The top 10 shipping tips to save time and money

Achieve long-term success by simplifying your supply chain.

If you’ve been thinking about making improvements to your supply chain, here are some simple ways to get started. These tips can help put your business on the path to reaching your goals and ensuring long-term success.

1. Streamline Business with the Experts. Consult with a third party logistics provider (3PL), and gain valuable expert guidance and access to world-class tools and services. Research your options, and identify a 3PL partner that best fits your business to serve as your virtual logistics department.

2. Automate Tasks and Improve Efficiency. You can save valuable time by automating as much of your shipping process as possible. There are shipping technologies that let you simplify your steps down to just a few keystrokes, even for complex tasks like commercial invoice generation. Some shippers and 3PLs offer applications that can be integrated into your company’s business system and customer-facing website to improve efficiency and customer service.

3. Develop Incredible Customer Service. A superior customer experience can lead to valuable repeat business, so provide your customers with shipping and delivery information up-front.  One way to do this is to implement shipping technology that enables you to provide tracking information and proactive status updates on your customers’ in-transit orders.  This will help cut down on “where is my order?” inquiries and allow your customer service department to handle more important tasks.

4. Increase Sales with Convenient Returns. With more and more shoppers buying online and through mobile devices, it’s essential to offer an efficient, web-based returns option. A recent Forrester Consulting study commissioned by UPS found that retailers who make it convenient and inexpensive for their customers to return products are likely to see increases in sales, customer loyalty, and incremental revenue.

5. Simplify Inventory Management. Whether you’re managing your shipping in-house or with a 3PL, make sure  you are able to review your shipping volume easily. Visibility is vital to smart inventory management. It allows you to more accurately plan staffing requirements, minimize inventory carrying costs, and improve cash flow by providing faster delivery confirmation.

6. Expand to the International Market. Doing business in new, emerging markets can be very beneficial to growing your business–but it can also be complicated. To help extend your business into international markets, work with a partner that has a strong global network and integrated customs clearance technology.

7. Improve Shipping Accuracy. If your company’s database includes inaccurate customer information, your packages could go to wrong addresses, increasing both your shipping costs and your risk of losing customers and their future purchases. Use shipping technology to validate addresses and even suggest alternatives when bad addresses are discovered.

8. Integrate Your Shipping Processes. Look for opportunities to streamline and integrate your shipping with other business processes to increase efficiency. For example, you can reduce data entry duplication and human error by integrating your shipping processes with your internal order-entry systems.

9. Choose the Most Efficient Mode of Transportation. The Internet and mobile commerce make it possible for your customers and suppliers to be down the road, across the country, or on the other side of the world. A carrier should offer multiple shipping options, including air, ground, rail, and ocean. Work with your carrier to determine the optimal mode(s) for your budget and shipping needs.

10. Stay Connected. Time is money, and delays in vital shipping information can cost you. Consider using mobile technology to gain quick access to tracking information and to calculate costs and transit times on the fly. Also consider adding mobile access to your shipping process to increase your responsiveness and help bolster relationships with your customers.

Take some time to review your shipping processes to ensure you have the tools and technology in place to withstand whatever comes your way.