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    Best Practices for eCommerce Shipping

    By Lauren Jow | Yahoo Small Business

    Shipwire

    When it comes to ecommerce shipping, ensuring the product actually reaches the customer is only half the challenge. Equally important is how it gets there — and choosing the right packaging is key.

    When it comes to packaging goods, there are three central considerations to bear in mind: minimize cost, prevent damage, and leave customers with the best possible impression of the business.

    1. Minimize cost

    Weigh it. Determine whether your carrier is billing based on dimensional weight or actual weight – typically, it’s the greater of the two. Where possible, pack your products in a manner that keeps them protected as well as lean.

    Reduce waste and improve efficiencies. Preserve product integrity and save money by putting products in their proper containers. Choose a portfolio of package sizes that will suit your business for right-size packaging that minimizes dead space and maximizes in-transit protection. It reduces waste – and your carbon footprint.

    Commit to a carrier. Often, having an account with a specific carrier will streamline processes and result in discounts.

    Do it right the first time. By choosing the best packaging materials at the outset, you’ll ensure that your goods aren’t damaged in transit and that your customers are satisfied. Doing it right the first time means you may win a repeat customer rather than a do-over shipment.

    2. Prevent damage

    Perfect packaging is your best insurance against damage.

    Test it out. Here’s a hard truth: Simply marking a package “fragile” doesn’t guarantee it will be treated as such. Even some sturdy goods are challenged by the wear and tear that comes during ordinary shipping and handling. So don’t let your product’s journey to a customer be the first real test of your packaging. To ensure it will arrive safely, use the four-foot drop test (the industry standard for determining whether a package can survive ordinary shipping and handling impact). Drop your package onto a hard surface from four feet up at five different angles: flat on base and top, the longest and shortest sides, and on a corner. Also try the full-minute vigorous shaking test.

    Don’t forget the details. If your product is moisture-sensitive, slip in a silica gel packet to control humidity and absorb moisture. If you’re including goods whose color could fade with light exposure, like silk and leather, put them in polybags, which will block harmful rays. Also remember to choose materials (like tape, for example) wisely.

    Be practical. Fillers like confetti and tissue paper might look nice, but if you use them to fill empty space, don’t expect them to do much damage control. Your best bet for filling voids are inflated air bags, packing peanuts, or kraft paper, all of which actually help to absorb impact.

    Pick the right sturdiness. Choose materials based on weight, size, and other item attributes. Consider a master carton to protect your product – and your branded packaging – from damage. For master cartons, if contents are less than 70 lbs., use double-wall corrugate. For contents heavier than 70 lbs., use triple-wall corrugate. Properly seal everything by choosing tape at least 2” wide.

    3. Make a good impression

    Packaging is a key branding element in stores and serves as a way to entice customers into purchasing a product. Its value to ecommerce businesses shouldn’t be underestimated. According to MeadWestVaco’s 2013 study on packaging data, “Packaging Matters,” 22 percent of consumers write online reviews that address packaging, and these encounters are said to influence behavior, from repeat buys to overall satisfaction.

    Spread the word. Branded packaging adds a hint of professionalism and thoughtfulness to the overall user experience while helping to build brand awareness. Making it clear where a package is coming from can also reduce the rate of unclaimed packages.

    Don’t frustrate the customer. Make sure your product is protected, but still easy for the customer to unwrap. Don’t risk souring the initial user experience by sealing it in maddening packaging, and avoid hazardous situations in which a customer might inadvertently damage the product by attacking the package with too much zeal.

    Good things come in small packages. Your product should have adequate cushion, so the size and fragility of your goods will dictate packaging size. But sometimes, smaller can be better – particularly in international markets. When the buyer or distributor is responsible for related packaging costs — for example, collecting and recycling the materials, as is the case in certain countries — they’ll appreciate the savings.

    Protect goods from exposure. Despite the cleanest shipping environments, wear and tear during transit can cause dust and other particles to creep onto products. Using clear plastic to prevent such contact can improve the customer’s experience on receipt.

    Go green. It’s good for the environment and good for business.

    Lauren is a marketing analyst at Shipwire. She is responsible for content development, strategy, and social media.

    Yahoo Small Business Services