At some point, nearly every entrepreneur or small business owner is going to need to ship out a product. Yes, you can save a lot of overhead by building a business around online “information products” such as e-books, audiobooks, PDF materials, and online consultancy sessions, but at some point you’re going to want to create a tangible item to sell in addition to your digital-only items.
Customers like having a product they can hold in their hands, and developing a physical product is also a good way to indirectly spread the word about your business. Think of all the people you see reading books on the subway, or wearing branded t-shirts or hats into the supermarket. That type of marketing and branding work can only be done through physical merchandise.
Entrepreneurs typically spend a large amount of time developing the product itself and much less time considering how to ship the product. This is a big mistake. Shipping is an essential part of the product package, and often makes the difference between a good customer experience and a bad one. Shipping is also a huge part of business overhead, meaning that there are major cost differentials between shipping in an efficient way and shipping in an inefficient way.
In short: if you don’t take the time to plan out your shipping strategy before launching your product, you run the risk of sending out products that get broken in transit, sending out products that fail to delight your customer, and sending out products that cost your business much more than it needs to pay.
Do: Choose the right shipping material for each product
Before you send out your product, do some research into the best type of shipping material. Paperback books and t-shirts, for example, ship well in padded envelopes. CDs, on the other hand, can get damaged as envelopes are tossed from truck to truck, and need special CD mailers made of thick cardboard to keep them safe in transit. Larger products work well in corrugated cardboard boxes, but make sure you include packing material around your product so that it does not jostle around during transit.
Do: Consider the customer experience
Imagine opening a package from your favorite company. Which would you rather experience: digging your hands into crumbly, static styrofoam peanuts, or lifting aside a bubble packing liner made from recycled plastic?
What if the product turned out to be the wrong size? Wouldn’t you prefer return information to be included in the package, along with a note that you can ship it back in the very box in which it arrived?
Likewise, isn’t it always fun to get a little something extra, like a sticker or an inkpen featuring the company’s brand?
When you ship, think about the customer experience from beginning to end. Consider the popularity of the unboxing video, in which customers record and share every moment of the package-opening process. If your package does not delight your customer and provide a stellar customer experience, you are not doing your job as a business owner.
Don’t: Practice “Just In Time” Packaging
If you go out and buy one box every time you need to ship a product, you aren’t operating efficiently. Same goes if you run to the post office every time you need a new stamp. Every part of your product, from address labeling to weighing packages, needs to be streamlined, efficient, and done in bulk.
This also saves you a lot of money in the long run. A corrugated boxes manufacturer will give you a great deal on 100 boxes, and an even better deal on 1,000. Stock up, and you’ll save both time and money.
When it’s time to ship your first product, keep these dos and don’ts in mind. That way, you’ll be ready to pack and ship effectively and efficiently, and create loyal return customers in the process.
Guest author Rachel is a freelance writer and young professional who most enjoys writing about business best practices.