An e-commerce shipping strategy is a plan companies use to efficiently deliver customer products. It covers everything from receiving and processing orders to fulfilling and shipping products, as well as managing returns.
Here are 5 core elements you need to get clear on when developing your e-commerce delivery strategy:
- Shipping options and costs Define clear shipping options (e.g., standard, express) and costs (free, flat rate, calculated) for customers to choose from.
- Delivery timeframes Provide accurate estimates for when customers can expect their orders to arrive and strive to meet or exceed these expectations.
- Packaging and inventory management Ensure products are well-packaged for safe delivery and maintain accurate inventory levels to prevent overselling.
- Shipping partners or software Partner with reliable carriers or get an e-commerce shipping software to streamline the shipping process, print labels, and manage orders efficiently.
- Communication and returns Keep customers informed about their orders, provide tracking information, and establish a clear and customer-friendly returns process.
Why develop a e-commerce shipping strategy?
Put simply, it’s the foundation of your business. Your e-commerce shipping strategy determines your ability to compete in the market and has a direct link to:
- Your brand’s reputation
- Cost and inventory management
- Customer satisfaction and retention
An inefficient shipping strategy (or not having one at all) leads to inconsistent service, inventory issues, angry customers, and lost sales. Plus, scaling is practically impossible.
So, to sidestep these issues, let’s cover the basic steps to create a solid e-commerce shipping strategy for your business.
Key shipping strategy components
There are 3 basic shipping options e-commerce businesses typically have: express, standard, and economy.
Express shipping—provides the fastest delivery, often in 1–2 business days. It’s usually the most expensive option, but it’s designed for people who prioritise speed over price.
Standard shipping—the most commonly used shipping option, usually delivering orders in 3–7 business days. It balances delivery speed and cost-effectiveness.
Economy shipping—the most budget-friendly shipping option, emphasizing affordability over speed. Economy shipping always takes 7 business days or more for delivery.
Let’s go over the most commonly used shipping charges and the benefits each one offers so you can make an informed decision.
- Flat-rate shipping is a predictable and straightforward cost structure for the retailer and the customer. Customers are charged a fixed shipping fee regardless of the weight, size, or quantity of items ordered.
- Variable (calculated) shipping calculates precise shipping costs based on weight, dimensions, shipping destination, and shipping method in real-time during checkout. Typically used for products with varying sizes and weights or shipping internationally.
- Free shipping is a powerful marketing tool to attract and retain customers. Amazon says free shipping can increase sales by 12.4%. This option can be offered as a promotional incentive or for orders that meet specific criteria (a minimum purchase threshold, for example).
Product inventory management
Well-run inventory management guarantees smooth shipping operations and satisfied customers.
Here are five steps to help you get started:
- Analyze historical sales data
- Come up with an inventory classification system
- Set reorder points and safety stock levels
- Use inventory management software
- Strengthen supplier relationships
Bonus tip: Do regular physical audits to verify record accuracy.
Why is shipping internationally good for business? It broadens your customer base, makes you more resilient to market-specific economic fluctuations, and gives you a competitive advantage.
To ensure it’s the right time for your business to go global, consider:
- The market fit
- International laws and tariffs
- Marketing strategies for global audiences
- Customer service for various time zones and languages
Returns and exchange policy
Around 30% of all products bought online are returned. The way you handle product returns has a direct impact on your brand’s reputation and your ability to attract customers.
60% of online shoppers only shop from websites with clear returns policies.
So, establish transparent and user-friendly return policies by defining:
- Acceptable product conditions
Once you’ve defined it for yourself, ensure you explain it in a straightforward way and make it easily discoverable.
One of the fastest ways to reduce shipping-related costs is getting well-fitting product packaging. Using packaging that fits products snugly reduces filler material and wasted space, ultimately saving costs. It will also decrease the shipping damage rate, reducing the need for replacements and refunds.
Another simple yet often overlooked part is picking durable materials to protect products during transit.
And finally, create a feedback loop with your customers. Get their feedback and improve based on their preferences and any issues they encounter.
One of the best e-commerce shipping solutions you can use is shipping software like Swotzy. It’ll alleviate the headaches of running shipping operations yourself, save money, and make you more resilient to carrier-caused problems.
For example, you get all the benefits of multi-carrier shipping with none of the hassle!
Streamlining your shipping process with Swotzy means instantly getting:
- Reduced costs
- Efficient carrier network
- Increased resilience and reduced errors
Swotzy allows you to get the cheapest, fastest, or most sustainable delivery options in one place. Ease your operations with no strings attached—compare and use different carriers and postal services without signing contracts or integrating with them.
Create an account and see for yourself—it’s free and takes less than 10 minutes.