November 8, 2012, 9:57 AM

How e-retailers can save time and money shipping this season

A few tweaks can make a big difference, says a shipping software vendor.

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E-retailers expecting a spike in orders this holiday season can save time and money with a few quick adjustments to their shipping strategies, says Curtis Mitchell, director of business development at shipping software company ShipStation.

“As soon as they start hearing Christmas music, they need to be ready for the early shoppers,” he says. “They really need to think about getting their products out there as quickly as they can.” ShipStation provides a web-hosted, software-as-a-service shipping system designed to integrate with a retailer’s e-commerce, e-marketplaces and comparison shopping sites, combining all orders into a single system for printing shipping labels.

Mitchell offers the following tips to retailers preparing for the holidays:

  • Get organized. Merchants shipping via FedEx or UPS should keep a detailed record of delivery times, particularly for overnight shipments. That way they can track whether they’re due a refund for a late delivery.
  • Be prepared. Retailers need to make sure they have enough packing supplies on hand to accommodate a surge in orders. Additionally, most major carriers, including FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service, offer free boxes to customers with accounts, Mitchell says. USPS will even deliver those materials to a merchant’s home, he says, which could help small sellers save significant amounts of money and effort preparing for the holidays.
  • Know carriers’ cutoff dates: Make sure staffers are aware of all carriers’ shipping cutoff dates for when packages must ship in order to arrive in time for the holidays. Many carriers post this information on their web sites, but retailers can also call them directly to find it, Mitchell says.
  • Do your homework. Research the shipping carrier, or carriers, that are both cost-effective and will please customers most, Mitchell says. For instance, some retailers like USPS priority mail service because they don’t include fuel costs, Saturday delivery fees, pickup fees or residential delivery fees.
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