There are practical aspects of opening an online store that I have never seen mentioned anywhere. There are many how-to’s on a variety of subjects that are of interest to an online ecommerce store such as Search Engine Optimizations, Backlinks, Shopping Carts, but I have never seen one on shipping. My view of shipping was to set everything up so that the customer paid only what was required to ship the product from my zip code to their house.
This blog is dedicated to the hassles and hazards of shipping your products. Sounds easy doesn’t it? After all there are on line programs that take all of the work out of it, just plug in your package size, the weight, when you would like it delivered, print the shipping label and pay for it. This is what I thought at first also. Shipping costs were part of my e-commerce shopping cart so I gave the matter very little thought until…………………………I started having to pay extra shipping costs out of my own pocket. When most of your store product is under $50, paying extra for shipping can take away your entire profit on the sale. What was I doing wrong? Turns out that one can be tripped up by shipping in more than one way.
1. Package weight: This is not the weight of the item, this is the weight of the item when it is boxed and stuffed with filler to protect the product during shipping. Typical boxes for shipping weigh 8-12 ounces and fillers can weigh up to 8 ounces. It took a while for me to figure out exactly how each product needed to be packed for shipping.
2. Know your weight limits on shipping: First class mail limits are 13 ounces. Over that and the United States Postal Service requires that you ship either Priority or Parcel Post. First class mail International limits are 4 pounds. Over that amount, your choices are Express Mail International or Priority Mail International and the price effectively doubles. This one is of particular interest to me. I underestimated the weight when packaged, charged the customer $28 for shipping. The cost was $43. That was a big lesson learned for me.
3. If your shipping costs are automatically calculated based on weight, add a small handling fee to cover the costs of boxes, and packing material.
4. Know your shipping service: The USPS estimates for shipping and actual shipping costs are the same. Not so with UPS. Customer recently paid $17 for shipping an item. I packaged the item for shipment, go to print the label and my cost was over $24. Why? It took me a while to track this one down but it was because the actual shipping quote was $17 but UPS added on $1.94 for fuel surcharge, $2.50 for rural address, and $2.50 for only shipping one box. To combat these hidden costs, I have added a handling fee for UPS shipments only since there is no way that I can predict where customers live and what their fuel fee will be.
5. Package size: Can you ship it? I have some very pretty large crosses in my store. However, I won’t reorder them. They are 30 inches tall but 1 inch thick. This does not fit into a standard box. Whenever I sell one, I have to cut down a box and then secure it with tape. I have some small crosses that I won’t restock either. They are made from iron. They are so heavy that the cost of shipping is the resale value of the item. I have found that customers, myself included, do not like it when the shipping cost exceeds the item cost.
The end result is that shipping is something that an online retailer must pay close attention. I do not want to overcharge my customers for shipping but I do not want to undercharge them either. There are multiple factors that enter into shipping costs. With trial and error and knowing your shipping services, the retailer can get it right for both themselves and the customer.