The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many brick and mortar businesses to move online, and 54% of Americans are saying they’re shopping online more as a result of the outbreak. Between continued shelter-at-home restrictions and public precautions, fewer people are out shopping at brick and mortar locations. And those stores that are actually open are operating under unusual conditions, including limited capacities and the option for curbside pickup. 

Taking your business online is necessary to overcome some of the challenges of selling during a pandemic, but selling online can come with its own set of obstacles. Shipping is often an afterthought when developing an ecommerce strategy — but mastering the shipping process can set your business apart from the competition. 

Here are some aspects of shipping to keep in mind during the COVID-19 outbreak and beyond: 

Shipping Cost

It’s important to evaluate what your shipping costs will be before you begin selling online. Consider shipping rates based on speed and weight, as well as packaging costs. Once you understand the average shipping cost per shipment, you can evaluate the best shipping price for your business. Obviously, you want to make sure the cost isn’t so high that it deters customers from buying, but also isn’t so low that you end up losing money. 

There are various shipping options at your disposal. If possible, it’s best to offer free shipping as often as possible. 70% of consumers would prefer to wait longer in exchange for free shipping. Even if you can’t actually afford to offer customers free shipping, you can find ways to include the cost of shipping within the price of the product. 

Another great option is flat-rate shipping. No matter the product or quantity ordered, all customers will pay the same flat-rate shipping price. This keeps the shipping process simple and straightforward for you and your customers. There are some customers who will value speed over cost, so offering an alternative expedited shipping option for a higher price is important as well. 

Shipping Policy

Customers want to know a company’s shipping and returns policy before making a purchase. It’s important to keep these policies simple and clearly stated. Your shipping policy should include any costs associated with shipping that customers are expected to pay, as well as delivery timelines. 

Be sure to include your returns policy as well. This should include your standards for a return. For example, do the tags still need to be attached or is there a 30 days no-questions-asked guarantee? Whatever it is, make sure it’s clearly stated, so there is no confusion for your customers or support team. Also be sure to include a window for returns, as well as any potential costs associated with return shipping labels. 

Shipping Software

On the backend, shipping can be an unexpected hassle. Organizing orders and printing labels manually is time-consuming and tedious. A shipping automation platform like ShipStation can help take substantial time and effort out of the shipping process. Connect your website and any marketplaces you sell on with ShipStation. Orders will populate in ShipStation automatically, where you can then use automation rules and batch printing to automatically create and print accurate labels. You can compare live shipping rates to make sure you’re always getting the best shipping rates possible. 

With more people looking to shop online during the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s important to offer customers a hassle-free e-commerce process. Quick and easy shipping makes the customer’s decision to buy easier and improves their experience with your brand. Learn more about how you can improve your shipping process with a free 90-day trial of ShipStation, and watch our on-demand webinar with ShipStation and BigCommerce to learn more about the trends we’re seeing in e-commerce today.

Blog post by Claire Sanford at ShipStation