The Challenges Faced by E-Commerce Shipment Operations

Remember when you waited a few weeks to receive a package from your favorite e-commerce retailer? It seems like eons ago that this was the norm. But it’s only in the past decade that we have gotten used to expedited shipping.

As consumers, we love fast shipping, affordable shipping, or free shipping. But what about e-commerce businesses? Can the small e-commerce retailer always offer the best shipment options?

E-commerce shipment operations face many challenges we don’t think about. They have to find a way to keep up with modern demands from both consumers and retailers.

Here are the major challenges they face. This is what all e-commerce retailers should pay attention to:

Processing Orders

When a consumer places at their favorite online stores, they will receive an email stating that their order is being processed. The processing service is when the retailer checks if the inventory is in stock. They will then prepare the shipment operations to pack and then send the product.

When you order from a major retailer such as Amazon, the period between processing and shipping is very short. 

For a smaller retailer, this process will take much longer. A smaller retailer will use a smaller shipping company that will take time to process an order before shipping. As a small retailer, you have to figure out how to expedite your processing.

Slow Packing

We all know how efficient Amazon’s warehouses are. Within a few minutes, you can expect a worker to collect your goods and pack them. This is a challenge that smaller shipment operations face.

One way to fix this issue is to set up a packing table in your fulfillment center. This is a table that has adequate space for goods and packing material. This makes it easier for workers to pack the goods in an efficient manner. Packing tables make it easier for workers to do their work without making many errors.

Package Covers

We all know the classic saying “never judge a book by its cover.” If we take this literally, we shouldn’t judge the quality of writing based on a book’s cover art. But we know that an attractive book cover will draw in a reader.

Branded package covers are still rare among e-commerce companies. However, this is one way that your e-commerce store can stand out.

Let’s suppose a customer orders from your e-commerce store for the first time. Even if they are satisfied with your product, they might not remember your e-commerce store for the future.

This will change if you have a custom package cover. If it’s a beautiful design with your company’s logo, your customers will remember your brand.  

Delivering Packages

This is the big challenge that the smaller e-commerce retailers face. One wonders if small e-commerce retailers will have the ability to compete with large retailers such as Amazon.

As a smaller retailer, you have two options. The first is to prepare your own dedicated shipment operations team. This is an in-house team that works around the clock to ship and deliver packages

One group of team members will process orders and pass this information to another group. This second group will pack the goods into a box and then pass them to a third group. The third group will either deliver the goods or drop them off at a delivery service.

An alternative is to hire a courier service for your packages. With this option, you want to do your research on what are the most efficient courier services for your needs. If your focus is on expedited shipping, you want to go with private companies such as FedEx or UPS. If your focus is on charging low shipping, you can opt for USPS.

This is a great challenge that many e-commerce shipment operations face. They have to decide whether to handle delivery themselves or to outsource this to a courier service.

Handling Returns

E-commerce retailers have to be prepared for possible returns. When these happen, the shipment operations often hit a stump. What do you do with the goods? What do you do with the packaging? Is there space in the warehouse for returned goods?

These are the challenges faced when handling returns. Shipment operations have to plan ahead for possible returns. For example, what happens if packaging material cannot get re-used? In such a case, there has to be an excess of packaging material already in stock.

What happens if goods are returned used or damaged? What if the customer wants these goods to get replaced? In such a case, there have to be replacement goods ready to get shipped at moment’s notice.

Smaller e-commerce retailers have to take the time to prepare their return policy. You want to also find a way to reduce the rates of return. This comes with quality assurance, proper packaging, and offering competitive pricing.

Best Practices

Finally, if you are an e-commerce retailer let’s look at a few best practices that you can work out with your shipment operations. If you follow these best practices, you’ll have a better chance of acquiring customers and competing in the big leagues.

You want to first offer competitive pricing with shipping. Try to offer free shipping whenever possible. When this isn’t an option, have a flat rate for shipping. This rate should remain regardless of the number of items or the weight of a package.

Offer shipment tracking and insurance for all packages. Make sure your shipment operations team learns how to pack goods to prevent damage. 

You also want to spend time training shipment workers. Workers should get broken down into groups, each handling different tasks in the shipment process.

Improve Your E-Commerce Shipment Operations

Now you know the challenges that e-commerce shipment operations face. If you follow the steps in this guide you’ll have a better job at tackling these hurdles.

Make sure you follow the best practices. You want to also study the competition to see how you can compete at their level. Figure out how to package, ship, and deliver goods in the fastest way possible.

Please share this guide with other e-commerce entrepreneurs. You can also find more great business advice here on our website.