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How to Ship Products to Customers

Wondering how to ship products to customers? Review our guide on e‑commerce shipping to get started.

As a small e-commerce business owner, there are many factors to consider, from designing a website and managing your online store settings to learning how to sell products online, marketing, and shipping products to your customers. Figuring out the logistics of how you’ll get your products in customers' hands will impact every aspect of your business, from customer service to profits. Then, once your store is ready to go live, you might wonder, “how to start shipping my products.”

It’s always best to figure out how to ship products to customers before you start selling online to ensure you can provide customers with a seamless experience. Unfortunately, you have many different options, and there is no single best way to ship e-commerce products since it all depends on your business and resources.

From dropshipping and self-fulfillment to outsourcing your shipping and managing inventory, your main goal should be finding a way to get your products in the hands of paying customers as fast as possible. Unfortunately, choosing the wrong e-commerce shipping method can result in high costs or long lead times. Finding the best shipping method for your business and its customers will take research, so we’ve put together this article to help you learn the different types of shipping for online stores.

E-commerce shipping basics

You'll need to know the lingo to properly research the different shipping methods available for online stores. Otherwise, you’ll be left wondering which options are truly right for you. To help, below are a few definitions you should know before you talk to any shipping provider or decide to ship your own products:

  • Shipping carrier: The shipping carrier is the business that delivers your products. Common national carriers include USPS, FedEx, and UPS. All carriers have different rates, so do your research to choose one that works for you.
  • Inventory: Your inventory consists of all the products and materials you have available to ship.
  • Fulfillment center: Fulfillment centers are where your inventory is stored and packed before being shipped out to customers. For example, Amazon’s Fulfillment Centers store, pick, and pack products to send out via a shipping carrier.
  • Dropshipping: Dropshipping is a type of e-commerce shipping in which the inventory is stored by the manufacturer and shipped directly to the end customer. If you use dropshipping and are not the manufacturer, you don’t have to worry about storing inventory. Learn how to start dropshipping.
  • Backorder: Backorders are items that have been ordered but are out of stock. These items ship when the product is back in stock.
  • Net weight: The net weight is used to determine your shipping cost and is the estimated weight of a product without packaging.
  • SKU: Stock-keeping units (SKUs) are part of warehouse management. These codes help people in the warehouse or fulfillment center pick and package products based on characteristics.
  • Warehousing: Warehousing is how the goods are stored, typically in a large building. However, warehousing can also occur at the fulfillment center.

How to start shipping your products

Now that you know the basic vocabulary involved with shipping e-commerce products, you can learn about your different options, including fulfillment options, packaging, and shipping. Of course, you’ll also need to be prepared for shipping with the right tools, including labels. Here are some tips to help you start shipping your products.

1. Understand your fulfillment options

Fulfillment refers to the process of getting products from the warehouse to the customer. There are a few fulfillment options to choose from, and the best one for you depends on your resources. Your options include:

  • Self-fulfillment: Self-fulfillment means shipping the products yourself and outsourcing delivery. Self-fulfillment is ideal for small businesses just getting started because anyone can do it as long as they can print labels and pack boxes. It’s also low-cost, and you only pay shipping costs, which means saving a little bit of money for you and your customers. With self-fulfillment, you can also brand your packaging in any way you want to increase brand awareness and engagement.
  • Dropshipping: Dropshipping is when products are shipped from the product manufacturer to the customer. With dropshipping, someone can order a product from your website, and the wholesaler takes care of the rest, meaning you don’t have to worry about inventory. Unfortunately, dropshipping has lower margins than other options because dropshippers take care of the entire process.
  • Outsourcing: Outsourcing fulfillment allows you to take a step back and let another company handle the entire fulfillment process. These companies will store your products in their own warehouses and package and ship products for you. One major downside of outsourcing fulfillment is that it can be more expensive than other types of fulfillment, and packaging is often branded by the company rather than your business.
  • Hybrid fulfillment: Hybrid fulfillment allows you to choose multiple types of fulfillment to allow for faster delivery to your customers. Your hybrid fulfillment strategy might include in-house fulfillment with your own warehouse and dropshipping.

2. Choose a shipping method

If you plan to fulfill orders yourself, you’ll need to choose a shipping method. There are a few different carriers to choose from, so it’s always best to consider your options depending on cost, locations, speed, and other factors. Your main shipping carriers include:

  • USPS
  • FedEx
  • UPS
  • DHL

Since there are so many options and each carrier offers something different, consider the following before choosing a shipping method:

  • Delivery locations: You may have limited options depending on where you want your products delivered. Additionally, large orders may have to be shipped freight. When shipping directly to consumers, you should choose a reliable carrier that will ensure your deliveries make it to customers on time.
  • Cost: Many couriers are similar in cost, but costs can differ depending on several factors, including customer locations. For example, customers that are farther away will cost more. Additionally, the heavier and larger the package, the more it will cost. Since cost is variable depending on so many things, you might try to use software like ShipStation that allows you to pack orders and confirm weights and dimensions to give you the best and most cost-effective shipping option.
  • Delivery speed: Delivery speed is crucial because your customers don’t want to wait to get their packages. You can also offer expedited options to customers to help you save on shipping costs. When it comes to shipping times, 90% of consumers view 2- to 3-day shipping as the baseline, with 30% of consumers expecting same-day shipping.

3. Pick your packaging

One thing many small business owners don’t consider is their packing. However, the way you pack your products is an important part of your branding. While there’s nothing wrong with delivering products in a standard box, you may want to brand your packaging to make your business stand out. Branded packing can help boost visibility and awareness, but it’s much more expensive than standard boxes.

Additionally, some fulfillment methods don’t allow you to use branded packing. For example, dropshipping and outsourcing companies may use their own branded packaging. However, if you use self-fulfillment, you can design your very own packaging to stand out and give your products a more premium and specialized appearance.

Depending on your products, you can choose between boxes and padded envelopes to help you find the most cost-effective solution.

4. Determine your pricing

The best way to figure out which shipping option is right for you is to determine how much it will cost your company. Modern consumers want affordable and fast shipping, which means businesses must spend slightly more on shipping costs to compete in a crowded marketplace. To set your shipping rates, you can follow standard courier rates determined by package size, weight, and distance. However, this won’t give you a truly accurate estimate because many factors can impact how much shipping costs to a single customer.

To make the checkout process easier for customers, your shipping options must be simple. You can offer free shipping, flat-rate shipping, and expedited options to ensure customers understand the rates. Unfortunately, shipping costs can affect your margins, so you could end up losing money on shipping if you’re not careful. Continue to re-evaluate your monthly shipping costs until you find the right price for your customers and your business.

5. Understand international shipping requirements

International shipping is much more complicated and expensive, but if you have customers overseas, you may be able to increase your profit margins by shipping them products. After all, the more customers you have, the more money your business makes. Unfortunately, shipping internationally comes with many challenges, including:

  • Filling out customs forms: A form that describes the contents and value of the package and ensures you’ve complied with all international shipping regulations.
  • Tariffs: A type of tax that’s added to restrict trade from certain countries.
  • Taxes: An added expense that’s based on percentage. Import tax may be payable upon delivery or in advance.
  • Duties: Paid to governments as a percentage of your product value.

6. Create shipping labels

Once an order has been placed on your online store, you can immediately create shipping labels to get your products ready to ship. You can either address packages by hand or use an e-commerce platform that creates shipping labels automatically once an order is placed.

7. Ship your products

If you’re self-fulfilling your products, you can package the products and put your shipping label on the box to get them ready for the carrier. You can also use a fulfillment service that keeps your products in their warehouse and will print shipping labels and pick and page your products for you. With an e-commerce store, there are many integrations you can use that will automatically send order confirmations to your fulfillment service to let them know an order has been placed.

Mail products with Mailchimp and ShipStation

Ready to start an e-commerce business? You’ll need to figure out a few logistics first. Luckily, Mailchimp makes it easy to create an online store with our drag-and-drop website builder and ship products through Mailchimp with our ShipStation integration. Now, you no longer have to worry about fulfilling orders yourself. Instead, we’ll help you connect multiple carriers to help you find the best rates. We also help improve communication by sending shipment and tracking information directly to the customer.

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