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.