Aside from providing quality products, shipping is another factor that greatly impacts the buying experience for your customers. For many consumers, the shipping process is a determining factor in their decision to return to your business. As a business owner, you’ll have to decide where you’ll ship, how often, and at what price. This information is not only vital to your business operations but to your potential customers as well. In this article, we’ll go over 3 important questions you should ask when setting up shipping for your e-commerce store.

1. Where are you shipping?

The first question you want to ask is where you’ll be sending your products. Because e-commerce stores aren’t limited by location, you have the ability to sell your products to a much larger audience. E-commerce stores have the advantage of offering shopping experiences on a local and worldwide scale. Depending on the types of products you bring to market, your business might not be able to survive without the option of international shipping. Conversely, if your products are primarily sold locally, you could lose valuable resources setting up your business for international shipping.

When making the decision to ship internationally vs. locally, there are several factors to consider including taxes, currency exchange, and language translation. Depending on which countries you choose to ship to, there may be additional taxes, fees, and exchange rates. You’ll also need to consider the shopping experience of buyers who might speak different languages or use different types of currency.  This is why understanding your market and audience is so important. If you know that the bulk of your potential customers are local, then it might not be worth the effort to set up your store for international shipping.

2. How fast can you ship?

Once they’ve placed their orders, your customers expect almost constant updates on when they’ll receive their products. Establishing a set shipping and handling time will help ease the minds of your customers and give them a clear window of time for receiving their products. Don’t overlook the importance of this step. Emerging businesses often overlook the shipping process and neglect to give customers a proper estimate of shipping and handling time.

Be honest with yourself and decide how often you’ll be able to process and fulfill orders. For example, if you know it takes 2 days to process and put an order in the mail, then your estimated shipping time should be 6-12 business days. This estimate accounts for the time it takes you to process the order as well as the time it’ll take for it to be shipped. Although this step is simple, it is very important to the buyer experience. The more information you provide your customers about their order, the better.

For many business owners, this is why 3rd party fulfillment has become so popular. Opting to use 3rd party fulfillment can help ease your in-house operations and simplify the shipping process for both you and your customers.

3. What are your shipping offers?

We all know that free shipping can be a great motivator for customers. Setting up convenient shipping options makes for an easier buying process. There are 3 main types of shipping offers that consumers typically encounter: free shipping, local pick-up, and flat-rate shipping.

Free shipping allows customers to receive their products without paying for shipping. Many businesses set a threshold for free shipping that can help entice customers to buy more products (e.g. free shipping over $50). Local pick-up allows customers to avoid shipping and handling times and pick up their product according to their own schedule. Flat-rate shipping gives customers a flat rate for receiving their products. You can set an overall rate (e.g.  $10 shipping on all orders), or charge per item shipped.

Deciding which shipping option, or combination of options, is best for you heavily depends on the potential gains and losses to your business. If you know that you’ll lose significant profit by offering overall flat-rate shipping, then you can limit the flat rate to orders over a certain amount. This process will take some time, as you’ll need to fully consider your resources and profit potential.

The shipping process is an important aspect of your e-commerce business. Fulfilling orders can be both exciting and overwhelming. With access to a global audience, there are many factors to consider when setting up your store for success. 3rd party fulfillment services can serve as a helpful resource for mediating the e-commerce shipping process. Regardless of whether you decide to sell locally or globally, it’s important to consider the needs of all your customers.