The beauty of running a small eCommerce company is that you can use tools and services to make your SMB look bigger and more professional. Your company shipping choice is a critical factor in your success because eCommerce fulfillment is one of the primary factors determining customer satisfaction.
Here’s a guide to finding the best shipping companies to help with order fulfillment and delivery as you bootstrap. We’ll also explain when to seek fulfillment partners for your company shipping.
What to consider when choosing a small business shipping company
If you’re filling online orders from the U.S., you’ll probably use FedEx, UPS, or USPS for domestic shipping, and DHL is growing in prominence as a fourth option. Here’s what to look for in a shipping company.
Controlling shipping costs is essential to customer satisfaction and profitability. If your customers pay for shipping, high prices can lead to abandoned shopping carts. If you offer free shipping or share the cost with your customers, keeping that cost low allows you to preserve profit margins without setting prices too high.
Opening business accounts with one or more carriers will give you immediate discounts. You may qualify for more significant shipping discounts if you ship a greater volume of packages, so some small businesses work with a single carrier to maximize savings. There are also services like ShipStation, Sendle, and EasyPost that offer discounted shipping or help you find the lowest shipping rates. However, you’ll pay a fee for these platforms, so run the numbers to ensure the discounts outweigh the costs.
How quickly an order reaches a consumer is another critical factor in creating happy customers. Delivery speed depends on two elements of the company shipping process: fulfillment speed and days in transit.
Order cycle time is the time it takes from when a customer places an order to when you hand it off to a carrier. Ideally, order fulfillment will take 24 hours or less, so your orders ship within one to two business days of when customers place them. Long fulfillment queues unnecessarily extend delivery times.
Once you give the order to a carrier, delivery service depends on multiple factors:
- The distance to the customer: More shipping zones equals more time in transit.
- The carrier: Each delivery service has different delivery times.
- The level of service: Ground delivery will take longer than expedited delivery options.
- The day of the week: Orders shipped on a Friday or before a holiday can take extra time to reach your customers.
It’s worth determining your typical order and testing delivery times with different carriers to see what’s the fastest and most economical option for your business.
Expedited delivery options
You should have at least two expedited shipping options, in addition to your standard shipping, for customers who need their orders faster. You can choose a shipping company that offers multiple expedited service levels or use different shippers for each service level. The key is to provide maximum speed for the least additional cost.
Selling to customers around the world is a great way to expand into new markets. DHL is known for its international shipping services, but FedEx, UPS, and USPS offer international shipping as well. Again, your company shipping choice should be based on the best rates and discounts for your business overall.
If you ship in bulk for international eCommerce, you’ll probably want to work with a freight forwarder. They can help you get spaces on one of the container ships that take goods from port to port, which is the cheapest option for most international freight.
Many shipping companies offer additional services. FedEx and UPS stores can help with packing fragile items for a fee. USPS offers free boxes and envelopes for Priority Mail. However, if you want to hand over the daily work of picking, packing, and shipping orders, your best option is an eCommerce fulfillment solution.
When to transition from working directly with shipping companies to an eCommerce solution
Many small businesses bootstrap their online sales at the beginning. Handling eCommerce fulfillment in-house and working directly with shipping companies often makes sense for a startup. However, as your SMB grows, the pressure of getting orders out every day can take time away from the important work you need to do to expand and improve your business. After all, most small business owners don’t start an eCommerce business because they love packing and labeling boxes.
An excellent time to consider outsourcing your fulfillment is when you need more space or staffing to store products and fill orders. Some 3PLs are willing to work with small businesses in the early startup phases, while others focus on more established companies or even enterprise-level brands.
For example, Red Stag Fulfillment works with companies of all sizes, but we specialize in brands shipping at least 1,000 orders per month. Larger 3PLs or warehouses that specialize in small, high-volume merchandise, may have higher minimums. When you first outsource your fulfillment, look for a 3PL services partner with no monthly order minimum or one whose minimum is lower than your average order volume.
Today, there are so many fulfillment options that online retailers can outsource fulfillment at an earlier business stage than ever before. Don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed by order fulfillment to find a 3PL.
At Red Stag Fulfillment, we’ve seen SMBs accelerate their growth by partnering with a fulfillment company that meets their shipping needs. When you turn over pick and pack operations to the pros, you can focus on what you do best.
What SMBs get from stepping up to a company shipping partner
When you outsource your company shipping, you get much more than a warehouse and a shipping service. The right 3PL can provide the foundation you need for your online shop to take off.
However, all fulfillment centers are not the same. It’s crucial to pick one that serves small businesses like yours and provides the quality fulfillment and shipping that your customers expect.
Here are some of the benefits that eCommerce businesses receive from working with a superior third-party logistics company.
Nobody cares more than you about getting each order right. But, as your sales grow and the amount of work grows, it’s easy for you and your employees to make mistakes. When you work with a 3PL, you benefit from the work of professional warehouse pickers and sophisticated systems to ensure order accuracy.
Inventory management and forecasting are crucial to a well-run online store. And the ultimate responsibility for decisions about reorder and safety stock levels fall to you. But your 3PL can partner with you and make inventory visibility easier.
Your fulfillment warehouse can do periodic cycle counts and physical inventories for you. And their warehouse management system is designed to keep track of every SKU in a giant warehouse, so you’ll always know what you have in stock. And professional warehouse management could help reduce inventory loss or shrinkage.
Faster delivery times
A fulfillment warehouse can improve the delivery speed for your orders in two ways. First, a 3PL can offer efficient same-day fulfillment, so orders received by a designated cutoff time get packed and shipped the day the customer places the order. Second, you can choose a 3PL with one or more warehouses in central locations when you outsource your company shipping and fulfillment. That can provide better placement for national fulfillment because your packages travel through fewer shipping zones.
Red Stag Fulfillment shipped 99.965% of orders on time in 2021. And, from our two warehouse locations, we can send parcels to 95% of U.S. addresses in two days or less.
A 3PL is a high-volume customer for the major carriers. Some fulfillment companies (including Red Stag Fulfillment) negotiate shipping discounts and pass those on to their customers. You may get better rates with shipping companies through a 3PL than you can arrange independently.
But that’s not the only way a 3PL can reduce your shipping costs. At Red Stag Fulfillment, we specialize in shipping heavy, bulky, and high-value products. So, we have negotiated more favorable DIM factors with some carriers. That reduces the dimensional weight surcharge for oversized eCommerce.
Flexible staffing and warehouse space
In-house fulfillment may lock you into fixed costs for space and staffing since you’ll need to pay for the same amount of warehouse space during your slow season as when it’s busy. And you may struggle to staff up to handle orders during peak times.
Using a 3PL allows you to flex your storage, paying only for what you use each month. You save during periods of low inventory, and you can quickly expand as your business grows.
A 3PL warehouse can handle more than company shipping. You can get extra services such as hazmat handling, cold storage for food products, kitting, and more.
Increase your capacity to expand your business
As an entrepreneur, you are the engine that powers your business. Your ideas, your creativity, and your management and marketing savvy are the pillars for building a successful online enterprise. But you can’t use your skills to maximize sales and profits if you’re constantly bogged down with operations. Fulfillment and shipping are vital to the success of your business, and working with a partner multiplies your capacity.
Enhance customer satisfaction
Customer satisfaction is life or death for online businesses, and excellent order fulfillment is one terrific way to improve your reviews and rankings. And a delightful unboxing experience can earn you free social marketing through unboxing videos.
How Red Stag Fulfillment helps SMBs take company shipping to the next level
Red Stag Fulfillment was started by eCommerce entrepreneurs to offer SMBs the company shipping and fulfillment services they need to fulfill their potential. We have expertise in safely storing and shipping oversized, large, and high-value products. If your small business is ready to break out, our services can help you explode.
“The way that such an enormous operation can still feel so personal is amazing. The fact that my one package, which may barely make a ripple in your business on its own, can be so trackable, that someone can hold my hand and give me such intense attention when I need it — that’s just so important to a business owner.” — Brenden Marquardt, Owner & Founder, Homestead Brands
Are you ready to take your SMB to the next level? We’re here to help.
More about company shipping:
- Shipping Methods: A Guide for ECommerce Businesses
- How to Calculate Shipping Costs
- How to Ship Products Nationally