With insight and contributions from our partner SkuVault. SkuVault is an inventory & warehouse management system for ecommerce that helps you cut down on inventory errors! Visit their site for a free demo and Black Friday & Cyber Monday tips.
Shipping supplies are something that most eCommerce entrepreneurs don’t think about. That’s completely understandable since boxes and bubble wrap aren’t as exciting as developing a product, designing an online store, and making your first sale. But, if you don’t think about shipping supplies in advance, you’ll cut into your profits and your product’s brand identity could suffer.
When selecting supplies, you need to consider what type of unboxing experience you want your customers to have, and then select shipping supplies that complement your overall goals. You also need to plan to organize your supplies so that you maximize your time and resources, and aren’t making last minute stops at your local office supply store.
Thankfully, you don’t have to break the bank to give your customers a wow experience when they open your product, and all it takes is a little advanced planning.
In this post, we’ll look at cost-effective ways to maximize your shipping supplies.
1. Pick the right shipping supplies
When shipping boxes first began in the early 1900s with USPS Parcel Post, the goal was simple – transport a brown box from point A to point B.
Today, shipping goes far beyond a brown box. There are four main factors to consider when choosing the right type of shipping supplies for your product:
Weight: As you choose your packaging, remember that shipping carriers charge based on the package’s size, weight and destination. You will save money by using lighter and smaller packaging versus large boxes. Don’t use a large box if a smaller box or bubble mailer will do.
Protection: Shipping supplies are designed to protect the items you’re shipping, but they can only do that when you use the right packaging material for your product. Are you shipping wine? Use a dedicated wine shipper. Are you concerned about your item being in the elements? Use a poly mailer that is water resistant.
Aesthetics: Today, packaging is intimately tied to your brand experience. Many online retailers customize their packaging so that it differentiates them from competitors and gives their customers a wow experience when opening the box. Be creative and make opening your product an event for customers.
Price: The price of shipping supplies is usually the first factor eCommerce entrepreneurs think of when ordering supplies. Although the overall cost of supplies is important, don’t try to pinch pennies by shipping items in boxes that are too small or with insufficient cushioning material. If you do, your store’s product and brand will suffer.
2. Be creative in packaging
Now that you know what criteria to look for in shipping supplies, it’s time to select supplies that work best for the products you’re selling. Businesses should streamline their packaging material as much as possible. For example, many eCommerce businesses use one or two primary boxes, one or two mailers, and one type of package cushioning for all of their shipments.
There are a few common shipping options for packaging:
Boxes — Boxes come in every shape and size. They can be light-weight such as corrugated mailers that are great for shipping books, or heavy duty, which as their name implies, are ideal for heavy items. When selecting the ideal box for your product, make sure to leave approximately two inches on each side of the product for the cushioning material.
Bubble Mailers – Mailers are a favorite with eCommerce shippers because they are light weight and save on postage. Bubble Mailers come in either Kraft paper or poly exterior and are a good option for items that need a moderate degree of protection.
Poly Mailers – If you’ve ever ordered clothing online, it’s likely that it arrived in a poly mailer. Poly mailers are ideal for non-breakable items because they’re light weight, and moisture and tear resistant.
Cushioning – Whether you use bubble wrap, foam rolls, peanuts, air pillows, or a combination of all of them, don’t skimp. Cushioning is inexpensive insurance that will help ensure your product arrives safely. And remember, if you’re using bubble wrap, the bubbles should be on the inside for maximum protection.
3. Storing supplies and inventory
A lot of eCommerce retailers invest a lot of time and resources into managing their product inventory – but what about supply inventory? Those same methods you utilize to track quantities, locations, bundles, and re-order points can be applied to managing shipping supplies as well.
Track quantities – An inventory management system will allow you to keep track of how many boxes, bubble mailers, cushioning supplies, and more you might have. Keeping track of how much of each of these supplies are in your warehouse at any given time ensures that you maintain the necessary quantities, so you can get your orders out as quickly as possible.
Track locations – Maximize the amount of space in your warehouse by utilizing your inventory management system’s “locations” to store your excess supplies. Locations allow you to put your products (or, in this case, shipping supplies) wherever you want within your warehouse, without having to worry about manually rearranging your items when you get more stock in, while also making it easier to find individual items.
Bundling – You can use the same technology from your inventory management system that allows you to bundle products, to help you to bundle certain supplies as well. If you’re unfamiliar with bundling (also called “kitting”), it’s a feature that allows you to sell both a bundle (say, selling a headset, a controller, and a charging cable as an a video game accessory “kit”), as well as that bundle’s components, simultaneously.
Re-ordering – Using an inventory management system to oversee your supplies would also allow you to set re-order points. Once your supplies dipped below a certain custom, predetermined quantity, you’d be automatically notified to order more. You could also then run reports to see which supplies you used the most and how long it took you to use them, which helps you to keep your capital from being tied up in shipping supplies.
Managing your shipping supplies will never be as interesting as managing your products, but hopefully in this post you’ve learned some inexpensive, non intrusive ways to get the most out of your shipping supplies. Do you have any good ideas to maximize your shipping supplies? Join the conversation on Facebook or Google+.