How to Choose Shipping Software to Scale Your E-Commerce Business

e-commerce strategies

Shipping is often one of the most time-consuming aspects of running an e-commerce business. Implementing shipping software can be a big step in scaling your business — providing a way to create shipping labels quickly, to gain access to carrier discounts, and more.

With the holidays not too far away, now is the time to get smart about your options. Before deciding to buy, it’s important to know which software features to prioritize.

Start With Integrations

First and foremost, your shipping software should have strong integrations with your selling channels to help you manage order information and print shipping labels for your online orders. You should start by integrating your software with your own online store.

A shipping application should enable you to connect with multiple online shopping carts, such as BigCommerce, Shopify and WooCommerce. Going multichannel can be essential in spurring growth, so confirm that your shipping software can connect with the various marketplaces you currently or potentially could use. Online marketplaces to consider include Amazon, Etsy and Walmart.

In addition to your selling channels, your shipping software should offer integrations with systems and tools that make internal processes more efficient. For example, many multichannel retailers use order management systems (OMSs) to handle many different orders from various channels. Be sure your shipping software offers this integration even if you don’t currently have an OMS implemented.

As your business grows, it’s better to solve for potential problems before they arise. Perhaps you have a selling channel or OMS that doesn’t specifically integrate with the software. Check for existing connectors to import orders. If there are none, check for a detailed developer guide so developers can build a custom API or XML integration.

Shipping software platforms may treat carriers and providers differently. It’s important to choose software that works closely with your carriers so you can reap benefits such as new services, best practices, carrier pickups, and discounted rates.

In fact, shipping software can offer you discounted or negotiated rates just by signing up for a service. Look for any discounts available directly through your carriers or shipping solution. Because of benefits like these, you shouldn’t limit yourself to one carrier — connecting with multiple carriers can allow you to access more services. With multiple carriers, make sure your shipping software lets you have control over each one.

Key Features to Seek

Though label printing is the main purpose of shipping software, that should be the bare minimum it can do. Easily and quickly managing your orders can be just as important. Whether you’re handling a relatively small shipping order, or you’re fulfilling hundreds of orders a day, you can speed up the process by leveraging the automation features within a shipping solution.

In fact, your platform should allow you to automate every process that can be automated. For example, manually clicking through orders and applying variables such as location can be tedious. Ultimately, if criteria can be applied to more than one order, you should be able to automate to save time in the future.

Some other features that can save you time and effort are international shipping capabilities, return portals, batch shipping, and tracking. International shipping features enable you to validate international addresses automatically and create labels and customs forms in one place. This can help alleviate stress and uncertainty when managing international shipments.

Self-service portals that let your customers track their orders and initiate their own returns are convenient for both the seller and customer, and can cut down on customer service communication.

Shipping apps should offer business tools to help elevate your reporting and branding. With order data consolidated in one place, detailed and accurate reporting should be an add-on that will allow you to avoid switching between various selling channels to get information.

Inserting your brand’s style –with email graphics, packing slips and branded labels, for example — can help your company stick out from the competition. Another helpful business tool is a mobile version of the app. This is a great way to create orders, view new orders, and print labels when you’re on the go.

Trustworthy Support

Your shipping platform support team should be able to support most aspects of your business beyond shipping. When shopping for shipping software, look for a support team comprised of e-commerce experts to help you identify and solve all kinds of operational problems to keep work flowing.

Specifically, try to identify multiple support channels that allow you to contact the support team, such as live chat, phone, email and an FAQ page. Also, take a look at your provider’s help resources and guides. You can assume that more robust documentation is reflective of their dedication to helping you succeed.

A good support team will provide a smooth, comprehensive onboarding process. This is vital, as it will determine the pace of the relationship with your software. For example, you should be assigned a real person to run the conversion and get basic systems set up.

Make sure you have access to the full version of the app during the onboarding period. You may only have a trial period of 15-30 days, and it’s important that you have a basic understanding of each of its capabilities before the trial period ends.

Enabling efficient label and document printing is a shipping software provider’s bread and butter. Knowing how it supports printers, scales and barcode scanners is extremely important. Since the ultimate goal of shipping software is to support your printer and label printing, you should have easy access to the shipping software’s support team or their guides to help set it up.

Your shipping software support team should also be able to give you insight into what scales and printers to buy, and the requirements you must follow for each.

Scaling Your Business

Shipping software can play an essential role in scaling your business. As your workflow grows, your shipping platform should evolve with it so that you can avoid the inconvenience of switching shipping apps.

For instance, onboarding new employees into your shipping software shouldn’t be a hassle. Check to see if your software can add new users onto your account without having to pick a new plan level.

Another feature that’s important to a growing business is the ability to assign orders and restrict unauthorized users from seeing secure information. This will ensure that everyone works efficiently.

Price inevitably will be a factor in your buying decision. Fortunately, shipping solution providers offer different rates based on your shipping volume. Note that some support channels may not be available to smaller accounts. As your business grows, you should be able to gain access to more software features, like live chat and inbound phone support, or even a dedicated account manager.

When customers of all shapes and sizes are willing to give a positive testimonial, that’s a sure sign of a good shipping solution. As you would do before making most important purchases, be sure to research customer reviews and success stories for valuable insights. There should be customers from small and large businesses offering user testimonials and clear examples of how they rely on the software and how it has helped them grow.

Though there are many aspects to consider, taking the time to go through each feature can ease your purchase decision and eventually give your team confidence in your system. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a decision maker in a small business or enterprise, you should take the steps to integrate a shipping platform that will help you grow and manage your operations effectively.

John Kinny

John Kinny is general manager of ShipStation.

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