If you’re finding that shipping items to customers is taking up too much of your small business’s time, resources, and budget, it’s time to consider implementing shipping software.
Shipping software is a cloud-based, subscription solution that can save your small business time and money and enhance your brand’s customer service and overall experience.
Don’t underestimate shipping software.
It enables you to do more than just print shipping labels. It can help your small business reduce shipping costs, streamline processes, and keep track of orders from multiple sales channels all in one place.
Step 1: What are your small business’s shipping needs?
The first step to shopping for the best small business shipping software is no different from what the first step would be if you were shopping for a new vehicle or computer: ask yourself, what are your needs?
To help you think of all the shipping and order fulfillment requirements you want to solve, do this:
- Write down your current shipping and order fulfillment process.
- Write down the shipping options, rates, and capabilities that you currently have.
- Write down the additional shipping options, rates, and capabilities you would like to have.
When you’ve completed this exercise, you will have a shopping list of what your shipping software solution should take care of.
Step 2: Compare features and benefits of shipping software solutions
When it comes to selecting shipping software for small business, you want to be smart and choose a solution that will serve your needs today and down the road.
To assist you in checking out what the marketplace has to offer, here is a series of questions to include in your review.
1. Does the shipping software solution have strong customer support?
When you go to setup and first use your new shipping software solution you want things to be as simple and smooth as possible. That’s why excellent customer support is so important.
Make sure that whichever provider you end up going with has a customer support team that knows their small business shipping software solution inside and out, that they are responsive, have a strong reputation for problem-solving, and multiple ways for you to connect with them (i.e., phone, email, live chat, video tutorials, documentation and/or self-help portal.)
2. Does the shipping software easily integrate with multiple shipping carriers?
If you’re like most small businesses, you use more than one shipping carrier to execute your shipping. Therefore, the best shipping platform for small business is one that integrates with multiple shipping carriers—even ones you don’t currently use, because later that may change.
With multiple shipping carriers accessible through one dashboard, you’ll be able to easily compare rates and services and pick the most cost-effective service and supplier.
The best small business shipping software should also support various modes of transportation i.e., parcel, truckload, and less than truckload because each type has different rules, regulations, and standards that must be followed.
3. Does the shipping software easily integrate with other applications?
The more integrations a shipping software solution offers the more it can help your small business become more efficient.
First, does it integrate with your e-commerce platform and any other selling channels you are using e.g., Shopify, Amazon, Etsy, etc.?
If you are using a third-party order fulfillment company to process your orders, does it integrate with their system?
Does it integrate with your enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, order management system (WMS) software, and/or bookkeeping/accounting software so these systems can receive all-important shipping data?
4. Does the shipping software allow for custom integrations?
Maybe today or maybe a few years from now, you will need to be able to customize your shipping software to meet a need that’s unique to your small business.
The best shipping software for small business makes this possible because they provide access to their application program interface (API) and a detailed developer guide.
This will ensure that your development team will be able to design a custom application that will integrate seamlessly with the shipping software.
5. Does the shipping software print compliant labels for multiple sales channels?
If your small business sells its products on multiple channels e.g., Shopify, Amazon, Etsy, etc., you must produce a label that follows the stipulations of that marketplace so that the order can be filled.
The best small business shipping software will allow you to set up rules for each label type to guarantee it meets the channel’s requirements.
6. Does the shipping software let you print multiple labels at once?
If you have a bunch of orders to process at once, the last thing you want to do is to have to click through every order before you can print a label.
The best shipping software for small business gives you the ability to batch and print multiple labels at the same time.
This is a great convenience that will save you hours of time over the course of a year.
7. Does the shipping software allow you to display rate options at the checkout?
When customers reach your store’s checkout most will want to see what their shipping options are so they can select the one they prefer before they complete their purchase.
Before you commit to a shipping software solution, make sure it gives you the ability to display calculated, live shipping rates at checkout.
8. Does the shipping software give you access to discount shipping rates?
Don’t like negotiating for shipping discounts? With the best shipping platforms for small business, you won’t have to.
The providers of the best shipping software for small business leverage their volume of customers to negotiate attractively low rates with multiple carriers i.e., USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc., which they pass on to their small business clients.
You might also be able to get additional discounts based on the volume of shipments you are sending out, but you’ll have to negotiate directly with the carriers you use.
9. Does the shipping software simplify international shipping?
There’s a lot more to shipping your products to International customers vs. ones in the United States.
It doesn’t have to be complicated if you choose a shipping software for small business solution that automatically verifies addresses, calculates duties and taxes, and generates all the forms and documents that are required.
10. Does the shipping software provide you with combined reporting?
If you’re using multiple carriers, switching from one application to another to view shipping data can be a real time suck.
With the best shipping software for small business, this inconvenience is eliminated because it combines all your shipping reports and data into one universal dashboard.
11. Does the shipping software provide tracking?
Knowing where a package is at during any point of the delivery journey is something both the seller and buyer want to know.
The best shipping software solutions will provide real-time updates on the status of all packages in a combined dashboard view, and real-time customer updates via email and/or a tracking page on the seller’s website.
12. Does the shipping software simplify the returns process?
With the best shipping platforms for small business, returns aren’t a hassle even if you’re using multiple carriers to make your deliveries.
These software solutions offer your customers a self-serve return experience. This makes your involvement in the process minimal so you can focus more of your time on other aspects of your business.
13. Does the shipping software have a mobile app?
Orders can come in whether you’re in the office or not. Shipping software for small business that has a mobile app will allow you to view orders and print labels no matter where you are.
14. Is the shipping software future-proof?
You know what your small business is today but what will it look like 6 months or a year from now?
The items that are popular today could be totally different a few months from now.
Or you could be getting more out-of-state orders than local orders.
You might be using more selling channels or have to outsource your order fulfillment to a third-party company.
The point is, over time your business can evolve. Having to switch to a different shipping software solution is a hassle.
Avoid the possibility by selecting a shipping software for small business solution that will meet the needs you have today and the ones you will have in the future.
Step 3: Read user reviews to narrow down the shipping software candidates
You’ve done your research and comparisons and now you have a shortlist of the best shipping software for small business solutions for your needs but before you reach out to the providers, there’s one more thing you should do: read online reviews.
Reading online reviews is a great way to get a feel for what the best shipping platforms for small business are like to use from fellow small business owners who already have them.
These insights may reveal pros, cons, features, and benefits you haven’t come across in your research or considered on your own.
Online reviews are a valuable perspective that could end up being the tipping point between selecting one shipping software solution for small business over another.
Shipping software: a worthwhile next step for your small business
If you’ve found the shipping side of your operation has been keeping you awake at night, it’s a sign that you’re ready for a shipping software for small business solution.
It might seem like a big next step for your company but once you realize how it can simplify and streamline your shipping processes, combine shipping data, reduce costs and help enhance the brand experience for your customers, you’ll be glad you took the plunge.