Automate Your Shipping Processes for the Holidays

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November 18, 2020

The content was contributed by the ShipStation team and our partner ShipCalm. ShipCalm is a third-party logistics company primarily focused on inventory management and assisting to resolve clients’ issues outside the realm of a “pick-and-pack” 3PL. Their services are specialized to client-specific manufacturing cycles to guarantee the right amount of inventory is consistently on-hand.

We know that most ecommerce retailers don’t have the luxury of a “one-size fits all” shipping process. Depending on the package you may need to adjust your shipping settings or the fulfillment process for your orders. These intricacies to online shipping are inevitable but often tedious and error-prone. ShipStation’s automation rules and batch printing do more than eliminate manually configuring each order. They also remove the risk of human error associated with it. Regardless of what you sell, reducing the computer side of shipping down to a few clicks also avoids bottlenecks in the packing process.

Here are some automation opportunities to consider this holiday season.

Inventory Management

You may know how much inventory you have on hand by looking at what’s stored in your garage, but do you know exactly how much? What if you’re using a 3PL? Take the guesswork out by being informed about exactly how much product you have ready to ship after each order. Go one step further by having your website automatically update if an item is out of stock.

Or, subtly push a purchase decision by showing that a product’s stock is low and customers would be wise to buy now instead of later. This also makes it easy to automatically order new products when your on-hand inventory dips below a certain threshold. It saves time, removes complexity, and makes your business more agile.

Shipping Process

Automation can select the best and most cost-effective shipping option for each of your products. Depending on what you’re sending, you can create automation rules (if this, then that) that will simplify your shipping operations and reduce costs.

You may elect to set shipping rules like:

  • Weight – Anything under 16 oz, ship with USPS First Class Mail.
  • Insurance – Some high-value items need additional insurance. Make this automatic and protect yourself and your customers.
  • International orders- Orders subject to customs declarations can have taxes and duties automatically included in the shipping cost. You can also include any additional paperwork (think Certificate of Origin) to ensure a clear journey. Furthermore, you’ll want to apply the appropriate international shipping services.

Ship by Date Inclusion

It’s the standard operating procedure for ecommerce merchants to provide a ship by date. It’s good customer service and sets expectations. Unfortunately, not all marketplaces have that functionality, meaning it usually has to be done manually.

This can be avoided by including a default date for orders lacking one. The listener can provide an approximate date to include in the order details, insuring a uniform experience across all platforms.

Branded Shipping

Branded packaging is becoming a legitimate market differentiator. It creates a memorable experience the first time a customer interacts with your product.

Branded shipping pages, instead of third-party options, keep customers engaged with your company. Don’t force them away from your company to see when their order is arriving. The shipping experience creates the most lasting impact on users, and keeping as much of this within your ecosystem as possible will only reinforce your value.

Sending Orders Directly to 3PLs and Dropshippers

Using dropshippers and 3PLs may be great options for some businesses, but they add another layer of complexity. There’s a new communication path that has to be considered that isn’t there when you’re handling fulfillment in-house. However, at some point, outsourcing may become a necessity in order to continue growing. 

Orders can route directly to third-parties, however, removing that barrier. Providers can be notified when an order comes in and begin the fulfillment process before the merchant is even aware of the purchase.  

It’s also really great to build out rules for carrier-specific aspects. For example, if you know the order is going to a residential address but the website shipping method has already been mapped to “FedEx Ground” we go in and generate rules that automatically convert the shipping method to “FedEx Home Delivery” when we know it’s a residential address and it was going to go ground. 

Many people don’t realize that while you can print a ground label it actually costs you extra when invoiced if it went to a residential address. This along with automating the reference fields and third-party billing data for the carriers has been a huge area we’ve focused on to protect against extra fees.

When it comes to automation, it’s all about removing any manual actions an order processor might have to do to ship an order. ShipCalm wants your order processors to simply open up awaiting shipment, select all, and print labels. To identify areas where you could add automation, ShipCalm will typically have someone from their optimization team sit behind an order processor and watch their process. Whether it’s package dimensions or internal notes, they’ll stop and ask the questions “what did you do that for?” Next, they’ll ask “is that something we can automate,” and 9 times out of 10 the answer is yes.

One thing they also use a lot for automation rules is tagging orders and putting them on hold whenever a manual process is going to be done. This keeps the “awaiting shipment” queue nice and clean to just “print all”. For example, at ShipCalm they like automation rules that say if there is a note on the order, tag it with “Automatic Hold: Special Note Exists” and put it on hold.

For more information on how to automate your shipping process check out our user story with Bidet King.

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