Your top five shipping questions, answered

by TaxJar January 1, 2024

These answers to your top shipping questions are brought to you by our friends at ShipperHQ. Please note: This blog was originally published in 2019. It’s since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Whether you are shipping the latest fashions, delicious treats or live animals, it is important to have a shipping strategy in place. There are many factors that come into play when putting together your shipping strategy and it can become overwhelming just to get started.  Knowing what questions to ask can help relieve your shipping anxiety; we are going one step further and answering some of the most common questions we hear.  

You should be aware of all options available to you, how to get accurate rates to cover your costs, and most importantly how to keep your customers happy when they reach your checkout. The happiest your customer will be is upon receiving the package on time and in good shape. Making that happen starts at checkout! Getting your shipping together is one key way to keep your customers coming back over and over again. 

What carrier or carriers should I use? 

Knowing what carrier is right for your company can depend on a number of components. You will want to keep the speed, quality, and cost in mind as well as choosing a carrier that your customers know and trust. Most companies turn to one or more of the four big carriers for their shipping: UPS, USPS, FedEx and DHL, but there are many others to choose from. 

Another good option to consider is Regional Carriers. These serve a specific region within the U.S., making them a good option for those with multiple warehouses/origins or if you find yourself shipping a lot of orders to your state and the surrounding states. You’ll often find that these carriers have lower rates than the larger companies and tend to be more flexible as they focus on servicing a smaller area with fewer clients.

Even closer to home, a recent trend has seen the rise of many local delivery couriers who offer next day or same day service at very competitive rates within a limited range (often 20 miles or less). If you sell a lot to people in the same city or metro area where you’re warehouse is located, this is a great option for delighting customers by offering faster shipping than your competitors

What are my options for international shipping?

There are three types of carriers when it comes to shipping internationally. You have International Carriers, National Carriers and International Freight Forwarders. When examining your options to find which one is better suited for your company’s needs you should keep in mind if you want to offer tracking, their delivery times and the cost of the carriers. 

International carriers

These include your larger companies such as UPS, FedEx and DHL. If you are a smaller company it could be beneficial working with one of these carriers as they are experienced in both international and domestic shipping. They offer door to door tracking and guarantees in pricing. This higher level of service does come with a price though, their prices tend to start out higher but they are usually open to negotiate. 

National carriers

National carriers focus on servicing a specific country, these carriers include USPS, Australia Post and Canada Post. They don’t offer door to door tracking, but their prices are usually cheaper than International Carriers. 

International freight forwarders

These carriers go all in with international shipping and make it just about as easy as to ship internationally as it is to ship domestically. All you have to do is send the package to the international freight forwarder’s hub, and they will take it from there. Of course their prices are slightly higher, but they handle all the preparing and processing customs and other required documentation. 

Are dimensions important for getting an accurate shipping rate?

Many carriers now use dimensions when calculating shipping rates. This was once only the case for expedited shipping, but now UPS and FedEx have applied this to their ground shipping methods as well. The amount you are being charged is based on the billable weight which takes the highest value between the actual weight and dimensional weight. 

For example, if you ship one Huge Bounty paper towel roll in a shoebox the roll will fill the entire space of the box, but it actual weight is incredibly light. In this instance the dimensional weight of the paper towel is 2.19 but the actual weight is 1.01lbs. If you were to charge your customers based on the actual weight of the product, you would be under charging them and would have to cover the cost yourself. Now imagine miscalculating this for a much larger order or a larger item. Without properly calculating the billable weight of your products you can lose thousands of dollars on shipping.

Will showing the estimated delivery date/time benefit sales?

We live in a time where people want things fast. Although we aren’t to the point where we can instantly deliver packages to our customers, we can at least show them how long it will take.  It is important to be transparent; the more information you are able to provide to your customers the better. 

Showing estimated delivery date is a leverage tool for winning over those last minute buyers. I can’t remember the last time I actually purchased a gift for someone early enough to not take the estimated delivery date for the order into consideration before making my purchase. Whether it’s a week before your mother’s birthday, Christmas or your anniversary, it is pretty important to know that what you have ordered will get to the recipient on time. This is one situation when shipping speed outweighs cost. This can also allow you to up-sell on shipping by offering free shipping to your customers but showing that paid options deliver sooner. 

What are alternate shipping options I should consider?

In-store pickup

In-store pickup is a great option for if you are looking to offer a cost-free and convenient option to your customers without having to cover the cost of shipping. According to a survey from eFulliment Service, close to 70 percent of respondents said they prefer cheaper shipping over fast shipping. Your customers can shop for products online from the comfort of their homes and pickup their order when they are ready. 

This is a great way to keep your customers who plan to visit your store in search of specific products happy as well. They can search for the products online and check to see if the product is actually available at a store nearby before they leave the house. You might see an increase in abandoned orders online, but a number of studies show that you can make up for it with increased in-store sales and customer satisfaction. Many people who stop in to pick up their orders end up picking up a few extras on their way out.

Same-day delivery

As many major retailers offer Same-day delivery, you may start to wonder if this is a way for you to keep up with the big guys. Same-Day shipping is great for customers as they can order a product online and find it at their front door later that day.

Companies like Amazon have embraced same-day delivery because they have a large network of fulfillment centers to ship out of and the capital to hire their own fleet of drivers. For smaller companies, offering same-day delivery might seem unattainable. Just thinking about putting together a fleet of vehicles and drivers is enough to give most folks a headache.

Thankfully, a number of companies have sprung up in recent years with their own system of vehicles and drivers offering same-day delivery at a fraction of the cost of big carriers. Not all cities have same-day delivery companies operating in them yet but these companies are growing quickly so keep your eyes open for when they expand into your area if they’re not there already.

Putting it all together

Now that you know more about what you might want to do, the question becomes how do you actually put these pieces together. The default shipping offered by your e-commerce platform may not have the support you need to offer all the options you want. Additionally, it may not have the tools you need to make sure you’re giving the exactly right shipping quote in every scenario. This is where having a more sophisticated Shipping Rate Management solution comes in handy. 

ShipperHQ allows you to offer as many options as you need all while giving you the ability to apply restrictions, surcharges and discounts so you are covering all of your costs. Pull in real-time rates from the carriers you use or set your own rates with a sophisticated rules engine. No matter your approach, ShipperHQ’s goal is to let you show your customers the exact rates and options you want to show them in every scenario.

This Shipping Rate Management solution is available on Magento, Magento 2, BigCommerce, Zoey, Woo and more. You can try it out by signing up for a 30-day free trial

ShipperHQ is a Magento Gold Partner, a BigCommerce partner, and a UPS Ready provider.

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