Choosing an Ecommerce Shipping Software
Why do I need a shipping software?Shipping can be one of the most time-consuming parts of running an ecommerce business. Fortunately, there are many shipping solutions out there to help streamline the process. We’ve compiled this decision guide to help you find the best shipping software for your business
Integrations You Need
A shipping software, at its core, helps you print shipping labels for your online orders. To do this (without copy and paste), you’ll need strong, reliable integrations with your selling channels and shipping providers to ensure that order information transfers seamlessly.
To manage and ship your online orders, shipping software connects to your various selling channels that include online marketplaces and shopping carts.
Going multichannel is a crucial way to grow in
You’ll want to connect your own online store to your shipping platform along with your marketplaces. Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce are all examples of online shopping carts you can integrate with
Apart from simply integrating with your current selling channels, a shipping app offers an array of integrations with other custom systems and tools to help manage your business.
Order Management Systems
An Order Management System (OMS) is a platform that multi-channel sellers use to organize a lot of orders from many different sources. Examples are BrightPearl, TradeGecko, and ChannelAdvisor. Whether you use one of these systems or not, a shipping software that works well with OMSs will be a good option as your business scales.
It’s possible that not every selling channel will be supported with
A good shipping solution will have integrations to bookkeeping solutions such as Quickbooks Online and Quickbooks Desktop. Direct, native integrations are ideal, but there are other options. If the platform has a robust API, there will likely be third-party integrations that have built integrations with these systems. This is much more affordable than relying on a freelance developer to build the connection.
Some selling channels offer expedited or preferred order programs for certain customer groups. Because there may be restrictions around these orders, it’s important to know if these orders will be supported. Take Amazon for example. While many selling channels integrate with Amazon, not every type of Amazon order is supported for all integrations. Seller Fulfilled Prime orders may not be able to export. Amazon only exposes these orders to certain partners. If these orders are supported, that’s a good sign that they’re an established enough shipping platform to ship the most time-sensitive orders.
Different platforms support carriers in different ways. Some work very closely with the carriers they partner with while others simply let you connect your carrier accounts. As your shipping volume increases, your relationships with carriers grows. The stronger a shipping software’s partnership is with carriers, the more you benefit. It can gain access to things like new services, best practices, carrier pickups, and even discounted rates.
A shipping software and its users benefit greatly from integrating with various carriers. The more carriers available, the more services you can access. Don’t be tied down to a single carrier or just a select few. Choose a shipping software where you’re in control of what carriers you want to connect to.
Discounted And Negotiated Rates
Carriers can usually offer you discounted or negotiated rates depending on your shipping volume. However, shipping software can offer you similar or better discounts simply by signing up for their service. Keep an eye out for any discounts available to you directly through your carriers or via your shipping solution.
Discounts for Existing Account
If you have an existing carrier account, verify that you can transfer these discounted rates to your existing account without signing up for a new account. It’s easier to show a carrier your shipping volume with one account than if you have multiple.
Additionally, check if your existing discounts can be combined with any that a selling channel advertises. An onboarding specialist should know if your discounts can be applied, or if you should choose one over the other.
Contracts vs Out-of-Box
A lot of discounted rates you negotiate with carriers are contracted and require you to ship a certain volume to maintain. However, the discounted rates available through a shipping software are frequently available upon signup. Verify your ability to access these rates and if you qualify without signing a contract.
Fulfillment Services (Third-Party Fulfillment)
If you use a third-party fulfillment company to process orders, verify that this is a supported integration. Look for options such as automatically sending orders to fulfillment companies and other ways to shorten their fulfillment time. The less time you have to configure orders that you won’t actually fulfill, the more efficient your business can be.
Features You Want
A great shipping solution offers features beyond printing shipping labels. Having all of your orders in one place gives you the opportunity to get a lot more work done. And you’ll do it more quickly. Capitalizing on these extra features can make shipping the easiest part of your business. These are some features to keep an eye out for.
Anything that can be automated in your fulfillment system should be. When you know how an order’s going to ship based on variables such as ship to location, and items ordered, it can take a long time to click through orders and apply everything. Based on the criteria you set up, carrier services & packaging can be applied. The order can then be assigned to a user. you can even automate special delivery options like “contains dry ice”. Ultimately, if an action can be applied to more than one order, you should automate that action to save time in the future.
Some selling channels may not be supported natively, or may not expose their data to third-party shipping software. If your workflow requires an Excel spreadsheet (.CSV, .XSLX), verify that you can easily import these orders and map the fields appropriately.
Sometimes you have a one-off order that you need to manually create a label for. It should be simple to quickly create a label and get on with your day.
Most shipping platforms won’t let you automatically apply the cheapest service to orders. This is frequently due to agreements between shipping software companies and carriers. However, a rate calculator is an effective tool to see all the available rates for each carrier. Thus you can apply these services to orders via automation rules.
Another time saver is batch shipping. Printing multiple labels at once can cut your work hours down significantly. Instead of clicking through every order to print a label, combine your picked orders into a single batch and print together. This is made even quicker by having automation rules in place to assign shipping services and package types.
International shipping can be an overly-involved process. Shipping software gives you an efficient way to automatically validate international addresses and create labels and customs forms in one place. This helps take the stress and guesswork out of international shipments.
Sellers and customers both like to check shipping updates. Look for a platform that offers more than the standard option to track packages. Real-time updates can be configured to display in delivery notifications, cutting down on the frequency of customers asking about a package’s status. There should also be a central location that you as a seller can view the status of all your shipments currently in transit.
For multi-carrier sellers, having a convenient way to handle all of your returns in one place is a massive timesaver. Features like partial returns make the returns process quick and easy. Some shipping apps even offer a returns portal which lets your customers initiate their own returns, saving you even more time.
A shipping software typically pulls all of your order data into one place. Detailed, accurate reporting can be an added bonus of this. It’s a time saver to not have to switch between your different selling channels to get information like sales figures or shipping paid.
A shipping app should let you inject your brand’s style into your shipping emails and documents. A huge benefit of a shipping solution is that it can give you the tools to elevate your branding. When a customer receives their package, they likely have no idea about the journey an item took to finally reach them. But a high-quality email, packing slip, and labels that have your brand’s logo in can really set you apart from the pack.
If you’re frequently on the go, a mobile app can help you to view new orders and even print labels. This is a fantastic tool for creating orders when you’re away from a computer, such as creating an order a trade show.
Support You Can Trust
A shipping software exists in an interesting space in the fulfillment process. Acting as a middleman between your selling channels, shipping providers, and customers, it might be the first place you encounter an error that originated in one of the primary integrations. A good support team for a shipping platform will support your business holistically. Look for a support team that
A great shipping software company should offer multiple ways to contact their support. Live Chat, phone support, email, and a self-help portal should be expected. When you can’t ship, everything backs up. The more efficiently you can resolve an issue, the quicker you can grow your business. It’s important that any shipping solution you go with also understands this.
When you first sign up for
Length of Trial
Typically, a free trial period can last between 14-30 days. You need to become comfortable with the program before your onboarding period is over. Verify that you are receiving the full version of the shipping app. If certain features are only available for paying users, this could cause you to miss out on features that may be business critical.
Help Center & Documentation
Check what resources they have available on the setup process, connecting your accounts, and beyond. When a platform’s user-facing documentation is more fleshed out, it reflects well on how well the shipping software is supported both internally and for users.
A great tech support agent should have knowledge beyond their platform. It’s a great sign when a company and
Communication & Updates
If you’ve got an established workflow, it’s not always a top priority to explore what new features are coming out. So you’ll want to be able to quickly and efficiently get this information. Some ways to go about this are:
Community Forum: Engaging with fellow users and agents alike is a great way to explore new ideas. It can be more effective than simply submitting a support case and talking to only one agent at a time.
Feedback Forum: Having a way to express your feedback about the direction a product should take is a great way to communicate your input directly to a company’s decision-makers. It can also allow you to become a pilot user for new features and beta programs before being released to the general audience.
Status Page: Sometimes global issues arise. It can impact a small group of people, an entire company, or if it is an issue somewhere like AWS, thousands of companies. A status page gives you an immediate reference point for if you need to reach out to a company to investigate your issue, or if you can wait it out and move onto something else.
Newsletters: If a new feature or integration gets released, this lets you quickly get the information when convenient to you.
Hardware & Printing Support
Being able to efficiently print labels and other documents is the goal of any shipping software. So having compatible hardware is necessary
Most carriers require specific, fixed label sizes that shipping platforms have to comply with. (Typically 4”x6”) These may be able to be printed on a thermal label or on standard 8.5”x11” printer paper.
Setting up a printer can be far more daunting than it should be. Due to this, a shipping software’s support team should be a great resource for printer setup. If you encounter any issues while printing, check their knowledge-base articles or let the support team know.
It’s a rule of thumb to get a USB scale that’s HID-compliant. If your scale uses a serial connection or connects using something other a USB cable, it’s advisable to first check with the support/onboarding team to make sure that it’s supported.
Scalability For Your Business
There’s a huge difference between making your first label in a trial period and what your everyday workflow will become. Be sure that the platform you choose can grow alongside your business.
As your workflow evolves, your shipping platform should too. You should be able to add new selling channels or move into a new warehouse without switching shipping apps. Changing solutions can be an ordeal, so see if your solution supports the following features so you know that you’ll have a winning shipping app for years to come.
Most shipping solutions build their pricing structure around your shipping volume. The more you ship, the more demanding your account is on the system and the more support you might require. Some support channels may not be available to smaller accounts. As you scale, you can gain access to features like live chat and inbound phone support, or even a dedicated account manager.
When you bring on new employees, they will need access to the shipping program. Whether these employees are full-time or seasonal, you will want to ensure that it won’t be a hassle to add new logins for them. Check to see if adding additional users onto an account is supported. And verify that it can be an add-on outside of having to pick an entirely new plan level.
If you have several warehouses you ship from or plan to in the future, it can be inefficient to manage multiple accounts. Many systems support multi-location shipping per single account,
User Restrictions & Dropshippers
Building out a team is tough. Bringing on new team members or even seasonal pickers means you’ll need to have extra security precautions. Assigning orders out or restricting users from seeing secure information becomes more necessary the larger your organization becomes. Furthermore, if you plan on having someone else dropship for you, there’s a larger need for restricting their access to what information they’re able to see. Being able to assign orders out and limit what information is visible will ensure that everyone works efficiently and without clutter.
If your shipping software is local (downloaded to your computer), you will need to verify that your computer’s operating system supports it. Some are not compatible with Mac or
If a shipping app is web-based (in the cloud), you’d access it like you would any other website. These often run on your computer regardless of your computer’s operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux). With a web-based app, be sure to keep your browser up to date. Frequently, if your computer can run the latest version of your web browser, it can run the shipping app. Updates for a web-based platform also typically occur more regularly. You may log in and the browser page refreshes to provide you with the latest features and bug fixes.
Clicks add up. The longer it takes to do one thing, the longer it will take to do it time and time again. As your order volume increases, be mindful of how long it takes to create a label. If you only create a few a day, a more manual process may not seem like a big deal. But if you have hundreds of orders to fulfill at once, this can become a time-suck. Efficiently navigating between orders, tabs, etc. will impact how long it takes to ship. So, while you may apply all your information manually now, there’s always time to shave off fulfillment speed.
Shipping apps are a great tool for most users. However, as your business grows, you may find a more specialized order management solution that works best for your team. If that’s the case, look for a shipping platform that includes a shipping API. A shipping API quickly automates label creation once everything else has been finished. If that’s the case, there are several options available to you, such as ShipStation’s API product, ShipEngine.
A sure sign of a good shipping solution is when customers of all shapes and sizes are willing to give a positive testimonial. The software company you’re researching should give clear examples of small businesses and large brands that rely on their software. You might find customer story videos or case studies on their website that show how their software uniquely helped those businesses grow.
An onboarding agent can set up a workflow for you, but what does someone else that uses this shipping platform have to say about it? They can have insight that is just as valuable as