- What is a shipping carrier?
- Tips on how to choose a suitable shipping carrier for your business
- Considering delivery expectations, cost and additional services
Opening an online store is an exciting venture for e-commerce entrepreneurs with seemingly endless possibilities over what to sell.
However, the less creative side also requires attention, as sellers must determine how to deliver products to customers by choosing a shipping carrier.
The growing spike in online orders and changes in customer demand stemming from the impact of COVID-19 has also made it more important than ever to find reliable shipping services with high first delivery attempt performance rates.
Shipping and logistics is the backbone of many businesses, and the increasing number of competitors in the market has made choosing the best provider even more difficult. As a result, many e-commerce businesses now use multiple carriers to manage capacity and maintain growth while meeting customer expectations.
However, choosing a suitable shipping carrier is not a straightforward task, as failure to select a company that would best fulfil your organisation’s needs could have lasting implications.
So what factors should you consider when choosing a shipping carrier?
We’ve designed a guide analysing the most important factors to help you source a suitable shipping carrier for your business needs. But before we get into that, let’s answer a frequently asked question: What is a shipping carrier?
What is a Shipping Carrier?
A shipping carrier is a company legally entitled to deliver goods on behalf of one party to another, for example, the seller to the customer.
There are several major shipping carriers across the UK and the United States, the most well-known including:
- Royal Mail
Shipping carriers can transport goods through various modes of transport, such as:
Today, the largest carriers prioritise eco-friendly shipping methods such as EV vehicles and the use of inland barges to reduce congestion amid the growing push for sustainability from consumers and regulators.
Sustainability is no longer a choice, so you might want to consider choosing a shipping carrier that prioritises green logistics. Aside from environmentally friendly practices, here are the most important aspects to consider when selecting a shipping provider:
One of the most fundamental factors to consider when choosing a carrier is the type of product you’re going to ship.
Your products’ weight, shape, and size will largely determine shipping costs, so it’s essential to identify whether the carrier can meet your requirements.
Avoid running into restrictions on certain items by conducting research beforehand. For example, if you’re a drinks company, you’ll need to identify whether the carrier has policies against liquid-based goods.
If you’re sending small packages, you might want to consider using carriers that specialise in courier deliveries. You might also need to check whether the carrier ships fragile, bulky or hazardous items and, if so, find out what procedures they follow to ensure safe handling.
Launching an e-commerce store and choosing a shipping carrier always starts with the products.
Shipping Materials and Supplies
If you want to increase your bottom line, it’s crucial to consider the cost of packaging materials.
Some carriers – UPS, USPS and FedEx – currently offer free packaging supplies for their customers; however, other shipping providers will charge a fee. Factor in the cost of shipping supplies and see if you can negotiate a deal with your carrier as boxes, envelopes and labels quickly add up.
Weigh up whether it’s worth getting free shipping materials from a more expensive carrier or paying the costs yourself with a budget carrier to see which option is more cost-effective. Then, research both local and regional carriers to see where you can get the best rates and service.
You’ll also need to consider whether your ecommerce store only serves domestic customers or facilitates international shipping, as you’ll incur customs on top of higher shipping costs.
Most e-commerce start-ups don’t ship to international markets until they’ve established their brand, as a significant amount of planning is required to enter the global e-commerce market. Furthermore, international shipping requires the service of overseas and national carriers, so focusing on gaining strong domestic traction will help set you up for success when scaling your business.
A carriers’ reputation is an excellent way for you to determine whether a shipping company is right for your business.
When researching your options, conduct a thorough search into their track records and read reviews to help you determine whether they’re the right fit. Be wary of companies with little information about their business as this could suggest that they offer a poor, unreliable service.
Note that most reputable companies offer tracking and insurance services to give their customers peace of mind. But even if you find a shipping carrier with glowing reviews, reach out to them for further information.
With fulfilment services such as Amazon offering customers same-day delivery services, expectations for shipping speed have drastically changed.
Most online shoppers now expect to receive their delivery within 72 hours of placing the order, which has ramped up pressure on retailers to offer same-day and next day delivery. However, a significant number of consumers would prefer free delivery over fast shipping and will wait a few extra days to minimise expenses.
That said, fast delivery and shipping times will help you retain existing customers and increase your chances of capturing new leads. You need to choose a shipping carrier that aligns with your vision and can fulfil your requirements to avoid disappointing customers.
Cost and Surcharges
Naturally, shipping costs play a massive role when deciding on a carrier.
While it might be tempting to choose the cheapest carrier, it usually isn’t the best decision for a business as they might not offer the quality of service you need. In addition, poor service could cause unnecessary headwinds for your business, such as unsatisfied customers, a poor reputation and damaged items.
We recommend using real-time shipping calculators to help you determine whether you’re being overcharged or offered reasonable rates. And make sure you read the fine print to see whether there are any surcharges to avoid any unwelcome surprises later down the road.
Some carriers add surcharges relating to location and delivery speed, so retailers often charge their customers more for next day delivery. Other providers might apply a surcharge for delivering to residential addresses or weekend delivery.
Other cost considerations to consider when comparing shipping providers include:
- Pick-up costs
- How the shipping carrier calculates the cost
- Fuel surcharges
- Surcharges for specialised services and premium plans
- Surcharges for not volume requirements
Compare local and regional carriers against national carriers as providers covering a wider geographical area tend to charge more.
Running an e-commerce business can be time-consuming, especially if you’re low on resources.
Some shipping carriers give their customers access to software that can streamline the shipping workflow, which helps to save a considerable amount of time. With the help of innovative software, you can avoid mislabelling shipments, forgetting items in an order or selecting the incorrect delivery service.
Still, the software you choose can end up carrying as much weight as the provider, so make sure it will bring value to your business before you commit to adding the service.
Paying attention to these factors will help you choose the best shipping service for your company. We advise approaching the task by looking at the available providers as shipping solutions rather than carriers, seeing which ones best meet your operational needs.
At Pointbid, we implement order fulfilment solutions for a range of e-commerce brands from start-ups to medium-sized businesses. If you think that outsourcing your order fulfilment could help your business grow in 2022, please give us a call on 0121 326 7368.
Or, contact us using the form below