest option, or the first option they see. The same mindset should be applied to choosing a shipping carrier for your business. FedEx, USPS, and UPS all have different rate options depending on the items’ distance traveled, dimensions and weight. Make sure to compare and contrast all the available options before making a decision. You can perform your price comparisons by hand, or you could invest in an online software that identifies the cheapest carrier for you. Once you’ve chosen a carrier, try to establish a good relationship with your account manager, as this can open up doors to benefits like shipping discounts.
Implement a Low-Risk Return Policy
Though returns can be a bit of a headache, having a zero-return policy is generally a bad idea. Firstly, it can result in some outraged (and vocal) customers; even worse, many consumers won’t risk purchasing an item in the first place if they know it cannot be returned. Therefore, as much as it may hurt, recognize that buying something online is a high-risk activity, and if customers can be assured that there is little risk involved, you’ll be much more profitable in the long run. If you can provide an easy and pleasant return experience, a disappointed customer might be willing to give you another try.
Consider Ways to Offer Free Shipping
“Free shipping.” No two words are more appealing to modern consumers. And thanks to Amazon, free shipping is expected of all vendors these days, even though few can afford it like the giant itself can. Luckily, there are two great ways to offer customers free shipping without tanking your profits. Firstly, you can create a “free shipping threshold”, which requires customers to order a certain amount of product in order to receive free shipping. This is a great way to drive up your sales without irritating your customers—most purchasers are actually secretly happy for the excuse to buy more goodies!
The second way to offer free shipping without sacrificing your profit margins is to simply bundle the shipping costs into the product cost. The item will be more expensive, but shipping can still be listed as “free.” Is this a little sneaky? Maybe—but, as a counterpoint, consider that the customer will end up paying the same amount either way. The bundled distribution only changes how the consumer feels about the purchase; not the actual amount leaving their wallet. We say, no harm, no foul.
Don’t Forget to Factor in Packaging Costs
When charging customers for shipping, don’t forget to factor in the cost of packaging items, like insulation, cushioning, boxes, and tape. All these items can add up fast, and you are unlikely to be profitable if you swallow the cost yourself. Remember that your customer isn’t just paying for the actual delivery; they are paying for the extra steps you take to ensure their product arrives safely, too.
Offer as Personalized an Experience as Possible
Today’s consumers expect online orders to be delivered rapidly and cheaply, but small businesses rarely have the resources to meet those demands. What we do have, though, that the big distributors don’t, is authenticity. The more automated and remote our world becomes, the more value is placed on authentic, human connection. That’s why you should strive to make your entire purchasing experience as genuine and personal as possible.
For instance, try always including a handwritten note in every box you send out. Include stickers or other “surprises” not mentioned on your product pages. Follow top clients on their social media pages, and don’t be afraid to “like” and comment on their posts. Every personal interaction you can create will strengthen your client relationship and reiterate the value in ordering from you, rather than a massive corporate retailer.
Need Packaging Supplies in Richmond VA?
If you are located in Richmond, Virginia or a nearby area, consider SSI Packaging for all your packing and shipping needs. During this tough time in our nation’s history, we are proud to be able to keep small businesses going from the safety of their owners’ homes. Our business shipping products include everything from boxes and stretch film, to bubble wrap and envelopes. We are also able to mark and code individual products to help them as they move along the distribution pipeline. To place an order, check out our online store here.
Small business owners are all too familiar with the challenges that come with reducing shipping costs and maximizing efficiency. Here are a few ideas that can help you to tackle this common challenge.
Don't be afraid to negotiate with carriers
Sometimes it’s easy to feel like a little fish in a big tank, especially when it comes to negotiating shipping rates with popular carriers. But don’t despair; if your business is shipping a high number of goods it is possible to negotiate prices with your carriers. This is because shipping companies set their pricing schedules based upon the volume of items that you ship, so more items usually equal lower rates. To facilitate successful negotiations try to maintain clear goals while presenting reliable data. And probably the most important step: make sure that you reach out to several different shipping companies at once. This will allow you an additional bit of leverage that you could use to your advantage (plus encourages a bit of friendly competition between carriers!).
Maximize efficiency by purchasing a label applicator
Practical solutions like purchasing a label maker can help you streamline your shipping process and reduce costs. This way you can avoid writing each label individually, which takes a lot of time and can look unprofessional. If your looking to eliminate operational issues like jams or mechanical adjustments, The Videojet 9550 is a model that can help improve productivity while lowering costs. For business owners with flexibility in mind, the CTM 360a Series Label Applicators are a series of printers that are an industry standard. These printers can be instantly adjusted onsite with any software updates, ideal for entrepreneurs that are on a time crunch. More interested in thermal printers? The CTM 3600PA Printer Applicator is a durable model that can apply labels at high speeds, and the CTM 1800PA Thermal Transfer Printer Applicator is low cost and efficient-the ideal tool for entry level applicators. By making the move towards professional labeling systems you can set up your business for big payoffs later on down the line.
Choose the right materials
It might be tempting to forgo quality packaging when looking for ways to reduce shipping costs. But using cheap packaging has long-term hidden costs that can damage your reputation, and impact your bottom line. That’s why it’s important to consider not the price of your packaging supplies, but the value of your materials. Instead of picking the cheapest box for your big bulky items, choose corrugated cardboard and heavy-duty boxes so that they can be adequately protected in transit. And try not to make the mistake of assuming that each product can be shipped in any sized box, while filling in the excess spaces with packing foam or bubble wrap. It’s safer and more cost efficient to coordinate packaging sizes with the weight and size of the items you are shipping.
Find a Packaging supplier that will treat you right
SSI Packaging Solutions is a team of specialists that are dedicated to serving any and all of your packaging needs. Whether this means making sure that your items arrive safely, or helping you select quality products- we pride ourselves on providing excellent service to small and big businesses alike. Call us at (804) 649-1111 to speak with a representative or view our products to find out more.