When starting an e-commerce brand, every step along the way comes with its own stresses. Navigating the complicated processes of product distribution and fulfillment can be difficult and confusing, especially for first timers.
One way to eliminate the stress of dealing with third-party logistics, warehouses, and distributors is to ship your product from your home office. While this option may not be feasible at larger product quantities (if your apartment is anything like mine), its simplicity and cost-effectiveness prove worthwhile for a first product run. As mentioned in our Product Sourcing School, home shipping is a great place to start for any new brand.
Shipping from home has many benefits, but there are some drawbacks. By choosing home shipping as opposed to a 3PL or Fulfillment by Amazon, you’ll have to deal with websites like Amazon, eBay, and Shopify directly as opposed to them carrying fulfillment out for you or having a 3PL as a go-between. A 3PL would have a relationship with these websites which you will forgo by choosing home shipping. Also, by not using FBA your product won’t be featured as prominently on Amazon and won’t be a Prime product. These factors will likely affect sales in a negative way, given that these online stores are a source of potential traffic. This is something to consider when choosing your method of fulfillment.
Preparing for shipment
How the customer receives your product is an important aspect of the customer experience and can make or break your brand. The unboxing and enjoyment of the order is what will color the customer’s relationship with your brand, so think of it as your first impression. The package should be exciting, look professional, and most importantly, be in good shape upon delivery.
In order to ship your product from your home efficiently, investing in the right tools for the job is essential. Two useful items are a scale for weighing packages and a printer dedicated solely to printing shipping labels. If you expect to be printing labels for hundreds of orders, a dedicated label printer will pay for itself in the time that it will save you. Many highly-rated printers are relatively inexpensive. For example this Rollo Printer is under $200. In addition, a simple kitchen scale will work wonders for weighing your products before shipping
In the days of “unboxing videos” and social media exposure being the norm, proper presentation is essential for spreading brand awareness. For many brands, customers sharing their unboxing experience is critical to their marketing. Many go as far as to encourage customers to share a photo of their order on social media. Capitalizing on this trend is an effective way to increase brand exposure (and free of cost, if I might add).
You have a lot of options when it comes to the appearance of your packaging, but some things are a necessity. Your packaging should be enough to protect your product, especially if it is something fragile. Many experts recommend packing your item so that it can withstand a fall from 4 or 5 feet. The cost of higher-quality packaging is much less than that of replacing an item, not to mention the time saved and preventing a poor customer experience.
Shipping your products
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the options available to you for commercial shipping. A few questions you should consider:
- What shipping provider will you utilize?
- Will you offer expedited shipping?
- Will you use flat rate boxes or ship by weight?
- Will you ship internationally?
All of these factors will help determine a plan for how you get your product to your customers. Each Shipping provider will have different rates and benefits depending on the packages you will be sending. This online shipping calculator tool can help you determine costs and the best provider based on your needs.
Many people choose UPS as their carrier of choice due to competitive rates and widespread availability. However, each service has pros and cons. For example, USPS will provide free boxes if using their flat-rate service. However, you may be better off shipping your product by weight if it is a small or lightweight item.
Lastly, offering international or expedited shipping is an important decision to make for your brand. Shipping internationally is not only more expensive but accumulates delays with customs and requires additional documentation. Expedited shipping also causes expensive logistic problems, such as those covered in this article. As a new brand, international and expedited shipping may not be worth it until you have more domestic sales under your belt.
Returns and More
One of the best advantages of shipping from home is that you can personally oversee all of your orders and deal with customers directly. Handing over the distribution of your product to an outside source can make you feel helpless in the early stages of your brand. Shipping from home allows you to personally deal with special orders, complaints, and returns. These will likely not be a priority to a 3PL or distributor. Making your customers feel catered to, especially in early stages of your brand, will enhance their personal experience.
It is important to have the necessary labeling for returns included in the packaging. This would likely start at the online storefront, with an option to print return labels there. A 3PL wouldn’t handle customer-side interactions, another reason why working out of your home is an advantage. Being aware of shipping from start to finish allows for you to solve issues and complaints more easily.
Start shipping from home
Handing your inventory over to a third party after finally getting it manufactured can make you feel like you’re giving away all your hard work. By shipping your product yourself from home, you can save money and maintain greater control over distribution and customer service. This is a great option for new brands that may not have the capital to pay for a 3PL and want to maintain that personal touch.
Eventually, order quantities will increase and be too much for you to handle from home, and at that point a 3PL will be useful. Using a 3PL or other fulfillment service is inevitable if you want your brand and product sales to continue to expand. Having someone to handle your orders for you will alleviate stress and enable you to maintain a greater inventory with more efficient distribution. You should consider utilizing a 3PL when:
- You fulfill more than 10-20 orders in a given day
- You can no longer handle your inventory
- You spend too much time fulfilling your orders
One company, BakBlade, a men’s grooming device, shifted to a 3PL after they had reached a point where they needed to sell 20,000-30,000 units and couldn’t handle the volume. They switched to using ShipBob, one of our recommended 3PLs.
If you do find yourself looking for a 3PL, there are a lot of factors to consider. Check out this article on what to consider when looking for a third-party logistics partner. Choosing a 3PL is difficult and covered in greater depth in our Product Sourcing School. Your 3PL choice can significantly augment your customer experience.
Shipping your product to a customer is like the finish line in a marathon. All your hard work is finally paying off, and carrying out the last step yourself will only add to the accomplishment.