In a dynamic and increasingly streamlined world, the online market for selling is growing like never before. Ecommerce is taking over the industry, as companies like Amazon, E-bay, Walmart, and Target attract buyers through immediate access, quick shipping, and customer convenience.
25% of adult Americans purchase an item online at least one a month (NPR/Marist 2018), and ecommerce sales made 10% of total U.S. retail sales in the third quarter of 2018. (U.S Census Bureau 2018). While these are by no means majority statistics, it is important to remember that online shopping was born just twenty-five years ago. In our consumer-based society, it has revolutionized shopping, and in the world of shipping and freight transportation, it has created a whole new division for transporting products to customers.
So, what does this mean for you and your company? The world of ecommerce shipping can be convoluted and confusing, creating unnecessary stress for you, the shipper. Getting a product from Point A to Point B seems simple enough, but the reality is, there are several things to consider from tendering and tracking to choosing an LTL shipping carrier.
LTL has become a more attractive option recently in part because providers have made major technology improvements to become more efficient, safer, and better equipped to handle shipper’s and customer’s needs. A large number of LTL providers have become problem solvers and utilize technology that allows for more flexibility and efficiency when shippers work with them.
Analyze Your Current Strategy
If you are already in the ecommerce shipping business, think about what you’re doing now. What’s working? What’s not? Where are you spending the most time and money? Are there problems there? How do your employees and customers feel about the current process? Understanding the key problems and areas for improvement are important for moving forward with your ecommerce shipping strategy.
Know Your Shipment
What types of products are you shipping, and what is the best way to send them? Assuming you are shipping via a Less Than Truckload (LTL) carrier (see below), different companies charge depending on size and weight, so be aware of space, weight, and shape your product(s) will occupy when it is packaged. Where is your product going? Do you ship internationally or just domestically? If you are shipping internationally, it is important to know the rules and regulations of borders and countries as well as the tariffs involved.
Know how to package your freight, and make sure it is packaged well to avoid damages. In the ecommerce world, your customer has most likely already paid for the good by the time you are shipping it, so it is important to take extra care in ensuring its safe transportation. Depending on the size of your shipment, you will need to decide what kind of shipment you are going to do. For larger freight orders, Truckload or Less Than Truckload carriers are typically used, but for small shipments, a parcel shipping service might be cheaper and more efficient.
Know the Right Shipping Terminology
When shipping, and everything else really, it’s important to know the details of what you’re talking about. You’re dealing with carrier companies that need to follow specific instructions to deliver your product, and you’re also dealing with products other people have purchased, so take extra care that they get where they are supposed to. Part of that involves knowing the correct terms in the shipping industry. Here are a few.
Bill of Lading – the Bill of Lading is a required document to move a freight shipment or a sort of contract between a freight carrier and a shipper. It is a detailed list of a shipment in the form of a receipt given by the carrier to the person consigning the goods.
Tariff Codes – tariff codes are product-specific codes as documented in the Harmonized System maintained by the World Customs Organization.
Less Than Truckload – the transportation of freight that only occupies a portion of an entire trailer. Multiple shippers share space on the same truck only paying for their portion, making LTL a cost-efficient method of shipping freight.
Truckload – a mode of freight transportation for large shipments that typically occupy more than half or up to the full capacity of a 48’ or 53’ trailer.
Develop or Purchase a Management Software
This is a key factor to a stress-free shipping experience. Ecommerce shipping is unique in that you are dealing with different types of customers from all over the world all at the same time in a streamlined efficient manner. There are several options for transportation management software that will cater to your shipping needs and organize shipments, tendering, tracking, and other data you need to manage as a shipper. Imagine logging in to one software and having all your orders and data in the same place while being able to compare LTL carrier rates and choose the best one for each shipment. Integrated and seamless solutions make it easy for both you and your customer.
Choose a Smart Shipping Strategy
In the age of Amazon Prime 2-day shipping, customers have grown accustomed to near immediate delivery of purchases, and as a result, they will pay significant fees to get their item(s) quickly. So, as appealing as it sounds, free shipping isn’t always best for attracting customers. Come up with a shipping price that works for where your company is now, whether that is a flat rate, pay per pound/mile, or free shipping. Just remember as a rule, people WILL pay to get their item faster so at least having the option is almost always a good idea.
Connect with Your Customer
While our world is increasingly digital, human connection is valued perhaps now more than ever. Customers want to be able to trust the people and companies they are buying goods and services from online, which is one of the many reasons artificial intelligence has not completely taken over the market. In the ecommerce world, it is critical to establish relationships with your customers, especially if you are choosing to sell independently, apart from the large conglomerate retailers mentioned above.
Implement some of these strategies and give yourself a high-five!