In 2017, there was an estimated $2.3 trillion worth of sales made through e-commerce websites. The number has no doubt doubled due to the current global situation, and there are no signs of it stopping any time soon. However, businesses can’t simply depend on this sustained surge of new customers without pulling their own weight too. They need to adapt to the challenges and demands of this new set-up, and that means make sure all processes are ideal. The most important thing to consider is shipping and fulfillment.
Shipping and fulfillment can make or break customer satisfaction. Customers expect fast shipping times, real-time tracking of their order, easy return and refund process, and no errors in their order fulfillment — anything less warrants a complaint. As the current global crisis forces more people to rely on online shopping for everything from retail therapy to their daily necessities, companies are grappling with the extra workload and the need to optimize shipping and fulfillment processes has become more important than ever.
Improving these business operations not only guarantees customer satisfaction, but it also helps companies save time and money in the long run. In order to meet high customer demands, here are some best practices for shipping and fulfillment that every e-commerce shop should adopt.
Use first-class mail for lighter deliveries
USPS Cubic is the cheapest and quickest way to ship lighter parcels that weigh between 1 and 20 pounds (9.07 kg). If the products being shipped out weigh around that much, even when consolidated, then this is the best shipping option to go for in order to preserve profit margins.
Automate whenever possible
Rather than working harder, it’s better to work smarter. Instead of overloading workers with more labor and more hours, which increases the likelihood of errors, it’s better to just automate whatever can be automated. Automation reduces the risk of errors, streamlines warehouse processes, improves overall safety, reduces long-term costs, and boosts employee productivity.
A few examples of warehouse automation include robots that perform simple tasks, label printers, and workflow management tools such as order management systems, inventory management systems, and warehouse management systems.
Opt for priority flat rate for heavier deliveries
Priority flat rate prices are ideal for shipments being made to zones 8 and above, as well as heavier parcels. USPS will provide the boxes for free, and they usually fit anything less than 70 lbs. This is the most cost-effective option for shipping larger items.
Ship items as quickly as possible
A recent survey found that almost 63% of online shopping customers expect their items to arrive within three days, even if they have to pay extra for the assurance that it will happen within that time frame. It’s important to prioritize fast shipping and limit shipping periods to no more than three days.
A delay of an hour or so is fine — it’s even recommended — to give customers a grace period to either cancel or change their order without any hassle, but it’s important to ship the order out at least within the day.
Many delivery services such as FedEx, UPS, and DHL charge by weight, and they impose extra fees on any overweight packages. Companies can keep costs at a minimum by ensuring that their packages are as light as possible before shipping them out. Boxes should be the appropriate size for the item being shipped, and there should only be a proportionate amount of packing material such as foam peanuts and bubble wrap used inside the box. This not only lowers shipping fees, but it also helps the environment.
Keep the warehouse organized
The best way to streamline the picking and packing process is by keeping the warehouse where all these processes are being done organized and systematic. Everything should be highly visible, with shelves being properly labeled and the most sought-after items located in easy-to-reach areas. There should also be sufficient space between shelves to allow workers to freely navigate the warehouse floors without difficulty.
Be clear about shipping policies and procedures
The customer should have all their concerns and inquiries addressed on a comprehensive FAQ page that details the companies’ return and refund policy, expected delivery times, and any necessary procedures. It also helps to provide an estimated shipping date and frequent shipping notifications either through email, through the company website, or through an app.
Admit to shipping mistakes
The company should take full responsibility for any issues when it comes to shipping, such as delays, missing packages, or incorrect items. Mistakes are unavoidable, as much as companies do everything in their power to reduce the risk of error. The only thing that can be done in this situation is to own up to any mistakes, try to mitigate the damage, and work towards doing better moving forward.
Efficient shipping and fulfillment processes are at the core of every successful e-commerce business. It can be achieved by adopting these best practices into the business’ warehouse operations.