As your ecommerce business grows, your operations inevitably become more complex. A common mistake that many businesses make is they still rely on manual fulfilment processes after they have outgrown them. While an ecommerce business might start out with just a few products and low sales volumes, once you begin to scale, manual shipping and fulfillment can quickly go awry, costing your business time and money.
With ecommerce growing in popularity, an increase in volumes can quickly overwhelm existing systems causing lengthy shipping delays. Retailers often resist automation because they want the security of human verification however it is also a long and tedious process to manually check each order for its weight, destination, and shipping parameters. This verification process not only adds unnecessary delays, it can actually lead to more errors.
To solve these issues, many ecommerce businesses have implemented shipping automation software that streamlines the fulfilment process, automating manual processes and reducing human error. In addition to removing unnecessary mistakes, shipping automation allows online retailers to optimise workflows, manage costs and improve service.
Speed is a major competitive advantage in ecommerce, and automation results in faster and more consistent service. Reducing human involvement means customers get the correct products, faster. Greater accuracy offered by automation also delivers a better overall customer experience because fewer shipping errors means fewer returns and calls to customer service.
Automation also decreases staffing costs, so retailers can allocate that money and those resources elsewhere. For example, an employee who would spend most of their time processing shipping labels can now focus on customer service, marketing, or other business activities.
What are automation rules?
The shipping process can be boiled down to a set of routines and procedures that are repeated for each order. Once these variables are figured out, rules can be created to automate the shipping routine.
Shipping automation rules are actions that you apply to a set of orders that meet a certain criteria (if this, then that). For example, automation can select the best and most cost-effective shipping option for each of your products, simplifying shipping operations and reducing costs. Almost any shipping-related task for an online store can be automated, with rules set to account for any set of circumstances.
Top 3 shipping automation rules:
- Automatically configure your shipment (for example, carrier service/express/standard), and package weight so that retailers can just login, select all orders and print labels without needing to configure shipment details for each order.
- Tag orders (Pre-order and Backorder Items, Express Shipping, Standard Shipping, International Shipping and more.)
- Assign incoming orders to various workflows (for example sending it to a fulfilment provider like FBA), and add customisable assets (confirmation emails and packing slips for instance).
Untapped benefits of shipping automation
Shipping automation not only makes your operations more efficient, it can be used to support your wider ecommerce strategy. For example, retailers can set a rule to pick and pack marketplace orders first and use different branding or packaging for those orders. This can help a business stand out from the crowd and encourage repeat purchases, to grow marketplace sales.
Shipping is an overlooked source of data that can help give retailers an edge. While automation has a ‘set and forget’ reputation, shipping can be used to segment and better target customers. For example, shipping data can be used to request reviews (especially those customers who have had fantastic shipping experiences) or ensure that delivery is prioritised for VIP shoppers (high value or frequent buyers).
More retailers are using shipping automation for personalisation, data analysis, customer service, employee satisfaction, brand building and loyalty opportunities. With shipping automation, retailers can tag orders that have been placed for a certain event, such as Mother’s Day, to include an additional gift that should be inserted in the package.
Whether it’s Christmas, back to school, sales events, site-specific discounts, customer-specific gift giving, the role of automation shouldn’t be underestimated. Its ability to enhance customer experience is enormous.
Shipping can be expensive and time-consuming. Automation takes the headache out of the most complex fulfilment model and helps retailers scale profitably. By leveraging valuable data, shipping automation can also be developed to help drive customer loyalty and sales.
Download ShipStation’s free eBook The Untapped Potential of Shipping Automation to learn more about shipping automation.