If you’re planning to ship products, you’ll need to think of other considerations besides choosing a carrier and making sure customers are satisfied. Here’s how our experts weigh in on some
of the other, often unexpected, aspects of shipping.
“For returns, if we make a mistake, we correct it and bury the expense. But if the customer simply changes his mind, he can return within 60 days at his own expense, which we think is sensible and fair. We don’t have a minimum order. If someone wants to buy $10 worth of product, we’ll ship it even though we might not make money on it. You can figure that your shipping costs are going to be 8% to 12% of the value of the goods, depending on how heavy they are and the distance they’re traveling. We also use highly integrated software that allows customers to place an order online, after which the ticket automatically prints in the warehouse. The order gets filled, the invoice prints and the credit-card payment is done automatically; so we’ve eliminated handling. Finally, in cases where a credit-card order is placed and the billing address and shipping address don’t match: The business is out of that money if that transaction is made with a stolen credit card.” — Alan Beecher, vice president, The Beecher Group, Des Moines, Iowa
“To advertise our shipping, we have an in-house public relations department that reaches out to traditional print media in addition to relevant blogs and via social media. We also utilize Google AdWords and Facebook Ads to promote our products and services, and do a monthly email blast with news, offers and product launches. In the case of returns, we don’t pay for return shipping like some of the larger retailers are able to do, but if the product is unused and returned within 10 days, we offer a refund. If the product is used, we offer to exchange the item for a different shade or product. We have an amazing track record for customer service—and our customers love to be able to actually speak to a person when they have a question or issue. It makes a huge difference.” — Scott Catto, managing director, Three Custom Color Specialists, New York City
“By [synchronizing] UPS, FedEx and USPS with programs such as the Microsoft Office suite of products, we are able to accurately process shipments at lightning speed. To make customers aware of our services, we have logos on our site and promotion cards that go in each order or shopper’s bag. Our most popular method of communicating our services and flat-rate fees has been word of mouth from customer to customer.” — Brian J. Esposito, CEO,AVEYOU Beauty Boutique/AVEYOU.com, Belmar, New Jersey
“We don’t offer returns, and we’ve actually had no issues with that policy so far because we make sure people understand what they’re buying and know what the product will do. If you’re doing a lot of shipping, you can integrate with programs such as UPS WorldShip, which prints a receipt for the orders that go out so you have a log of them and don’t get stuck missing an order. And always insure your packages. UPS will insure up to $150 automatically, but if you send out a $500 order that gets lost, you don’t want to absorb the cost of all that product.” — Tonya Reed, president, Uncle Funky’s Daughter, Houston
Tracy Morin is a freelance writer and editor based in Oxford, MS.