The Last Piece of the eCommerce Puzzle: Shipping and Fulfillment

Jun 1, 2015 by Lina Vashurina, Ecwid Team
Posted Jun 1, 2015 by Lina Vashurina, Ecwid Team

Killer product: check.
Slick logo: check.
Ecwid store, catchy domain name, and accounting software: check, check, and (groan) check.

Looks like you’re ready to do business! You’ve ironed out your workflow, from your vendors all the way to your final sale. Materials arrive, product departs. You’ve got a well-oiled machine. But wait, there’s more…

The way that your product arrives at your customer’s door is not someone else’s job- not entirely, anyway. It is a natural extension of your business. This is a common make-or-break issue for business owners, and it can have the same impact on customer loyalty as the quality of your product itself. Think of packaging and shipping as a part of the product that you sell, rather than a necessary evil in your to-do list.

But don’t fret! We’ve already done much of the legwork to help you get started.

Know Thyself

The first thing to consider is your product line. For example, if you design and sell posters featuring adorable kittens, your shipping needs are rather simple. You’ve got a product with low shipping weight, low size variation, and you are not likely to need Shipping Insurance (see below.) Just about any carrier will suit your needs; just do a little homework to see if one is a better fit for your business (i.e., perhaps one is closer to where you have your posters printed.)

On the other hand, if your product line is a bit more diverse, you’d do well to look into such companies as Uline to supply your boxes and packing materials. They’ve got the process down to an art, with boxes for just about every shape and weight of product. It may take some trial and error, but success here will only aid in the overall satisfaction of your customer. Excessive packaging (or worse, insufficient packaging) will drastically decrease the perceived value of your product.

Up and Running with Ecwid

Ecwid connects the dots between your product and your carrier. It’s easy to set up Ecwid to do all the number crunching for you, so that your customers have the most cost-effective options available to choose from. You can begin by ensuring that your products have an accurate weight specified in your catalogue, as seen in our brief How-To video. Once you’ve added the address you’ll be shipping from, Ecwid and its API partners will have the information they need to automatically calculate shipping.

You have several options for how you’d like to handle your shipping calculations:

  • Free Shipping is a great way to add perceived value to your brand. It can also be used as an upsetting incentive; “buy Bundle X to receive free shipping on this order,” for example.
  • Flat Rate Shipping is an easy option, if your products don’t vary widely in shipping cost. The simpler you can keep it for your customers, the better.
  • Calculated Rates are most useful when shipping heavier (or more valuable) products nationwide, or even globally. Each order’s needs can be drastically different. Shipping one item across town is fairly straightforward, but a high volume order shipped to Uruguay is a different matter altogether. You can learn about Destination Zones, and how they may affect your shipping costs, right here on our website.

Whatever your preferred method is, this handy article in our Knowledge Base will walk you through the steps for getting your store ready for action.

Ecwid also works with shipping partners, which can be integrated smoothly into your online store: Aftership can be added to track shipments and notify customers of delivery, ShippingEasy can easily print shipping labels, and 71lbs tackles the unfortunate reality of shipping refunds.

Hedge Your Bets

The final thing to consider is whether you should invest in Shipping insurance. This is often overlooked, or seen as a fluff expenditure. But as with any insurance, you buy it hoping to never need it, but when (not if) you need it, you’re sure glad you have it.

Most carriers have an automatic $100 coverage, but be warned: this is not insurance, rather a “declared value” assumption. The difference is subtle, but important. Every package received by a carrier has an assumed value of $100 or less, and as such, this $100 is the maximum that any carrier will pay out if there’s a lost or damaged package. Acquiring insurance beyond this requires some diligence and paperwork, but it’s generally a one-time effort (if you keep good records.) This can include value declarations of the product being shipped, comprehensive photos of the condition of shipped items, and gathering all the forms you’ll need (to expedite the claims process.)

Is shipping insurance worth it? That is entirely up to you. Having said that, I strongly recommend it for higher-value products, and high volume businesses. FedEx, UPS, USPS, and most other carriers are in business because they are reliable, yet I think it’s wise to keep my risks under my own control. Hope for the best, plan for the worst, as they say.

I dug up an excellent non-partisan article at bankrate.com to help you learn more about Shipping Insurance considerations.

Forewarned is Forearmed

Doing business in the online marketplace is an attractive option for first-time entrepreneurs. It slashes the typical cost of starting up a business to a mere fraction of what a brick-and-mortar store needs: there is no rent, no signage, no racks and inventory displays, no insurance (or so they think.) All of which appear as dollar signs in the eyes of the “business newbie” caricature.

While there is some truth in this, it’s the “worryless” perspective that causes first-timers to encounter major pitfalls. My hope for you is that your online business is a raging success. You wouldn’t think that great success could, in itself, be a problem, but that’s exactly the case when your shipping plan is still a work in progress. Get it down pat before then! And as always, we’re here to help you.

Happy selling!

About The Author
Lina is a content creator at Ecwid. She writes to inspire and educate readers on all things commerce. She loves to travel and runs marathons.

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