[Partner Blog] How Shipping Automation Saves Time and Money

October 2, 2020

Even when done right, shipping is a lot of work. It is expensive and time-consuming, and then once your work is done, you have the thrilling few days of making sure the package arrives safely, and the customer is satisfied. While there are unique unknowns in this sector of your business, shipping is actually pretty straightforward. There are a set of routines and procedures that everything falls into, and once you figure those out, the whole shipping process really just becomes routine. Once you understand the variables, you can create a solid solution.

A common mistake many businesses make, though, is doing the shipping process manually. Through either not knowing about such automation platforms or not optimising their workflow, many merchants lose both time and money through redundant shipping practices. While many business owners like the verification process that comes with manually configuring shipping options, this process has two issues.

First of all, it is just a long, tedious process to manually check each order for its weight, destination, and shipping parameters for each shipment. Secondly, this process can actually lead to more human error. Luckily, order management platforms and shipping softwares have noticed this problem and offer automation rules and processes to cut out large chunks of time that would otherwise be relegated to copying and pasting. If you find yourself doing something at least once a week, it should be automated. Let’s go over some key automation processes you should be using.

1. Automate Shipping Service Based on Weight

Certain shipping services such as USPS First Class Mail or Canada Post Small Packet Air allow you to ship lightweight parcels more affordably. For USPS First Class Mail, this threshold is 16 oz. For Canada Post Small Packet Air, the threshold is 1 KG. If you are shipping a parcel domestically that weighs under these amounts; you are most likely going to opt for these services. By setting these services to apply to any order within the specified weight range, you can be certain you’re not overpaying for shipping. Similarly, a lot of US-based merchants ship everything over 16 oz using USPS Priority Mail. These two automation rules rank the highest among ShipStation users. Of course, other variables will arise, and when they do, you can also apply multiple automation rules to a single order.

2. Adjust Packaging Weight

Sometimes additional packaging can bump parcels into a different weight class and therefore require them to ship using a different service or package type. Whether you ship with gel packs, heavy cushioning materials, dry ice, or supplementary items, improperly weighed parcels can cause steep adjustments on your carrier invoices. As with most of the other automation processes on this list, automatically adjusting packaging weights saves time that would otherwise be spent with repetitive copy/pasting. While repetitive tasks can lead to mental and physical health issues over time, they can also cause short-term errors in data entry. These errors can lead to applying the wrong shipping service—in bulk. This can lead to inflated shipping costs, cost adjustments, or even returned packages. And a common reason for improperly rated parcels is not accounting for the packaging weight. Having your order management system or shipping software account for this automatically allows you to focus on more business-critical areas.

3. Prioritise Marketplace Orders

Most e-commerce merchants are multichannel in the same way that most e-commerce customers are, too. While a majority of customers buy through marketplaces such as Amazon, you want to be prepared for an order to come in from anywhere. The obvious drawback to platforms like Amazon are that they’re restrictive about how you advertise your brand instead of the broader marketplace’s guidelines. And while these sales may have lower profit margins, they are great for building long term customers that can funnel back to your website for future purchases. An adequate shipping experience is not going to create these relationships. They largely favor the hosting marketplace. Marketplace orders may have stringent requirements, such as using Amazon’s shipping confirmation emails, but you can still get creative.

If you fulfill marketplace orders yourself, consider including packing slips with more branding that draws attention to the fact that you are more than an Amazon seller, you are a unique business. If you are batching labels and packing slips together, it can be cumbersome to click through each order to read which packing slip template is selected. Ensuring that your order management system can apply these parameters on import cuts down the time it takes to prepare the packages and lets you ship orders out more quickly.

4. Automate Default International Options

As you expand into international markets, you generally use the same shipping services for specific geos. If it’s a cross-border shipment, there may be a more affordable ground shipping option that you use when applicable. Why spend extra time making sure each order qualifies? Apply automated shipping presets based on destination and weight.

Additionally, manually entering in customs declarations is a long and tedious process. Having product-level customs information filled in allows any international to populate with customs information automatically. Entering information like harmonisation codes may not be required, but it will expedite how quickly your orders reach their final destination.

5. Include Insurance Above Their Covered Values

While many shipping services include service defaults to compensate payors in the event of loss or damaged parcels, the maximum included coverage is not very high. For most national carriers such as Canada Post, Australia Post, Royal Mail, or USPS, the maximum coverage maxes out anywhere between $/£50-200 depending on service.

However, if your orders’ replacement values exceed the max value, or if your customers request additional coverage, it can become time-consuming to locate this information. Remove the extra work for yourself by automating the inclusion of additional carrier insurance for high-value orders.

About ShipStation

ShipStation offers efficient, automated shipping options for multichannel merchants of all sizes. Whether you import your orders from ChannelAdvisor or directly from the order sources, ShipStation offers compatibility to save you time and money on all your shipping needs. We know that automation and bulk shipping are great ways to save time, and this leads to saving money. But with affordable monthly plans as well as discounted shipping rates, we already save you money too! Try ShipStation today!