When running your e-commerce business, reputation is everything. Your business and the success of your customer relationships rely on your ability to ship your orders seamlessly and ensure they arrive at their destination on schedule. On top of that, lost or damaged orders are a needless addition to your operating costs. Choosing the right shipping carrier (also known as courier) to partner with you is vital.
There is a wide selection of shipping couriers to choose from but not all are made equal. Here is a checklist for you to work through to make sure your shipping carrier ticks all the right boxes.
1. Reliable services
To gain repeat business from existing customers, you need reliable shipping services and that means a carrier you can trust. Of course, you are only going to know how reliable a carrier is once you’ve used their services, but having a gauge to go by before you try them out will add a level of comfort. You can look at what is called their level of service rates or LOS rates. In other words, their prices. If the LOS rates are high, this usually indicates that the carrier provides reliable services. It’s a business decision you need to make, but paying a little more for better service is often worth the investment. Carriers with low LOS rates may seem to save you money in the short term, but you may pay the price in lost customers down the line. Try this cost calculator [AD1] to work out what your costs would typically be per destination based on the products you ship. Negotiate preferential rates with your carrier from there.
2. Shipping destinations
If you have orders that need to be shipped internationally, you need to make sure your shipping courier can support you with minimal input on your part. You may find it beneficial to select one company that can handle all your shipments to all destinations rather than having to deal with multiple shipping companies. If your courier can handle both local destinations and international shipments, so much better. Assess where you need to ship to and match your list against the available destinations served by each carrier until you find a good match. Even if you don’t ship internationally at present, assess whether that will become an option in the near future and plan ahead by selecting a carrier that can ship locally and internationally for you.
3. Types of products handled
This is a consideration often overlooked, but the types of products you ship will need to factor into your selection of a shipping carrier. Some carriers won’t take certain products. For example, some shipping carriers won’t accept perishable, hazardous, fragile or expensive items. Do you have special requirements? Do your items need to be kept at a controlled temperature, for example? Some carriers won’t be able to handle such specialized shipments. So, do check with your carrier and have a conversation with them about the types of products you ship and whether they can accept them. Don’t assume they will or you could risk delaying shipments of your orders when your courier refuses to take them. Even everyday items such as jewelry, perfumes or food supplements may prove difficult to ship, so have the conversation with your shipping carrier well in advance.
4. Carrier’s reputation
A carrier’s reputation typically goes hand in hand with their reliability. A quick online search may reveal certain companies that have a bad reputation for quality of service, late deliveries or delivering orders in poor condition. It makes sense to avoid these carriers and focus on enquiring further with those that have good online reviews. Of course, these reviews need to be taken with a degree of skepticism, but they should provide a general gauge from which to start your research.
Technology today allows couriers to offer tracking and notification services to their customers. It’s a bonus for customers and carriers alike, so it’s a win-win situation if your courier offers such services. Your customers can have their expectations met by being able to track where their delivery is in real-time and this in turn will cut down the number of enquiries your business will have to handle. Should there be an unavoidable delay in transit, you will also be in a position to inform your customers ahead of time, explain the reason for the delay and give them a revised delivery time. In effect, you will be better able to manage expectations. Customers don’t complain so much when deliveries are late as when their expectations are not met.
6. Fast delivery times
We live in a world today where instant gratification is the norm. Customers have come to expect fast and reliable shipping to the point where they can plan their day around the exact time their delivery is expected to arrive. To retain customers, it’s crucial that your business is able to meet these expectations. Choose a carrier known for fast and reliable delivery to support your business. This is not an area where you should be cutting costs. Not only will late deliveries potentially lose you repeat business, but they are time-consuming for your business to handle. Ultimately, it is your reputation that is at stake.
7. Customised support
Not all shipping carriers offer the same level of service. You need to find the one that meets your expectations and needs. Depending on how you operate your business and the number of staff you can assign to the shipping aspect of it, you may prefer to have a completely hands-off approach and rely on the shipping carrier to manage the entire process for you. Conversely, you may want to be hands-on and expect to be able to manage your shipments from your laptop. In this case, you’ll need to find a carrier service that is willing to accommodate your requests, is easy to work with and is easy to reach when you need them.
8. Shipping software
It’s a good idea to use last mile shipping software to integrate with your e-commerce platform to streamline your order fulfillment processes. Having your selected shipping courier be able to integrate with your shipping software will, therefore, be crucial. You may find that your selected shipping courier is already represented in the shipping software you use and you’ll just need to ensure that you can still get your negotiated rates with them through the platform. If they aren’t yet on the platform, ask them whether you can set up an API integration. Being able to manage the whole end-to-end delivery of orders to your customers through integrated software will streamline your processes and reduce errors in orders and delivery.