The Biggest Shipping and Fulfillment Problems: And How to Solve Them
Running a successful e-commerce site does not start and end at having a healthy online presence and attracting the right customers.
Yes, you may have grown your customer base, but you have to meet their expectations at every stage of the funnel—from the production of the item up until it reaches their doorsteps.
In a McKinsey report, the rise of the e-commerce market is growing at a much rapid pace, making parcel-delivery as critical as the product quality itself in offering the best customer experience.
In fact, startups and large e-commerce players identified last-mile services as a key differentiator in the online marketing scene. This has become a major decision-making criterion for customers who are ordering their goods online.
Reading through our guidelines below will not only help you become more aware of the problems that customers usually experience in terms of shipping. We’ll also tell you how to counter them and improve customer experience moving forward.
Problem #1: Inevitable administrative errors
We get it: some administrative tasks take so long to accomplish, such as filling out courier forms or encoding delivery information to your own system.
But you have to keep in mind that even minor errors can cause frustration to both you and your customers. Say, there was an error with the customer’s address that was encoded in your database. This means the item will be delivered to an unidentified recipient, which would then take a longer time to both fix the issue and deliver the product to the right person.
Common mistakes in admin work also include mislabeling the package, as well as failure to consider the package dimensions for the item you are about to ship.
How To Address It:
Strong attention to details may not solve everything right away. It is, however, an important skill to have in keeping common shipping errors at bay.
Here’s a quick run-through of solutions to help prevent administrative errors:
- Always check the labels on the package. Then, confirm with the intended recipient if the information you have on-hand is accurate before shipping.
- Make sure that your items fit in the packaging. Remember that failure to do so might cause damage to the item and leave the customer opening a parcel that’s far from what they saw in the photos.
- Build a strong strategic partnership with a shipping company. Just as your customers trust you in producing high-quality goods, you should also find a trusted partner in helping you deliver the parcels to your loyal customers with time and quality in mind.
- Always track your parcels. Doing so will also help you resolve any issues before the parcel reaches your customers’ doorsteps.
Problem #2: International shipping woes
Ensuring that your products get to your customers’ hands is a complex process, especially when the items they want to purchase will come from overseas.
International shipping can take anywhere between a week and several months, depending on the delivery process. While most customers understand that they won’t be able to get their shipments overnight, some of them may end up canceling their purchase and looking elsewhere.
How To Address It:
Carefully understand how international shipping works. Some couriers have a very distinct set of guidelines for parcel and mail deliveries that retailers like you should strictly follow—or else you’ll end up repeating the process from scratch.
Here are other points for you to consider:
- Offer a wide range of shipping options to your customers. You’d be surprised that some of your international buyers are willing to shell out more money for the convenience of getting the package earlier than usual.
- Communicate with manufacturers and suppliers round-the-clock. Communication is key to a successful e-commerce business, so make sure you’re staying on top of the supply chain.
- Inform customers about the status of your shipment 24/7. Since it takes time for the customer to receive the item, update them about the latest status of their orders. Some customers are patient enough to wait for the item as long as you as keep them informed about the changes in the schedule if any.
- Negotiate bulk international shipping rates with your partner courier. This is where strong partnerships are vital to your business: if you have bulk items to send overseas, you can negotiate a bulk international shipping rate to help save on cost.
- Be mindful of international returns. International returns can be a little frustrating, but not when you choose an express courier to help you handle critical customs issues. Also, 66% of customers check if a seller has a return policy, so make sure you are transparent about this too.
Problem #3: Lost/damaged products
Shipping processes may sometimes come with unexpected circumstances, such as lost parcels or destroyed items.
Don’t fret—this may be beyond your control, but it is still your responsibility to send high-quality products to customers that are growing even more impatient by the day.
How To Address It:
Purchasing shipping insurance will go a long way in protecting your business from breaking the bank, especially when it comes to damaged products.
This gives a peace of mind for a very small investment, assuring that the items sent to your customers are always in its tiptop shape. Here is a list of other things to consider:
- Prioritize packaging procedures and shipping services at all times. Your product packaging is as important as the item itself, so make sure that you keep the items intact and properly sealed.
- Replace the product promptly and offer discounts. Customers always want to feel prioritized so if they received broken items, let them know that you will replace it with a new product and offer exclusive discounts.
- Use durable containers. On top of sealing your parcels properly, make sure that you use durable containers, especially for items that need more care.
- Choose the best packaging for your items. Make sure they are not too small for the product (as this will affect its durability) or not too big (as this will make the product bounce back-and-forth inside the box).
Problem #4: Wrong calculation of costs for packaging & shipping
Shipping and handling costs can be a lot to take in, especially when you’ve got a lot of orders to prioritize.
If you want to stay competitive, you have to understand how to price your shipping or packaging accordingly. Make sure that you are not charging too much or too little, as this will affect your credibility and profit, respectively.
How To Address It:
Having a partner to help you ship parcels, whether locally or internationally, will allow you to identify all the costs involved in shipping an item. Here are a few questions to keep in mind when costing:
- How much will the handling cost? The industry standard is getting the average number of minutes invested in packaging the item, then dividing that by 60. Afterwards, multiply that by the hourly rate.
- How much will the packaging cost? Write down how much you spent on the whole packaging itself—from the box to the tape, and from the cushioning to the container.
- How much will the shipping cost? Keep in mind the costs it will take for you to ship the item, from your mode of transportation down to the cost of shipping itself.
Problem #5: Poor inventory management
Every e-commerce business, even those that have a brick-and-mortar store, should know where to get their products when the customer buys it.
As a seller, you need to be able to locate the product easily to save time and to check the availability of the item before the customer buys it. If your warehouse is poorly organized, everything else in the shipping process will be affected.
How To Address It:
Maintain real-time data on your inventory. It also helps to hire an in-house warehouse keeper to help manage your items and make sure everything is in pristine condition.
Remember: the faster you can find your items, the easier and more convenient it will be for you to send your products to the customer. Also, you don’t want to announce that one item is still on sale when you are already running out of it, right? Here’s how you can manage your inventory properly:
- Create an inventory management strategy. Every online store’s inventory management strategy is different from the other. All you have to do is figure out what best works for you. For example, invest in inventory management software to help manage and monitor your items even before they run out. This will also ensure that you’re never overstocked or understocked, sync inventory tracking across your social media accounts or your website, and gain valuable insights that will be helpful for future use.
- Gear up for seasonality. Some items will need to be restocked round-the-clock, while others are more in-demand according to season. Make sure that you are well aware of the products you have on-hand, as well as the demand for all your items, so you won’t have to worry about restocking them when the need arises.
- Have a trusted person on-hand to oversee what goes in and out of your inventory. We understand that you already have a lot on your plate, so offload some of your critical work to someone who’s experienced in managing and addressing inventory issues.
Now that you have a guide to improve your shipping strategies, you will now be able to attend to your customers’ needs and maintain their loyalty in the long run. Also, it helps to have a supply chain strategy in place to be more competitive in the growing market. This gives you leverage in growing your network.
Let us know if these strategies work for you in the comments section below!