Retailers who use smart packing and mailing practices are more likely to meet their customer’s needs and attract repeat business. This article gives small business owners practical tips for making their shipping process run smoother and smarter.
Whether or not you realize it, your shipping company is an integral part of your business. You can do everything perfectly on your end, and if your shipping company doesn’t do its part, the customer will probably be unhappy. Your shipping company needs to guarantee you on-time delivery, a way to track packages, and competitive pricing. These are things that your customers expect, and if you want their repeat business, you’ll meet their expectations.
The three main shipping methods are:
- Federal Express. During the 1990s FedEx was the air carrier of choice, and recently combined with Kinko’s to add additional services and shipping locations. Although FedEx generally costs more than the U.S. Post Office, it also has much better tracking facilities that make them better for shipping more expensive items.
- United Parcel Service. UPS recently opened the UPS Store for added convenience. During the 1990s they were the ground carrier of choice, but over the last decade have increased their air force to compete more directly with FedEx. They have good tracking facilities, and their rates are similar to FedEx, making today’s difference between the two companies minimal.
- U. S. Post Office. The U.S. Post Office has improved tremendously in terms of their shipping services, and they’ve done so to better compete with UPS and FedEx. Customers can now track their USPS packages, although the USPS’s system isn’t as up-to-date as either FedEx or UPS’s. That said, the USPS does offer competitive pricing, and they’re particularly good for small parcel shipments.
The best way to ensure that your business’ shipping runs smoother and smarter is to designate a permanent shipping area. Ideally, the area should have a table surrounded by shelves that house all of your shipping supplies. Whether you operate in an office, a warehouse, or a garage, your shipping area should contain all the items you need to package and ship the items you sell. Organize all shipping supplies, such as tape, packing paper, scissors, Exacto knives, and boxes to make these items readily available when you need them. Also develop a packing and shipping routine that you consistently follow.
Some of the ways you can pack better and ship smarter include:
- Stock boxes that easily fit the products you send most often. Too-small or too-large boxes only create additional problems, so make sure your boxes are sized appropriately, and you stay within their maximum weight specifications.
- Reuse boxes and store them flat. Corrugated boxes are preferable. Check out How to Prepare, Track, and Manage Your Small Business Shipments Online for more tips.
- Light on top, heavy on the bottom. To ensure that smaller and lighter items don’t get crushed in the mailing process, which can turn customers off the mail order process, put lighter items on top and heavier ones on the bottom when packing.
- Protect breakable items. Use shredded newspaper and popcorn for packing, particularly between breakable items. Fragile items should always be wrapped individually.
- Indicate which end of boxes should be opened first. Place a piece of cardboard on top that stops customers from cutting into the product when they open it.
- Label it clearly. Make sure the shipping label is visible and easy to read. It is preferable to print the labels out on a computer.
- Do not send to P.O. Boxes. When taking orders, make sure you get a physical address.
- Pack the paperwork. Make sure to include a copy of the invoice and all paperwork with the package.