A brief guide to shipping for online retailers
One of the major questions that always crops up is ‘How do I ship my item?’
One of the first things you may want to check is to ensure that you are not trying to sell prohibited items that either cannot be sent or incur special handling fees because they are classed as dangerous, hazardous or explosive.
One of the things that you may have difficulty in shipping are fireworks; there are only a handful of couriers worldwide that will take anything of an explosive nature. Liquids of any description need to be assessed first to see if they contain any chemicals that are banned from shipping or are treated in a way considered as hazardous and where specialist shipping may be required.
One such item in the UK is nail polish. A small bottle of nail polish is nice, easy, light and very sellable. When you take it to the Post Office you will find that it is classed as a hazardous material and you will be charged extra as it will have to go through the Royal Mail system differently to that of general mail.
When you are looking at the items you are wanting to retail online do check a courier’s exclusion/prohibited lists.
Shipping prices, postal services and courier services vary massively in the marketplace. It is a very competitive market and there are lots of people wanting to deliver your parcel to the end customer. Therefore, follow some simple steps and you can get your shipping off to a fine start.
You will also find on the online platforms there are items which are not permitted to be sold in eBay or Amazon; so it is well worthwhile checking the seller platform you going to use to ensure you’re not going to try and sell a prohibited item.
Before you purchase a bulk load of products ask your wholesaler, importer, manufacturer for a finished sample of the item that you going to send as it would be packaged when it arrives with you as a stock
Once you have the sample product you need to decide whether it needs repackaging or whether you can just send it as it comes from the manufacturer/supplier.
Packaging: Bubble wrap, void fill, boxes and mail bags are easily available online; do your research as the prices vary And don’t forget to add the cost of every little bit of packaging to your overall postage cost.
Conduct a ‘drop test’. If your item is potentially breakable during transit a good idea is to hold it out at arms length at approximately 1 metre off the floor and let it go; if it breaks or is damaged on the first drop then you need to review your packaging and the cost of your packaging materials. However if it takes numerous attempts to create damage then you’ve probably got a product that will get through the couriers processing system.
Remember you can take all the time in the world in making your package look pretty but once it joins the thousands of packages in a courier’s distribution depot it just becomes another box and will be dropped, moved from several vehicles, may go through numerous conveyor belts and then get thrown about in the back of a van on the day of delivery.
Weigh it. The very minimum you need to know is the overall packaged weight of your product once you have packaged it for You need to make sure that you put everything in the package that you would put on it once it is ready to go into the postal system.
If you are putting flyers, free gifts, picking notes, invoices into the package include the weight of those as well, sometimes a piece of paper weighing 10g can make all the difference between which postal rate you are going to be charged.
Measure it. know your finished package dimensions. Then, when you are researching which postal service you’re going to use, ensure that your item fits within the dimensions of the If not you could find yourself being penalised and having additional charges applied because your package falls into the next price banding. A number of carriers will also have restrictions on overall length – always read their small print.
Always try to purchase your postage online. There are lots of suppliers offering collection services or drop-off points, unless your volume is big enough to warrant opening an Research the online courier services and have relationships with multiple carriers to ensure you get the best deal.
Volumetric: If you are selling product overseas most couriers will use volumetric weight as opposed to physical dimensions, therefore it is always worth knowing your dimensions so you can put it into the volumetric weight calculator.
This one thing catches people out more frequently than anything else. They mis-price their international postage by applying physical weight as opposed to volumetric weight, if you do this it could cost you far more than the profit you are making on the sale.
Overseas postage. Ensure you get quotes from a number of different carriers or online brokers as you will find the discounts available will vary wildly from one online seller to another. Also look out for the promotion codes available when shopping for international shipping; you could easily save 5-10% by just creating a search and then leaving their web
If you are shipping valuable items with very high price points always ensure you use a traceable and trackable service with a signature at the point of That way you can ensure your customer has received it; some customers occasionally try to claim that they did not receive their parcel!
Freepost: if you are using freepost services you need to be adding your postage and packing costs to your retail price. This is perfectly acceptable on all channels, however always remember if you have a refund, loss, failed delivery, damage or other customer service related issue you will not be able to deduct the cost of the postage from the refund as no postage would have been charged in the transaction.
The above may sound all very basic or it may sound like hard work. You normally only have to measure and weigh your packaging once and if you put it into a spreadsheet or database you’ve got it for future reference. When prices increase or couriers options change you will be easily able to review who you are going to send your item with.
- Therefore it is always worth adding a small margin to your postage and packing to cover such losses that will inevitably happen, regardless of how careful and diligent you are. In my business I add 2% of the retail price on all my products to cover these inevitable losses.
- You also need to remember that you are responsible for the shipping of the product and for it arriving with the customer. There are no circumstances where you as the seller and shipper of the product can mitigate your responsibility to ensure that that product arrives safely with the customer.
- If you try to avoid your responsibility as a seller and the customer makes a complaint to the platform you could find yourself being penalised by the platform and in the worst cases having your seller account suspended. That is why you want to be very focused on your shipping partners.