If you own a small business, you are likely flooded with questions about operations, costs and resource management. Is it time to hire a new employee? Do we need a bigger space? How do we keep our inventory costs down?
If your company sends products to consumers, some of your questions will definitely be around shipping. How do you make sure your product is safe? Is there a way to speed up the process? Do you have to offer free shipping? If your business has a growing online retail presence, it may be time to build an efficient, affordable process.
When it comes to shipping your products to your customers, you want to make sure you get it right the first time. Below, we’ve put together a list of small business shipping tips and best practices. We hope these small business shipping tips have been useful as you transition your company through early stages of growth.
Tip #1: Get Supplies Ready
One of the best small business shipping tips is to get your supplies ready first. Depending on the nature of your products, you will want to have plenty of boxes or polybags on hand, as well as other, professional-looking packaging materials. Remember packing tape, internal protection / filler, and professional labels. Taking care of these details will protect both your product and your brand.
Tip #2: Decide on Timing
In most small businesses, shipping is done by one or more people who have several other roles, as well. As your shipping demands grow, you may need to decide how to make your process as efficient as possible. Can you identify one person to take care of shipping? Can they handle an influx of orders? Can it be managed at the same time every day? Regulating this process will help you gain efficiencies and standardize both timing and materials.
Tip #3: Make Damage Prevention a Priority
While damage prevention may sound like an obvious goal, it is worth making it a priority, both to reduce the number of return items and potential damage to your brand. Packaging your products carefully, will very likely save you money on your overall shipping costs, as well.
Tip #4: Understand DIM Weight
As you gain an understanding of your shipping costs, you will need to tackle the concept of dimensional weight. Unless your products can be shipped using flat rate boxes or bags, you will need to get comfortable with the way shipping costs are calculated. Dimensional weight is the same thing as volumetric weight; it is calculated with a formula: length x height x width / DIM divisor. When calculating DIM weight, most shipping carriers request that you round up your final figure to the nearest whole number.
Tip #5: Build Your Shipping Strategy
As your business grows and demand for your product increases, you will need an overall shipping strategy. Some key components to consider are: the speed of service required, the dimension and weight of your products, the scope of possible end-destinations and your shipping volume. With these variables in mind, you can decide if you continue shipping in-house on a smaller scale, or if you would be better off using a fulfillment and/or carrier service.
Tip #6: Build Costs into Final Bills
As you estimate the end cost of your products, remember to build in hidden overhead, in order to cover your own expenses. If you offer free shipping, for example, remember to build in the cost of shipping materials, insurance — whether your own or third-party insurance, transport and tracking. You will also want to build in estimated return costs. The more you manage your costs and expenses, the more you’ll be able to take advantage of cheap shipping rates for your small business.
Tip #7: Plan for International Hurdles
If you ship your products internationally, or plan to do so, be prepared for a wide range of obstacles. Certain products, for example, require special documentation, while others are forbidden from entering some countries altogether. In addition, international shipping often requires new costs—think carrier fees, taxes and duties. Be sure to build allowances for these into your shipping costs.
Tip #8: Turn to the Pros
Some things are best left to experts. If your business growth requires new standards in order to make costs more predictable, you’re likely ready to hand your shipping over to professionals. A trusted shipping partner will handle order fulfillment and shipping, allowing you to focus on other areas of your business and gain operational efficiencies.
Look for a shipping partner with professional packing and tracking abilities, a strong record of customer service and leading-edge tools for making the most of customer shipping data.
The way your product arrives in the hands of your customers, and the amount of time it takes to get there, will have a lasting impact on the way they feel about your products and your brand. The rise of Amazon’s free, fast delivery has created a consumer base with high expectations.