The COVID-19 pandemic has forced retailers throughout 2020 to focus their efforts increasingly toward their digital presence. Brick-and-mortar retailers, who have relied predominantly on foot traffic and word of mouth, have found this year to be especially challenging. Those who’ve held out on adopting an e-commerce strategy have been left with no choice but to make the move.
Since much of what e-commerce encapsulates is new for former brick-and-mortar retailers, we’ve put together three top considerations to help them find success, save on shipping costs, and move into 2021 to find brighter days.
Your shipping rates
Not all merchants realize there are discounted shipping rates available from many of the standard carriers, but they are not available at the counter. Merchants take their packages to the post office or retail store, wait in line, and pay for the full price labels there, overpaying and wasting time.
To qualify for discounted carrier rates, often there are volume requirements that a small business may not satisfy. USPS Commercial Rates, for example, are typically offered to retailers that exceed 50,000 shipments per year. UPS and FedEx have shippers work with an account manager to set up contractual volume requirements to obtain discounted rates.
Fortunately for smaller businesses, there are solution providers like ShippingEasy that offer discounted shipping rates that are substantially lower than retail rates. These solution providers can also help avoid surcharges and rate increases that retailers would have to pay on certain services.
Which carrier to use
Even when you have discounted shipping rates, it’s still crucial that you shop around. Sticking with a single carrier or service might be easier, but it could be costing you dollars per package.
There are many reasons one carrier and service may be better than another. For example, for packages that weigh less than one pound, you simply cannot beat USPS First Class Package Service®. For heavier packages, and particularly those traveling a little further away, you might want to look at UPS® Ground over USPS Priority Mail® in some instances.
There are even some options that require specific packaging but can offer substantial savings. We’ll cover those next.
Each of the carriers has its own version of “flat-rate shipping.” Regardless of weight (up to varying limits), the shipping cost is either a flat fee or based on distance traveled (broken up into zones). This means you don’t have to weigh your packages as long as you know they are under the limits.
USPS and FedEx also offer the boxes needed for these services free of charge — you simply order them from the carrier’s online store. They’ll even deliver them right to you. UPS allows merchants to use its free Express Boxes, but only with the 2nd Day Air® Simple Rate service.
USPS offers Priority Mail® Flat Rate and Priority Mail Regional Rate. The former is a great option for heavier packages going varying distances across the country, as it is a single rate regardless of weight or distance traveled. Regional Rate takes distance into account and is best for packages traveling shorter distances, thus the name.
FedEx features One Rate®, the only one of the flat-rate options that allows for envelopes and overnight delivery options. UPS most recently added a flat-rate option called UPS® Simple Rate, which allows you to use your own packaging. This is ideal for merchants who sell items (especially heavier ones) that need to use more unique boxes because products don’t fit neatly into the other carriers’ containers.
Because each option has the potential to win out and save money, comparison shopping is crucial.
Setting up your space for success
One thing that those new to e-commerce have not had to think much about is where and how they’ll manage their shipping. Having piles of labeled and unlabeled boxes intermingled is a recipe for disaster — and costly returns from unhappy customers.
Dedicate a space to work on fulfilling orders. Have a clear delineation of what to fulfill, what is done, and what is ready for pickup or dropoff. If you have staff fulfilling orders for you, make sure this system is clearly marked and employees are trained on what goes where.
Set up a clear pick and pack process that helps you keep orders separate and avoids double-work. How you set this up will depend on how orders are fulfilled and where your inventory is. Chances are, you don’t have aisles of racks with products in warehouse bins if you’re a brick-and-mortar business. So finding a way to organize your inventory to quickly collect items needed for orders will be a key to your online selling success.
If you plan to use USPS for much of your shipping, consider creating a SCAN form at the end of the day. A SCAN form consolidates all package labels into a single barcode. This makes life exponentially easier for you and your carrier when they pick up or you drop off. All the carrier has to do is scan a single barcode and all packages are considered picked up and moving. Easy.
This just scrapes the surface of shipping but offers a solid base to get started. At ShippingEasy, we have an award-winning team that talks merchants through these processes every day. We have even put all that knowledge into a guide, “Bricks to Clicks: A Guide for Shifting In-Store Business to E-commerce.” Download it for free and start finding success online for your small business.