As you prepare for your campaign, there are so many things to do–line up your manufacturing, build your email list, prepare your campaign video–and thinking through the logistics of shipping your product may not be a top priority. Our advice: Don’t wait too long to figure this out! What we’ve learned from experienced entrepreneurs is that shipping is critical to both keeping your customers happy and protecting your bottom line. Entrepreneurs often underestimate the time and thinking that goes into developing a strong shipping strategy. By understanding the platforms, tools and services out there, you can make an informed decision on what aspects of the process you can handle yourself, and when you’ll need some extra support from a partner.
Types of Platforms and Services
Luckily, there are many platforms and services to choose from that will help you do everything from confirming addresses and printing shipping labels to even packing, storing and shipping your product.
Order management: Software that’s used mainly to confirm orders before the shipping process has started. Through this type of software you can manage surveys, perk add-ons, backer address changes and other data from your campaign.
Fulfillment software: E-commerce fulfillment software can help you manage and ship orders from multiple sales platforms. Entrepreneurs can use these kinds of platforms to select shipping carriers (ex. USPS), send tracking numbers and print shipping labels.
Third-party logistics providers (3PLs): 3PLs offer a full service shipping solution. Products are housed and shipped from a warehouse and many often include return logistics services as well.
These categories just give you a sense of the services available. But how do you know what tools are right for you?
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach
With so many different products and tools available, there really is no one-size-fits all approach to your shipping strategy. As your company grows, your strategy will evolve to best fit your needs. These three options can help you figure out where you should start.
DIY (Do-It-Yourself): You package, label and drop off packages to the post-office, or hand-deliver them yourself. Shipping on your own steam.
- Who’s it good for? If you are just launching your business and have a smaller order volume or a smaller product you feel comfortable packing yourself, this is a good place to start.
Mixed-Method (Do-It-Yourself with help): You’re shipping on your own steam but using a mix of fulfillment tools and partners. You could be using fulfillment software to select a shipping carrier and print labels domestically, while using a 3PL to manage your international orders.
- Who’s it good for? You’re receiving a regular stream of orders, and need to find ways to scale and streamline your operations. You may have some aspects of the process under control, but need consultation in other areas.
Full-service partner: You’re using a 3PL to manage and ship all of your orders.
- Who’s it good for? You are receiving a high volume of consistent orders and you need the support of a full-service partner get orders out in a timely way. You need to store your products in a warehouse to accommodate your volume.
What to consider?
Whether you’re shipping a product yourself or getting some help along the way, every entrepreneur must consider:
- Average Order Value (AOV)
- Product Dimensions
- Product Type/Components
- Location (Where Products are Shipping from and to)
- Overall Product Margins
- Carrier Preferences
- Preferences for Tracking/Insurance
These are just some considerations around your general order consistency, and product type, to think about when you’re not only determining how much to charge for shipping, but also determining what tools and services you will choose to help you get the job done.
When choosing the right partner for you, here are some things to consider:
- Price of the service: How much will the services costs? For 3PLs, look closely at fixed monthly costs.
- Location: If choosing a 3PL, you want to consider the proximity of their fulfillment warehouses to your customers. Shipping products directly to customers from an internationally based factory will be more expensive than shipping products to the US, and shipping to customers directly from there.
- Customer service: If working with a 3PL, your customers’ satisfaction will depend on your partner’s ability to deliver. When evaluating 3PLs, take into consideration how responsive companies are to your questions and concerns.
- Complexity/Ease of use: What services seem to best fit your needs? You may not need a super complex solution if your product is small and can be shipped from your living room.
- Expertise: Can a partner help out with a part of the process where you lack knowledge and experience?
As you can see, there are a lot of ways to go about this process and lots to consider. Below we’ve provided a list of partners and services that entrepreneurs have used to ship their products. We hope these resources will help you start the shipping process on the right foot.
Customs and Duties Information
Fulfillment/Postage Printing Software
Third-Party Logistics (3PL) Providers
Ready to start a campaign on Indiegogo? Visit Indiegogo’s campaign creation page to learn more.