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    How-To Guide: Small Business Packaging & Shipping

    How To's 2.19.2013 Sara Scott

    5 Elements to a Successful Retail Shipping Program

    Customer Opening a Retail Package | iStockPhotoOwn an Etsy or Ebay shop? Running an online retail business and in need of packaging supplies? If you’re shipping dozens, or even hundreds of packages per day then this guide is for you – everything you need to know to ship products in a customer-friendly, efficient and cost-effective manner.

    1. Packaging Materials:

      Think inside the box! For an online retail business, the first tangible impression of your brand is when the package arrives at your customer’s front door. Therefore it’s important that you select high quality, durable packaging supplies, so that the products are delivered in tact and attractively packaged. The packaging materials are also another branding opportunity! Consider adding your logo to the box with a sticker or stamp – or if budget allows, buy custom, branded boxes for your business. If you’re an eco-friendly company, consider using boxes made from 100% recycled materials with environmentally friendly fill. Speaking of fill, you should also be mindful of how you present the products inside the box. There are a ton of options out there including packaging peanuts, ExpandosTM or even using branded tissue paper as fill. What do you want the customer experience to look like when he or she opens the package?

    2. Shipping Time:

      There is nothing more frustrating to a customer than waiting too long for a package to arrive. The time it takes your business to process, pack and ship products will determine whether you have a repeat customer. While shipping times can vary depending on season, priority status and the delivery company, it’s important that you get a head start by packaging and shipping your products same day. This will ensure your customer receives their order in a timely manner. This is especially important during the holidays when customers are shopping with a specific date in mind. How long do you think is reasonable to wait for products to arrive?

    3. Shipping Cost:

      One of the biggest challenges to running an online retail business is to remain price competitive with the local storefront, especially when you have to factor in shipping costs. Customers appreciate the convenience of having products delivered to their door, but they don’t necessarily want to pay for it. Studies show that higher than expected shipping fees is one of the top reasons consumers abandon online shopping carts. Shipping bargains can go a long way to gaining new customers.

    4. Return Shipping:

      Whether it be due to damage during transport or an inherent defect in the product, it’s important to have a clear and fair return policy when shipping products through your retail business. This policy should be provided to the customer in writing at the time of purchase with the return shipping terms clearly stated. It is most common to ask the buyer to pay the return shipping. However some online retailers such as Zappos provide free return shipping as an added value to their business. It helps them to stay competitive to the local storefront since their product offering is shoes and clothing – thereby allowing the customer to try on the items with no additional cost for return. Does your business lend itself to free return shipping?

    5. Customer Feedback:

      Bottom Line? Don’t overlook the importance of packaging. It’s your customers’ first tangible impression of your brand. Make sure you choose quality packaging materials to protect and showcase the products. Give your customers something to rave about.

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