How Automated Shipping Technology Can Help Scale eCommerce Fulfillment
During Black Friday this year, consumers spent $9.12 billion online shopping—a new record—as overall online sales for Black Friday were up 2.3% year-over-year.
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While the holiday season is often front and center as a trigger for micro or small-to-medium business hypergrowth, there are plenty of other “peak” events throughout the year for brands to cash in on heightened consumer spending. Even just one viral video on TikTok today can thrust a business into the shopper spotlight and propel sales orders to record levels.
Whether for mom-and-pop shops or medium-sized brands, this level of success can catapult operations from a home-based garage to a full-blown warehouse overnight and, although this escalation can be a huge boost to revenue and capturing net new consumers, the act of fulfilling peak order volumes is often one of the biggest challenges for those with smaller operations and inherently limited resources.
In order to navigate peak periods with efficiency and ease, smaller companies should consider the following operational strategies and tips for leveraging smart solutions, such as parcel shipping automation, to address fulfillment execution head on.
Shipping Preparation Pays Off
Between delivery delays, truck driver shortages, and ongoing supply chain disruptions, fulfilling customer orders with precision can quickly turn into a shipping nightmare. Even small business owners should prepare for all scenarios to ensure delivery expectations are met—especially considering that 58% of consumers say they would stop buying from a brand entirely after one to three supply chain delays or disruptions.
During peak shipping periods, putting all of a company’s eggs in one basket is a risky strategy. For example, relying on only one carrier during a high-volume holiday shopping season can backfire. Instead, diversifying the mix with additional national carriers—and focusing on smaller regional carriers specializing in small business shipping—can help brands provide exceptional customer service, consistently meet delivery expectations, and be more agile and responsive if delivery issues arise.
In addition to carrier diversification, small businesses can optimize the customer delivery experience—and shave a significant slice off their shipping costs—by implementing parcel shipping software. Automated shipping solutions typically offer discounted postage rates and enable eCommerce vendors to rate shop directly within the platform in real-time to compare and select the best shipping modes and rates available from different carriers.
Automating Workflows To Cut Costs
Investing in shipping software not only helps eCommerce brands ship products quickly and easily, but it also streamlines day-to-day operations to minimize overhead, increase productivity, and protect margins. Four out of five small businesses believe they can survive a recession but, with inflation cutting into profits, cost efficiency is a critical component to success—especially during peak or hypergrowth moments.
In addition, shipping technology enables small businesses to aggregate orders from multiple online sales channels (e.g., marketplaces, company storefronts) and use batch processing and business rules to accelerate order fulfillment and easily adapt their shipping workflow to manage peak order volumes efficiently and cost-effectively. Plus, some shipping platforms provide comprehensive shipping insurance to mitigate costs associated with lost, damaged, or stolen shipments—so customers can avoid wasting time waiting for reimbursement from carriers.
Shipping software streamlines recurring fulfillment processes to reduce time-consuming and labor-intensive manual steps. eCommerce brands can automatically print branded labels and packing slips, real-time rate shop to find the fastest and most convenient shipping option for customers, and seamlessly create prepaid return labels to simplify reverse logistics management, all of which enables business owners to drive operational efficiencies while freeing up their time to focus on revenue-generating activities.
Putting Customers First
Whether a business ships one parcel a day or 50, they need to ensure every customer enjoys the total experience in order to bolster brand reputation and drive repeat sales. Satisfaction hinges on getting the right product into the hands of customers, quickly and without disruption. With 73% of customers saying they’ve experienced delivery issues, it’s imperative that small businesses better position themselves to ensure a reliable, customer-focused shipping experience.
Smart shipping technology helps streamline and personalize the buyer journey to create a seamless and consistent process that customers can depend on. Using an automated shipping solution, small businesses can easily create a custom branded shipping experience that builds brand recognition and differentiation—from branded shipping labels, packing slips, and order confirmations to customer emails, shipping status notifications, and tracking pages.
To optimize customer service, small businesses must ensure customers consistently receive the right product within their desired timeframe. By automating order data and leveraging pre-built integrations with a range of shipping and eCommerce platforms (e.g., carriers, webstores, CRM, ERP, warehouse management), parcel shipping software increases order accuracy, accelerates fulfillment velocity, and provides end-to-end shipment tracking capabilities that shoppers crave.
Despite fulfillment complexities and challenges, there’s significant opportunity for small businesses to scale and grow with help from the right tools. By automating the shipping workflow, eCommerce vendors can efficiently manage peak volumes of online orders, curtail operational costs, and ensure a seamless customer experience—unlocking new potential for their businesses moving forward.
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Johannes Panzer is the Head of Industry Solutions for ecommerce at Descartes (Peoplevox, pixi, ShipRush and Ozlink) and has over 17 years experience in the eCommerce fulfillment and shipping space.
This article is a part of our Leadership Series, which features industry experts sharing valuable insights for small business owners who sell online. The opinions expressed in this contribution are solely those of the author(s).