Usually when people write about running an ecommerce business, they concentrate on the more exciting parts of the whole thing – marketing, sales, pop-up stores, and so on. And this is perfectly understandable. These are “sexy” topics and they capture the readers’ imaginations.

However, anyone who has ever tried to keep an ecommerce business afloat will tell you that this kind of business is more about the behind-the-scenes operations. One of these seemingly pedestrian parts of the ecommerce business is shipping which often proves to be a problem for those who are not prepared.

So, how do you do shipping for your ecommerce company? How do you scale up? How do you remain profitable and still retain customers? How do you do it as a one-person operation? How do you do it as a massive ecommerce corporation?

Early Days

You would not believe the number of ecommerce business founders who actually make their first sale and only then realize that they have not worked out how they plan to ship their products.

Because of this, it is it is absolutely essential that you work out a shipping strategy before you even start an ecommerce business.

You will start off by researching your potential market and determining who your customers will (hopefully) be.

Many ecommerce store owners operate solely in their city or a very limited area. In such situations, some sellers decide to use local courier services or even do their deliveries on their own. Sometimes, ecommerce store owners in such situations decide to offer same-day shipping because they think there is no reason not to.

Just as an example, an ecommerce company is selling surf boards (yes, a bit of a cliché) in Sydney, Australia. They make a sale or two every week at first. Why not offer same-day delivery? Sit in a van and deliver the goods the same day, get to meet your customers face-to-face on top of it?

Then, as the store grows and the company starts selling more products, there are 20 orders every day. In different parts of the city. Then, they realize that Sydney is one of the most congested cities in the world. All of a sudden, they cannot deliver on what they promised. Their customers are dissatisfied. Their reputation plummets. The company is in trouble.

Be careful what you offer.

If you are shipping out to other parts of the country and especially abroad, you will be using postal services or services provided by major carriers such as FedEx or UPS. All of these will cost you money and you need to work out how you will be covering those costs.

Some ecommerce owners listen to various “marketing experts” and they offer free shipping without thinking twice about it. Then, afterwards when they discover that their shipping expenses have eaten all of their profits, they realize they rushed into it.

Free shipping is a fantastic marketing tool, but often times, it is just not realistically doable.

A Growing Business

Once an ecommerce company survives its infancy and becomes a serious player, it is time to stop using the postal service or UPS for one’s shipping needs.

In other words, you need someone who will concentrate on your account and who will provide you with premium shipping that will still make financial sense. For the vast majority of companies, the solution is a third-party logistics partner who will handle your warehousing and shipping needs with their resources.

With a 3PL partner, you are getting experience and the infrastructure that would take you years to build on your own, at a cost that will be a fraction of what you would spend on opening your own warehouses and building a fleet.

Of course, it is of paramount importance that you choose your 3PL partners carefully and that you do not rush into anything before you are certain the company you will be working with will be able to handle everything you need. You should also ensure they understand ecommerce shipping, because it is quite different from more traditional logistics that most 3PL companies have been dealing with.

The Big Leagues

As it happens, certain ecommerce companies grow to such an extent that they outgrow their third-party logistics partners and this is when they start implementing their own solutions, putting up their own warehouses and building their own delivery fleet.

When it comes to this, we are talking about massive operations with warehouses, depots and fleets all over the world.

A great example of this is Amazon, a company that is introducing new solutions to their shipping methods on an almost daily basis and a company that is seen as a leader in this regard. For example, earlier this year, it was announced that Amazon’s robotic warehouse “staff” grew to 45,000. They even started offering same-day delivery in certain parts of the world which is just insane for a company of such size.

Such massive operations require a lot of planning and consulting world-class executives who will be able to handle such an undertaking. It is definitely not something that any ecommerce business owner should handle on their own.

The good thing is that by the time this happens, you will already have plenty of help already in your company.

Closing Word

Shipping is something ecommerce business owners should never consider an afterthought. It is one of the most essential parts of the ecommerce experience and it needs to be handled with utmost care.

It does not matter if you are operating out of your home office or if you are shipping tons of products around the world; shipping is crucial.