How to Navigate the Shipping World as a Solopreneur
The challenges of running every big and small aspect of your business is something most solopreneurs take in stride. You’re the manager, salesperson, marketer and logistics for your company. If you want to grow, however, you must meet the demands of customers and embrace shipping as one of the primary ways to create an excellent customer experience (CX).
Digital Commerce reported U.S. e-commerce shipments rose 30% over the previous year in 2020. While some of the growth was due to the pandemic, experts feel people won’t go back to pre-pandemic ordering methods even after the threat recedes.
As a solopreneur, if you can perfect your delivery methods and speed up delivery, you’ll keep current customers happy while attracting new ones. Here are some tips to help you navigate the shipping world.
Choose the Right Shipping Vendor
For small business owners, shipping typically goes through the USPS, UPS, FedEx or DHL. Which vendor is best for you depends on what you’re shipping, how frequently and whether you need to mail things to international customers or only domestic ones.
The best shipping solution keeps your costs low and picks up daily. The last thing you want to do when fulfilling e-commerce orders is run to the post office every day. However, if your volume is still reasonable, you can schedule pick up through the USPS at your home or office.
Run the numbers in various ways, comparing shipping speeds, costs, and even condition of packages before going with a specific carrier.
Invest in Packaging
The first thing the customer sees when their order arrives is the outside packaging. You have a chance to make a great first impression and also get the word out about your business to anyone who handles your package.
For example, poly mailers are a popular choice with e-commerce stores. They are durable, affordable and water resistant. Add your logo to the outside and you create some word-of-mouth marketing opportunities.
Your package allows you to make an impression on your target audience. Spend the time to perfect the look and design of the box or packaging so users feel a little thrill when their order arrives.
Streamline the Process
What happens when you receive an order? Look at all aspects of your logistics process. How quickly does the item go into a package? Do you send it out the same day?
Sites such as Amazon.com and Walmart.com have gotten people used to rapid delivery. If you take too long to process the order, you may lose future purchases from those customers.
Logistics software allows you to track the order and push it through the system quickly. You can even keep the customer notified by setting up some automatic notices as the package moves from one stage to the next.
Institute Quality Checks
If you’re doing everything, including packaging orders, make sure you create a checklist to ensure quality. You don’t want to send the wrong item or forget part of an order. Mistakes such as having to send out a second package are costly and aggravate your clients.
Since you might not yet be ready to hire a helper to oversee orders, create a list you double check. Look at the order and check off each item. Print a list of inclusions you place inside the package. Make sure shipping is clear and accurate.
Set a Shipping Schedule
According to Statista, there are over 2.14 billion e-commerce buyers around the globe. There are also thousands upon thousands of other places where they can buy goods digitally. If you want to remain competitive, you must set up a shipping schedule and stick to it.
Since you’re doing everything, you may not be able to ship orders every hour of the day. What you can do is prepare them first thing the next morning and ship them out by noon each day. If you send orders out daily, users won’t have to wait nearly as long for fulfillment.
Use Tracking Technology
Nearly every major shipping carrier has some type of tracking system in place. Integrate your shipping labels with the tracking system and make sure things arrive in a timely manner. Set up alerts so you know if there is an unexpected delay.
You can always reach out to customers and let them know the carrier has a slight delay, when the estimated arrival is, and offer a discount on their next order for their trouble.
You can also pull analytics of shipping times and delays and see if your current carrier offers the reliability you need. You may find utilizing a slightly more expensive service results in better consistency and retains your top customers.
Learn From Others
As a solopreneur, you’re likely learning as you go. Seek out a mentor who can help you navigate the shipping world and see where you might improve. Even an improvement of a few hours in how long it takes to send an order can mean the difference between success and failure.
Look for ways to consistently improve your process and keep your customers happy. A loyal fan is worth more than a new lead you’ve not yet sold to. They’ll also tell others why they love your company.
The author, Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philly with her husband and pup, Bear.