The 2012 holiday season is fast approaching, and what better way to prepare than to get your shipping processes in tip top shape. Making a few changes now can pay dividends during your peak season, helping you meet marketplace shipping requirements, ensuring that your packages arrive on time, and maybe giving you a few extra hours of sleep each night.
Use a consolidated shipping solution
If you are selling on multiple channels, consider using a software solution that will consolidate all of your orders into a single place and automate the communication between those channels. There’s no need to log into each selling account to process your orders and paste tracking information.
With a single click, you can create a shipping label with packing slip, email the tracking information to your buyer, and communicate tracking information to the sales channel. This is a great way to ensure that you meet marketplace shipping requirements without any extra work.
Take advantage of the USPS SCAN form
If you ship with the U.S. Postal Service, consider printing a shipment confirmation acceptance notice (SCAN) form at the end of each day. The USPS consolidates all of your shipments for the day into a single barcode. USPS employees then scan this barcode instead of each individual package.
This allows the tracking information for all packages to be recorded in the USPS tracking system, providing your buyers with confirmation that their package has entered the mailstream. This can really help to reduce the “Did my package ship?” question from your buyers.
Process orders in batches instead of one at a time
If you are creating a single shipping label at a time, you’re likely fulfilling 30 to 60 orders per hour. If you use software that can print labels in batch, you can double or triple your efficiency. Some sellers are concerned that batch shipping will increase the chance for human errors, but this can be minimized with a few safeguards.
Many shipping solutions can print identifying information such as the order number or product SKU(s) on each shipping label. You can also print a shipping label on half of a page and a packing slip on the other half so that you can easily match labels with inventory.
Use a thermal label printer
If you are printing labels on a laser printer, consider switching to a thermal printer such as the Zebra ZP 450 or DYMO LabelWriter 4XL. These printers can speed up label generation and they don’t use ink. UPS leases the Zebra ZP 450 thermal printer for only $2 per week and they provide thermal labels for free.
If you are not ready to move away from your laser printer, make sure you are printing on label sticker sheets instead of plain paper. You can waste a considerable amount of time by cutting and taping labels.
Pay attention to shipping carrier deadlines
Shipping deadlines vary for each carrier and service, so keep a list handy to ensure that you don’t ruin Joey’s Christmas. The carriers have yet to release their deadlines, but we’ll update the 2012 US Carrier Holiday Deadlines page when available.
Jason Hodges is the founder and President of Auctane LLC, a provider of cloud-based shipping solutions for ecommerce merchants.