Just as getting goods out of ports, off trucks, and onto store shelves is critical for brick-and-mortar stores, the shipping process plays an integral role in the success of an ecommerce business. If any step of the process falls apart, either in-house where orders are received or at any point in the supply chain, the business will find itself playing damage control with unhappy customers.
Look at it another way: fast shipping plays a huge role in building customer loyalty. How can you ensure that every phase of your shipping process — from receiving, processing, and fulfilling orders to last-mile delivery — helps build loyalty for your brand?
Steps in the Shipping Process
The shipping process has four stages:
The first two may blur together, as you may process the order and then make sure it’s received in your warehouse so you can fill it. If you use drop-shipping services, you won’t have to receive inventory at all, and the fulfillment will take place via an outsourced drop-shipping company.
Using drop-shipping is one way to simplify the shipping process, but it’s not always possible. If you manage the ecommerce shipping process in-house, you’ll want to pay attention to the snags and pitfalls along the way. You’ll also want to select the best software and providers to help your merchandise reach consumers.
Receiving and Processing Orders: Software and Challenges
When you receive an order, the shipping process begins: you’ll use inventory management software, or a 4PL (fourth-party logistics) provider to ensure that the item is in stock at your warehouse or a fulfillment center.
Next, your customer relationship management software should verify the customer’s address. You’ll also want to verify the address through a service like ShipperHQ. Once the item is confirmed in stock, your customer should receive an automated message that their order is processing and that you will let them know when it ships.
You can partner with services like AfterShip to keep customers apprised of last-mile delivery, so they know exactly where their package is and when it will be arriving. UPS, the Postal Service, and FedEx all have their own trackers as well, so your customer won’t be kept in the dark.
ECommerce Order Fulfillment: You Have Options
Finally, you want to pull the order and ship it out. Third-party logistics (3PL) and 4PL providers like Shipfusion, ShipBob, and Shopify Shipping provide these services to take the burden off your team. ShipBob says 3PL partners are the most common way to get your goods into your customers’ hands.
Drop-shipping has restrictions that make it impractical for many ecommerce brands. For instance, if you manufacture or source your own goods, you can’t use a drop-shipper. A 3PL provider offers the best of both worlds: control over sourcing the merchandise you sell without having to handle order fulfillment yourself.
Should You Outsource Fulfillment to a 3PL Provider?
Outsourcing 3PL services might be the best way to reduce shipping costs for your company. 3PL providers negotiate the best deals with shipping companies — or have their own teams — for last-mile delivery to get orders to your customers in the fastest, lowest-cost way possible.
3PL providers may also manage the logistics of getting products into the warehouse from ports or planes, which can minimize wait times for your customers and help build loyalty. In a world where 60% of shoppers expect same-day, next-day, or two-day delivery thanks to Amazon Prime, ecommerce providers should strive for the same standards.
Challenges in Ecommerce Shipping
Even if you outsource fulfillment to a third-party provider, you may still face challenges in 2022, when we deal with supply-chain struggles stemming from the ongoing pandemic. Thirty-eight percent of ecommerce merchants plan to use technology to anticipate disruptions and product demands. You can use inventory data to drive marketing initiatives; you don’t want to advertise a sale on a product that’s out of stock, for instance.
People often cite last-mile shipping as one of the biggest hurdles in the process. You can reduce last-mile shipping times and costs by moving your distribution centers closer to your customers. Working with a 3PL provider with fulfillment centers in multiple locations can help ensure faster deliveries to your customers without added costs.
Do-It-Yourself Shipping Can Save Money With the Right Provider
On the other hand, your company may not be ready for 3PL or 4PL shipping. If you already have in-house inventory and a team ready and waiting to fulfill orders, a service like Shopify Shipping can reduce costs by up to 88%.
These kinds of services have already negotiated rates with the Postal Service, UPS, and DHL, so you can offer your customers the lowest rates and fastest shipping times. You can even offer free shipping to build customer loyalty without killing your profit margins. Use the same software for receiving, processing, and fulfilling orders to save time and stress.
Streamline the steps in shipping, reduce costs, and get orders to your customers faster to build ongoing loyalty. Choose a provider that can scale with your business to offer shipping at every stage of your company.