When you are running any business, you have to consider the impact of e-commerce. People are buying over the internet more often than ever, and companies that don’t jump on the ship are bound to be left behind. If you want to be successful in today’s internet-driven marketplace, it is essential to understand every aspect of the process. Today, we will focus on the preparation and packaging aspect, with the hope that we can save you money on the one hand, and help you make more of it on the other.
What Is “Fulfillment” And How Does It Work?
This is an industry term that refers to the process of fulfilling orders. Since this plays a big role in your shipping choices, let’s look at the three primary methods of fulfillment.
This is probably the most common method for small businesses and startups. With this kind of shipping scheme, you stock all inventory and ship every order using in-house employees. When you aren’t shipping a huge volume of items, this kind of system can work very well.
Basically, the manufacturer maintains ownership of the stocked items and does not put them in anyone else’s custody. With this method, you also take full responsibility for the keeping of records and compliance with all relevant rules.
Third-party fulfillment involves outsourcing the shipping duties to someone else. This will usually be a third-party company that specializes in this kind of thing. These third-party shipping companies do not take ownership of the products, but they do manage the stock and perform all shipping duties. This might add an extra expense, but this method is the only realistic option for large companies. When you are getting hundreds or even thousands of orders each day, there is just no other way to get the job done.
Dropshipping is sometimes considered to be dishonest, but it all depends on how it is used. Basically, you are selling items that you don’t technically own. Here’s how it works: You find an item for sale from a reliable merchant site. Then, you place an ad on another merchant site, selling that same item at the regular price. By doing this, you can pocket the extra money and thus make a profit.
In case you are thinking of using this method, you should know that many merchant sites like eBay will charge you some hefty seller’s fees at the end of each month. Thus, you should make sure that you are able to pay those costs and that you are making enough of a profit to clear the seller fees. When doing this method, you also want to find a merchant that offers free shipping. By doing this, you have one less expense to pass on to the customer.
Utility Or Branded?
This is the first and most important packaging choice that you will have to make. You can choose to go with a simple, plain brown box if you think that will be good enough. There is no doubt that you will save money by doing this. At the same time, you are missing an opportunity to impress your customers.
If you choose to go with a highly decorated box, on the other hand, you have a different problem. If you go too far, your packages can end up being too expensive for practicality. Remember, the packaging is a cost that has to be passed down to the customer. The more expensive the packaging is, the more you will have to raise your prices to compensate. No matter what you are selling, there will always be a limit to what your customers are willing to pay. Once you pass that limit, your sales are likely to drop.
Even if you go with a plain brown box, you will still have to take care when it comes to labeling. The Postal Service (and all other mail carriers) have certain rules about how packages must be labeled, so make sure you understand these rules beforehand.
So, is there a middle ground here? A way to have an attractive package without spending too much? The answer is yes. For one thing, you might take a plain brown box and glue printed images to the sides, top, or bottom. Obviously, this will add some printing costs, and some costs for the adhesive to attach the images. However, these costs are likely to be very small in comparison to a custom-printed box.
You might also use your label as an opportunity for branding. If you print your labels a little bigger than necessary, you can have room for a company logo or some other pleasing visual. Although most of the box will remain plain, you will at least have a small splash of color to get the customer’s attention and set you apart from the rest.
Make Sure The Item Will Be Delivered Intact
Obviously, your customers will be unhappy if their items arrive damaged or broken. At that point, the customer will probably demand a refund. When it comes to e-commerce, you might not have a choice as to whether or not you will refund their money. In general, this will depend on which e-commerce platform you are using.
There are several ways to protect your goods in transit, but all of them revolve around two simple principles: Keep the item stable and use the appropriate level of padding. If you choose wisely, you can probably do both of these things at the same time.
Styrofoam peanuts were once the go-to option for this purpose, but they have fallen out of favor because of their environmental impact. You may have heard people say that it takes millions of years for styrofoam to break down. Although these kinds of extreme statements are often false, this one seems to be true. As such, you should avoid styrofoam peanuts. Some packages use solid pieces of styrofoam to brace the item in place, but these are no better.
A bunch of wadded newspaper presents a much more eco-friendly option. This newspaper will break down and return to the earth in a matter of two or three months. Newspapers can often be acquired for free by asking someone at your local newspaper office. Outdated newspapers are basically just a storage liability for them, so they will probably be happy to give you as much as they have. The only problem with wadded newspaper padding is the fact that it doesn’t look very professional.
Air pillows are also very common and have become much more popular in recent years. These are pretty cheap, and it’s mostly because of the smaller amount of material they require. Most of the mass is made up of air, and the air is free. Of course, you are still using a non-biodegradable material (plastic), but you will be using much less. Another great thing about this material is that it will add very little weight to the package. That means the weight of the air pillows will be highly unlikely to affect your shipping costs.
Follow The Rules And Document Everything
Before you begin your journey into the world of e-commerce, you need to understand the dimensions of the commercial battlefield. And yes, you should think about it in this way because everyone on these platforms is trying to outsell everyone else. On large e-commerce platforms, the competition can be fierce, so you need to make sure that you understand the rules and regulations before you post that first item for sale.
Apart from this, you need to be aware of a pervasive scam that has become all too common. Most e-commerce sites, whether it be eBay, Amazon, Wish, or anywhere else, are designed to favor the customer over the merchant. Thus, it can be very easy for scam artists to pose as customers and rip you off mercilessly.
Here’s how they do it: They order an item and pay for it, acting as if everything is fine. Then, whether they receive the item or not, they will claim that they did not receive the package. They might also claim that the item was damaged in transit. Either way, the result is the same: You are forced to refund their money, and they get to keep the product.
To avoid this problem, you need to make sure that your packaging includes a proper shipping label, and it should be labeled exactly as the site’s rules demand. Some sites will even create a custom shipping label for printing, so you should definitely use this feature if available. You must also make sure to provide a tracking number and to list this tracking number on the outside of the package. In this way, you can prove where your package went and what was done.
What Kind Of Package To Use?
It is important to choose the right kind of packaging, so let’s go over some of the most common options.
These are obviously the standard choice, as they are the most versatile option. A cardboard box can be obtained in any shape or size you might want. Of course, strange sizes will often have to be custom-ordered, and that is more expensive. Therefore, it is better to use a box that is slightly too large. You can always fill in the extra space with some kind of padding. Perhaps the only drawback here is the need for packing tape. This need adds an extra step and an extra expense, but at least it’s a small one.
Envelopes and mailers are the ideal choices for smaller items. If you find yourself in a situation in which a box seems excessive, it’s probably time to reach for a mailer. In case you don’t know, a “mailer” is just a large padded envelope. These are available in both paper and plastic, so make sure to go with the plastic mailer for items that might be damaged by water. Most mailers will have a self-adhesive strip, which will save you a few bucks on tape.
Instead of using boxes or mailers, you can choose to wrap your item with thick paper before taping it into a bundle. Of course, this should only be done with items that are not fragile, as the item will have no real padding and little protection from the elements. Because most paper absorbs water, this method should not be used on moisture-sensitive items. Still, it can be a great way to save money on packaging costs for small and durable items.
In the end, shipping is not a very complex business. You just have to make sure that you take plenty of precautions, as there are many things that can go wrong. Most of the measures and methods described above would fall under the category of precautions. Just as precautions are meant to ward off disaster, we hope that our brief introduction to this subject will help you to do the same. If so, we hope that you will fill out the contact form to receive more information.