EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 397 - December 11, 2016 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 5

Tips on Packaging and Shipping Your Online Orders

By David A. Utter

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EcommerceBytes reached out to a host of shipping carriers and service providers for advice on moving products to customers. While their holiday advice could fill a thumb drive, we've selected the choicest bits for our readers here.

FedEx hopes shippers consider the importance of the shipping box when packing their customers' wares: stick to strong, corrugated cardboard ones. "At the FedEx Packaging Lab, testing has shown that a new, well-made corrugated cardboard box can support several hundred pounds of weight without crushing the contents," FedEx said. A well-padded interior with contact info included inside helps too.

"In the event that the shipping label or paperwork accidentally gets removed or lost, it's good practice to put an extra shipping label, business card or letterhead with the shipper and recipient's address information inside the box." And requesting a signature upon delivery means ensuring a desired gift arrival won't be left unattended.

Louis DeJianne, UPS director for retail, consumer goods and apparel, thinks offering a variety of shipping options puts sellers in a good position. "Free shipping continues to be the most important factor driving customer satisfaction when checking out online (73%) according to the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study, although consumers are willing to pay a premium for faster delivery. According to the study, half of online shoppers (50%) would pay for faster shipping for personal reasons, such as birthdays and holidays," DeJianne said.

"Offer your customers a variety of shipping options with clearly displayed delivery dates and pricing to empower them with the choice and control that shoppers desire."

Cliff Rucker, senior vice president, sales and customer relations, of the U.S. Postal Service, reminds shippers that an accurate shipping address matters a lot. "Always ensure you have the correct and complete addresses, and if you're not sure of the proper ZIP, visit USPS.com to look it up. Next be mindful of holiday mailing deadlines for each type of mailing service and also the destination of where you are mailing the item," said Rucker.

Rucker also noted the USPS Priority Mail boxes are free, and shippers can order them online at USPS.com/freeboxes. Last year, shippers ordered 28 million of them. For extra appeal, USPS has Holiday-themed boxes for Priority Mail Flat Rate box service available.

Our readers who deal with international sales know the DHL brand. Cain Moodie, head of U.S. operations for DHL Express US, emphasized knowing the rules for foreign destinations for one's goods. "Ecommerce policies vary from country to country, so businesses that sell internationally should be aware of the policies affecting their customers. For example, a European Union rule requires etailers to allow customers 14 days to return unwanted goods."

Moodie also suggested having a social media presence to help promote one's brand. "It is a fast and effective way to reach customers and engage with them. You may even consider moving into social media platforms that are specific to different countries. For instance, in China your company should have a presence on Sina Weibo and Qzone."

Eric Nash, senior director of online marketing at Stamps.com, emphasized preparation for holiday sellers. "Most online retailers have three to five products that are always big sellers during the holidays. During slower periods, try to pre-package those products into boxes so you can fulfill orders faster. (You'll need to include the product and package weight on the surface of the box for easy organization)," he said.

Of course, some of those shipments may be coming back for myriad reasons. "Statistics show that returns can increase by 15% during the holidays. Make sure your return policy is clear to customers specifying who pays for the return shipping and when the buyer will receive their refund or product replacement," said Nash.

He continued, "Don't forget that UPS is implementing their 2017 shipping rates on December 26, 2016, FedEx is increasing their rates on January 2, 2017 and the USPS will increase their rates on January 22, 2017. With prices going up by at least 5% in the 1 to 5 pound range for Ground shipping, you'll want to budget in the correct shipping rate for any returns."

A version of this article appeared in the November 23rd issue of EcommerceBytes 411.


About the author:

David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. Send your tips to media@davidautter.com and find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.


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