How much planning goes into shipping online orders?
One of the last things that we see people addressing when stepping into the eCommerce space is the shipping and delivery of their products after an online sale is made. This crucial part of the eCommerce model can be a major factor in determining whether or not a product can viably be sold online. With this in mind, we've compiled an overview of some important factors to consider when planning to offer your products online, as well as some common shipping methods that are possible on the Shopify platform.
Is your product ready to ship online?
Generally speaking, there are 4 major factors that help determine how to ship a product or if it even makes sense to ship a product at all. Of the 4 factors below, no individual factor stands above the others. It is the culmination of all 4 that determines if your product is ship-worthy.
One of the most important factors in determining the cost of shipping a product is its weight. The best products to ship weigh less than 1kg and the heavier the product, the more you should expect to pay for shipping. Products that weigh 2kg or higher may be surprisingly expensive to ship. When weighing your products, measure them in the box in which they will most likely ship for the most accurate measurements.
By the same token, the size of a product can make a big difference in shipping costs. Very long, tall, or wide parcels may incur extra shipping fees. In general, the best products to ship will fit in a box that is under 30cm x 30cm x 30cm. Like weight, the smaller the product the better.
For some, this may go without saying but the ability of your product to survive shipping is crucial for eCommerce success. Products with a short shelf-life, or products that are easily damaged may require specialized shipping options, which can greatly effect the price of shipping.
The value of the product is a tricky factor to account for. In general, a higher value product is better to ship than a low value product. The key is to ensure that the cost of shipping is considerably lower than the value of the product. At the extreme end of the scale, very expensive products may require expensive specialized shipping options to ensure that they arrive safely and securely.
Based on these 4 pillars of success, the best products to ship online are small, lightweight, durable and very high-value. With that being said, there is some flex in weather or not a product can be successfully sold online and shipped. If at least 3 of the above factors are favorable, your product may do just fine online.
Where will your product ship from?
Many small businesses that are just starting out ship from home. As a product business grows it is common to expand into 2 or 3 retail locations or warehouses. The number of locations involved in an eCommerce store, and how they are managed can have a big impact, not just on shipping costs but also on the complexity of setting up an online store.
How many locations do you have?
If you only have one location, then setting up your online shipping system can be quite straightforward. However, each location beyond the first adds additional complexity, and setup that is required to sell online. A typical Shopify store can support up to 5 locations. If you must ship from more than 5 locations, you start to enter into the realm of higher tier Shopify plans, and should expect a higher price tag.
Will each location stock separate inventory?
One of the most complicated factors for shipping from multiple locations is the inclusion of multi-location inventory. If a customer makes a purchase for a product that is only available in a far-away location, you can find yourself under-charging for shipping if your rates and inventory are not set up correctly. In addition to the initial cost of setting up multi-location inventory, you must also consider the long-term cost of managing inventory across multiple locations.
Are you listed on GoogleMyBusiness?
You may be surprised to hear that GoogleMyBusiness is involved in setting up your shipping for eCommerce. Shopify uses GoogleMyBusiness listings to verify shipping locations, so making sure your free google listing is up to date is an important step towards eCommerce success. If you don't know how to set up your GoogleMyBusiness, you may want to consider attending our beginner workshop.
Popular Shipping Methods
There are functionally limitless possibilities for how to ship your products, ranging from very simple to highly complex. While larger companies can rely on distributors and third party logistics companies, this list focuses on the methods that we commonly see employed by small businesses:
The most popular shipping method that we see in Shopify is their out of the box Canada Post integration. By partnering with Canada Post, Shopify is able to offer a shipping discount of up to 47%. Additionally, Shopify is able to automatically collect up to date shipping rates from Canada Post based on your product weights and packaging dimensions.
In cases where a different shipping provider is preferred, or where the carrier rates are discouraging to purchasers, flat rate shipping should be considered. Flat rate shipping can easily be configured in Shopify with restrictions on weight, order total, and province*. The risk of flat rate shipping is that you may have to cover some differences in shipping costs, as the actual cost may differ from what you post on Shopify.
*App based solutions can add further restrictions such as area code.
One of the most powerful tools for encouraging online orders is free shipping. There are 2 popular methods for offering free shipping. The first is free shipping for orders over a certain dollar amount. The second option is to offer "free shipping" on all products and bake the shipping cost into the price of the products. Like flat-rate shipping, you will be responsible for paying the actual shipping cost.
For businesses with a customer-facing location, local curbside pickup is a free option for supporting your local customer-base. Curbside pickup comes out of the box with Shopify, and allows you to set your own pickup instructions and hours.
If you offer your own local delivery, it can be easily configured in the Shopify admin. Local delivery can be offered at a fixed price, and a maximum distance from your store location. To enable local delivery, your store must be verified on GoogleMyBusiness.
Packaging Your Shipments
After a sale is made online, you will typically be responsible for packing and shipping your products. Specific packaging requirements vary from industry to industry but there are a few keys to success that will help you make the most of shipping your products:
What To Use
Ship your products in appropriate packaging. You may be able to ship smaller, more durable items in a bubble-mailer or envelope. Larger items will require a parcel. For especially high-end products, you may want to consider manufacturing custom boxes - the experience of receiving a shipment in the mail is a big moment for the end-user.
Where To Buy
You can purchase bubble-mailers and shipping boxes from a wide variety of vendors. We recommend setting up an account with a large, reputable source and trying to buy all of your packaging in one place. U-Line is a popular option but many eCommerce stores also buy directly from Canada Post.
To ensure accurate shipping estimates, it is important to use consistent box sizes. We recommend selecting no more than 2-3 box sizes and fitting all orders to one of your standard sizes, if possible.
Opening the packaging is often the highlight of your customer's experience, making it an optimal time to offer an up-sell. Including a coupon code for a future order within your shipment is an effective way of encouraging repeat purchases.
Working with an Agency
When you begin working with an eCommerce agency to build your online store, all of the factors listed above will need to be covered in detail. Do as much research on your industry and shipping options as possible before beginning the process so that you are ready to hit the ground running. Your eCommerce agency will work with you to develop a shipping plan based on an initial discovery completed during the quoting process.