Guide to Ecommerce Shipping: Strategies and Tips to Consider for Your Business

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!

Demand Forecasting: minimizing risk and maximizing your customers

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As part of a larger series, we have been examining the challenges and opportunities that the supply chain faces in 2019. In our first article, we focused on a challenge, specifically how to make sure your supply chain is secure in a complex technological environment. Today we will focus on an opportunity: Demand Forecasting. Since the supply chain is smarter and the consumer data is readily available, demand forecasting has become a must have feature in 2019.

Defining Demand Forecasting

Before looking at how demand forecasting can affect your supply chain, we need to understand what forecasting is. Forecasting is a product of predictive analytics based on past data and trends. These analytics should drive all your company’s decisions in the short-term and long-term. The goal of forecasting is not to be 100% accurate. It is rather an attempt to minimize risk for your business. Demand forecasting focuses specifically on the supply chain. An algorithm is built to predict consumer demand for goods and services.

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Forecasting is a product of predictive
analytics based on past data and trends.

These algorithms use data mining and past customer history to predict how much product you will need and where you will need it. A lot of times, a company’s success can be determined by having the right amount of stock on hand to meet the demand of the consumer. One thing to remember about demand forecasting is that is not accurate 100% of the time. Other companies have lost millions of dollars due to botched analytics. It is imperative that you keep your algorithms and data current and constantly forecast multiple data trends to get the best overall picture.

Benefits of Demand Forecasting

As the customer mindset changes, so must the supply chain. Customers today are used to very specific product orders, and they are used to receiving them very quickly. When products are out of stock, that can mean loss of business. Because the business scene is so competitive, customer retention is a huge priority. When your company uses demand forecasting correctly, it ensures that the product your customer is looking for will be there at a fair price. This will lead to higher customer satisfaction and repeat business. Having this level of forecasting will also increase your customer service interactions. The more information that your customer service representatives have, the more they can promise and engage with the customer. 

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When your company uses demand forecasting correctly, it ensures that the product your customer is looking for will be there at a fair price.

Another issue that can arise is too much stock. When demand forecasting is ignored, companies can over-produce a product, leading to a loss in profits. Demand forecasting can help predict the optimum level of product different warehouses should always be carrying. Also, correct forecasting can lead to a decrease in the necessary safety stock. This enables your company to have more mobility as you won’t be left with tons of left-over product when trying to push out something new.

When used correctly, demand forecasting has your products in the right place at the right time. This reality enables your company to have a price advantage over other competitors. When your company delivers on time and with a competitive price, your relationship with suppliers is solidified. Because of the visibility and transparency of your forecasting, suppliers will know they are getting the best price and an on-time guarantee.

Getting Algorithmic

Demand forecasting can be an intimidating endeavor. But with the growing complexity of the supply chain in 2019, it is a necessary endeavor. You don’t have to start forecasting with some expensive software either. A simple Excel spreadsheet could start you down the path to better business practices. Pay attention to the changes in the industry and forecast accordingly. As Dr. Muddassir Ahmed of Supply Chain Digital said, “Master the present before trying to predict the future.”