A Guide to Help You Find the Best Ecommerce Platform For Shipping
Table of Contents
A shipping software, at its core, helps you print shipping labels for your online orders. To do this (without copy and paste), you’ll need strong, reliable integrations with your selling channels and shipping providers to ensure that order information transfers seamlessly.
Shipping can be one of the most time-consuming parts of running an ecommerce business. Fortunately, there are many shipping solutions out there to help streamline the process. And while 59% of retailers have invested heavily in delivery tracking software in the last 12 months, over half are suffering from information overload due to the amount of software vendors on the market according the Brightpearl’s Retail Tech Stack study. So, we’ve compiled this decision guide to help you find the best shipping software for your business.
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To manage and ship your online orders, shipping software connects to your various selling channels that include online marketplaces and shopping carts, like the ones listed below.
Going multichannel is a crucial way to grow in ecommerce, so choose a shipping software that can connect to several marketplaces where you currently or could potentially list your products on. Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Houzz, and Walmart are all examples of major online marketplaces you might want to integrate with.
You’ll want to connect your own online store to your shipping platform along with your marketplaces. Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce are all examples of online shopping carts you can integrate with a shipping software.
Order Management Systems
An Order Management System (OMS) is a platform that multi-channel sellers use to organize a lot of orders from many different sources. Examples are BrightPearl, TradeGecko, Stitch Labs, and ChannelAdvisor. Whether you use one of these systems or not, a shipping software that works well with an OMS will be a good option as your business scales.
It’s possible that not every selling channel will be supported with a native integration. However, a shipping software may offer a custom solution to connect your selling channels, CRMs, EDIs, ERPs, and OMSs. Most developers will be able to build an API or XML integration between these two platforms. Check to make sure they have a robust developer guide for integrating with their system. Frequently, there are existing connectors that are already built to import orders into a shipping platform. Check if one exists before committing the dev hours to build a custom connection.
Different platforms support carriers in different ways. Some work very closely with the carriers they partner with while others simply let you connect your carrier accounts. As your shipping volume increases, your relationships with carriers grows. The closer your relationship with a carrier, the more you benefit. It could give you access to things like new services, best practices, carrier pickups, and even discounted rates.
A shipping software and its users benefit greatly from integrating with various carriers. The more carriers available, the more services you can access. Don’t be tied down to a single carrier or a few services. Choose a shipping software where your in control of what carriers you want to connect.
Discounted Rates And Negotiated Rates
Carriers can usually offer you discounted or negotiated rates depending on your shipping volume. However, shipping software can offer you similar or better discounts simply by signing up for their service. Keep an eye out for any discounts available to you directly through your carriers or via your shipping solution.
Discounts for Existing Account
If you have an existing carrier account, verify that you transfer these discounted rates to your existing account without signing up for a new account. It’s easier to show a carrier your shipping volume with one account than if you have multiple.
Additionally, check if your existing discounts can be combined with any that a shipping app advertises. An onboarding specialist should know if your discounts can be applied, or if you should choose one over the other.
Contracts vs Out-of-Box
A lot of discounted rates you negotiate with carriers are contracted and require you to ship a certain volume to maintain. However, the discounted rates available through a shipping software are frequently available upon signup. Verify your ability to access these rates and if you qualify without signing a contract.
Fulfillment Services (Third-Party Fulfillment)
If you use a third-party fulfillment company to process orders, verify that this is a supported integration. Look for options such as automatically sending orders to fulfillment companies and other ways to shorten their fulfillment time. The less time you have to configure orders that you won’t actually fulfill, the more efficient your business can be.
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A great shipping solution offers features beyond printing your labels. Having all of your orders in one place gives you the opportunity to get a lot more work done. And you’ll do it more quickly. Capitalizing on these extra features can make shipping one of the easiest parts of your business. These are some features to keep an eye out for.
Anything that can be automated in your fulfillment system should be. When you know how an order’s going to ship based on variables such as ship to location, and items ordered, it can take a long time to click through orders and apply everything. Based on the criteria you set up, carrier services & packaging can be applied. The order can then be assigned
to a user. You can even automate special delivery options like “contains dry ice”. Ultimately, if an action can be applied to more than one order, you should automate that action to save time in the future.
Manually Import Orders
Some selling channels may not be supported natively, or may not expose their data to third-party shipping software. If your workflow requires integrating an Excel spreadsheet (.CSV, .XSLX), verify that you can easily import these orders and map the fields appropriately.
Sometimes you have a one-off order that you need to manually create a label for. It should be simple to quickly create a label and get on with your day.
Most shipping platforms won’t let you automatically apply the cheapest service to orders. This is frequently due to agreements between shipping software companies and carriers. However, a rate calculator is an effective tool to see all the available rates for each carrier. Thus, you can apply these services to orders individually, with automation rules, or to an entire batch of orders.
Another time saver is batch shipping. Printing multiple labels at once can cut your work hours down significantly. Instead of clicking through every order to print a label, combine your picked orders into a single batch and print together. This is made even quicker by having automation rules in place to assign shipping services and package types automatically so they’re ready to batch.
International shipping can be an overly-involved process. Shipping software gives you an efficient way to automatically validate international addresses and create labels and customs forms in one place. This helps take the stress and guesswork out of international shipments.
Sellers and customers both like to check shipping updates. Look for a platform that offers more than the standard option to track packages. Real-time updates can be configured to display in delivery notifications, cutting down on the frequency of customers asking about a package’s status. There should also be a central location that you as a seller can view the status of all your shipments currently in transit.
For multi-carrier sellers, having a convenient way to handle all of your returns in one place is a massive timesaver. Features like partial returns make the returns process quick and easy. Some shipping apps even offer a returns portal which lets your customers initiate their own returns, saving you even more time.
A shipping software typically pulls all of your order data into one place. Detailed, accurate reporting can be an added bonus of this. It’s a time saver to not have to switch between your different selling channels to get information like sales figures, shipping costs, or customer reports.
A shipping app should let you inject your brand’s style into your shipping emails and documents. A huge benefit of a shipping solution is when it gives you the tools to elevate your branding, where it once might have been an afterthought. When a customer receives their package, they likely have no idea about the journey an item took to finally reach them. But a high-quality email, packing slip, and labels that have your brand’s logo in can really set you apart from the pack.
If you’re frequently on the go, a mobile app can help you to view new orders and even print labels. This is a fantastic tool for creating orders when you’re away from a computer, such as creating an order a trade show.
WANT EVEN MORE TIPS WHEN CHOOSING A SHIPPING SOFTWARE. CLICK THE ICON BELOW TO DOWNLOAD OUR FULL SHIPPING SOFTWARE EBOOK
A shipping software exists in an interesting space in the fulfillment process. Acting as a middleman between your selling channels, shipping providers, and customers, it might be the first place you encounter an error that originated in one of the primary integrations. A good support team for a shipping platform will support your business holistically. Look for a support team that are experts in all things ecommerce and help you identify and address problems to help you continue operations with your business.
A great shipping software company should offer multiple ways to contact their support. Live Chat, phone support, email, and a self-help portal should be expected. When you can’t ship, everything backs up. The more efficiently you can resolve an issue, the quicker you can get on with your business. It’s important that any shipping solution you go with also values your time.
When you first sign up for a new shipping software, you should be assigned a real person to help you get started and set some basic things up. On an initial touch base with an onboarding agent, give them the rundown of your current workflow and let them drive the conversation. A good onboarding process sets the pace for your relationship with the software.
Length of Trial
Typically, a free trial period can last between 14-30 days. You need to become comfortable with the program before your onboarding period is over. Verify that you are receiving the full version of the shipping app. If certain features are only available for paying users, this could cause you to miss out on features that may be business critical.
Help Center & Documentation
Check what resources they have available on the setup process, connecting your accounts, and beyond. When a platform’s user-facing documentation is more fleshed out, it reflects well on how well the shipping software is supported both internally and for its users.
A great tech support agent should have knowledge beyond their platform. It’s a great sign when a company and their support is knowledgeable about issues like carriers, selling channels, and the fulfillment process as a whole. Similar to how robust their documentation and help centers is, this highlights a company’s dedication to its users.
DOWNLOAD OUR FULL EBOOK FOR EVEN MORE TIPS ON HOW TO PICK THE BEST SHIPPING SOFTWARE FOR YOUR BUSINESS.
Most shipping solutions build their pricing structure around your shipping volume. The more you ship, the more demanding your account is on the system and the more support you might require. Some support channels may not be available to smaller accounts. As you scale, you can gain access to features like live chat and inbound phone support, or even a dedicated account manager.
User Restrictions & Dropshippers
Building out a team is tough. Bringing on new team members or even seasonal pickers means you’ll need to have extra security precautions. Assigning orders out or restricting users from seeing secure information becomes more necessary the larger your organization becomes. Furthermore, if you plan on having someone else dropship for you, there’s a larger need for restricting their access to what information they’re able to see. Being able to assign orders out and limit what information is visible will ensure that everyone works efficiently and without clutter.
Clicks add up. The longer it takes to do one thing, the longer it will take to do it time and time again. As your order volume increases, be mindful of how long it takes to create a label. If you only create a few a day, a more manual process may not seem like a big deal. But if you have hundreds of orders to fulfill at once, this can become a time-suck. Efficiently navigating between orders, tabs, etc. will impact how long it takes to ship. So, while you may apply all your information manually now, there’s always potential to increase your fulfillment speed.
Shipping apps are a great tool for most users. However, as your business grows, you may find a more specialized order management solution that works best for your team. If that’s the case, look for a shipping platform that includes a shipping API. A shipping API quickly automates label creation once everything else has been finished. If that’s the case, there are several options available to you, such as ShipStation’s API product, ShipEngine.
Take the Next Step With A Shipping Software
Are you ready to find the best shipping software for your business? Consider the ideas shared in this ebook, and use the checklist on the next page as you evaluate options and make a decision. The checklist includes simple questions you can ask at different steps in your search for the right shipping software.
When you have other questions or need more guidance, you can always reach out to an expert here at ShipStation. Get in touch by visiting shipstation.com/contact-us/