Shipping is where eCommerce meets real life. And whenever the online goes offline, well, things get complicated for merchants. Fortunately, plenty of good advice is available to help you move past your most persistent issues.

Here at Easyship, we’ve been helping merchants save time and streamline shipping for seven awesome years. We offer a suite of free tools to help you find the cheapest rates on shipping, plus tips on breezing past anything that's put a kink in your day.

Here are the 10 most common shipping problems for merchants – and 10 proven ways to resolve them once and for all.

1. Shipping Costs (And How to Lower Them)

As an eCommerce merchant, you’re always looking for ways to save on expenses like shipping.

Never realized that you’ve been overpaying for shipping services? You may be a genius. For the rest of us, here are a few ways to reduce the cost of shipping:

  • Compare courier prices: Every courier company offers a range of shipping services at different price points. Shop around on courier websites to see who has the best rates for your shipping needs. Alternatively, you can use a free shipping calculator to aggregate and compare the best rates all in one place.
  • Use free packaging: You can order free boxes and envelopes from courier websites like USPS and FedEx. While this means you won’t be able to use your own branded packaging, it’s a sure way to save on every shipment.
  • Consider flat rate shipping: Flat rate shipping gives you a standard price on all shipments, regardless of weight. If you ship items of a fixed size to set locations regularly, this could save you a bundle. Top couriers like USPS, UPS, and FedEx are available flat rate options.
  • Multi-courier solutions: Oftentimes, the cheapest way to ship isn’t with a single courier, but via a joint effort using multiple couriers, especially for international shipping. Look into multi-courier shipping networks if you’re thinking about going global.
  • Save up to 91% with Easyship: Every shipment sent with Easyship saves money. This is because Easyship is a direct partner of all leading courier companies, and passes the our partnership discounts on to you.

2. Pricing Is Hard (Here’s a Formula)

Pricing your shipping options is a delicate game.

Set your prices too low and you’ll likely overpay for shipping on certain orders. Set your prices too high and price-conscious shoppers will bounce. In fact, 6 in 10 shoppers say they abandon carts due to unexpectedly high shipping costs at checkout.

How do you calculate a shipping rate that covers your costs – from packaging to shipping labels to refunds – but also leave a nice margin of profit?

To determine whether a shipping rate is cost-effective, you first need to find the average weight of your average order. This is because most shipping rates are determined by package weight.

Here’s the formula:

Average Order Weight = (Catalogue Weight / # of Products) x Average Order Size

Add the individual weights of all products in your catalogue. Then divide this total weight by the number of items in your catalogue.

For example, if your catalogue includes 3 products that weigh 1 lb, 2 lbs, and 3 lbs, respectively – your total catalogue weight is 6 lbs. Divide this number by the total number of products in your catalogue (3). To get your average order weight, just multiply this number (2) by the average number of items in an order.

Once you know your average order weight, all you need to do is find the cheapest rates on packages of that weight.

3. Finding Rates Is Slow (Use a Calculator)

Finding the cheapest rates on shipping is time-consuming.

Every courier service has a list of service options a mile long. Most options are on different pages. All told, you spend heaps of time comparing rates across different websites.

Fortunately, there’s an easier way to get the cheapest rates on shipping.

Using a free shipping rate calculator lets you shortcut the shipping calculations process. Simply enter your delivery origin, destination, and package weight to get accurate rate quotes in seconds. You’ll see all the best shipping rates based on your shipment specifics.

shipping calculations example

Above we see both the cheapest and the fastest way to send a 1-pound package from New York, NY to Singapore.

Shipping rate calculators aggregate all rates directly from top courier websites like DHL, but also from regional couriers who may have cheaper rates than global express couriers. As seen above, Global Post is the cheapest way to ship from NY to Singapore – but have you ever heard of Global Post before?

Reach for a shipping rate calculator before you send your next package. You may find a better courier option. And since Easyship saves you up to 91% off all rates, you’re actually guaranteed to find a better rate.

4. International Shipping (Can Be Simple)

Personally, I fear what I don’t know. So before I learned the basics of international shipping, the idea of overseas commerce was intimidating to say the least. This vague sense of complexity around international shipping kept me from expanding my eCommerce business for some time.

What I eventually discovered was that international shipping is basically the same thing as domestic shipping, but for a few key factors, seen below:

  • Customs: Every cross-border shipment must clear the customs office in the destination country. To avoid delays or extra fees at customs, ensure your customs documents are in order. Easyship can help you auto-generate all the customs paperwork for any shipment in seconds.
  • Duties and taxes: Each shipment that crosses an international border is subject to duties and taxes. Problem is, the amount of duty and tax owed varies by shipment, destination country, and other factors. Meaning, this amount is hard to predict. Using a free duty and tax calculator allows you to determine upfront the duties and taxes you need to pay well in advance. From here, you can decide if you or the customer will pay for taxes at checkout.
  • Multi-courier solutions for last-mile: Does your courier deliver to where your customers are? To succeed in international shipping, you might want to partner with both international and local couriers. Let international couriers handle the first-mile of your shipments, then leverage local couriers for last-mile delivery to save on shipping costs.

For greater detail, here’s an overview of the basics of international shipping.

5. Customer Expectations (Anticipate Them)

These days, shoppers expect a lot from online retailers.

The advent of Amazon’s free, two-day Prime shipping with tracking set a high bar for smaller merchants. And with premium shipping so accessible, shoppers are increasingly sensitive to delays and slow deliveries.

Rather than match Amazon on speed and cost, it’s better for merchants to manage the expectations of their buyers. After all, your customers don’t expect you to be Amazon. They just want to make shipping options transparent for a reasonable price.

Here’s what managing buyer expectations looks like in the age of Amazon:

  • Communicate with buyers: When delays in delivery happen, pre-empt any customer inquiries with honest and detailed communications. Being upfront about delivery irregularities (plus how and when they’ll be resolved) helps to insulate you from blowback and protect your relationship with the customer.
  • Offer tracking and insurance: Make it a standard operating procedure to share tracking information with buyers. When the package status is at hand, anxieties are lessened. The same goes for insurance on high-ticket items.
  • Make your shipping policy obvious: Highlight your shipping policies pre-purchase to mitigate against unrealistic expectations. Making your delivery lead times known on your checkout page, policy page, and in post-purchase messaging is a transparent way to put shoppers at ease and set yourself up for success.

6. Shipping Options (You Only Need a Few)

People like options for shipping because it gives them control over the price and delivery window.

This is a challenge for smaller merchants. After all, how are you supposed to display real-time courier rates in your native cart software? That functionality is conspicuously absent from cart software.

Easyship knows this struggle and created a special feature to alleviate the stress. It’s called Dynamic Rates at Checkout, and this automated plugin lets you display live courier rates in your checkout page.

live courier rates in checkout page

This feature automatically displays the cheapest, fastest, and best-value option for every order. The result? Increase conversions, fewer lonely carts, and happier shoppers.

With Dynamic Rates at Checkout integrated, you also save up to 91% on all shipping rates. Since you’re using Easyship to transfer rate quotes to customers, you get our partners discount automatically on all orders.

7. Slow Fulfillment (Fixed With Efficiencies)

Making sales is a thrill, but what happens next?

Fact is, fulfillment can be a real drain on time. There's packaging, printing shipping labels,  orchestrating sendoff – and that's before holiday inventory shortages.

A few best practices can help you avoid slowdowns in fulfillment:

  • Standardize packaging: Choose one or a few package sizes and do away with the rest. Uniform packaging makes fulfillment faster, saves space, and lowers your shipping costs.
  • Batch-print labels: Setting aside time to do all-things-fulfillment – packaging, labeling, drop-offs – in one go can save time. Batch-printing your shipping documents is a key time-saver in this accelerated process.
  • Arrange for pickups: Most courier companies will come to your home or business at a set time to pick-up your packages. In other words, no more waiting in line at the Post Office.
  • Automate shipping processes: Automation helps you streamline the digital side of fulfillment. For example, sharing tracking info with shoppers, transferring order data to couriers, and looking up order details. All this can be automated. Meanwhile, you can auto-generate, batch-print and sync all your orders with fulfillment outlets to really make life easy.

8. Global Sales (And Scaling With Help)

Scaling your eCommerce biz internationally is best done with help from global third-party logistics providers (3PLs). This is because maintaining a touchpoint or two in your target market helps you launch into global sales without serious headaches. (Can confirm).

Using warehousing partners, for example, helps you reduce import duties and taxes by shipping in bulk instead of piecemeal.

When you store inventory in-country, you also get access to lower local shipping rates from regional couriers (that you probably miss without assistance). Added benefits of 3PLs include reduced last-mile delivery times for happier customers.

Want to talk to someone about warehousing and creating 3PL relationships? Easyship is happy to chat with you about the exact steps to expand your brand globally.

9. Delays, Loss, Damage (And Apologies)

Shipping doesn’t always go as planned. How you handle instances of package theft, damage, loss and shipping delays can have a big impact on your bottom line.

In extreme cases, 13% of shoppers say they’ll never purchase again after a shipping delay with a brand. By contrast, 80% of customers who have a bad experience will forgive the brand if the customer service is “very good.”

The takeaway here is that it's important to have a way to mitigate blowback and fallout when things go awry. Here’s how:

  • Apologize and promise to fix it: Even if the customer isn’t right – they’re still the customer. Offer a sincere apology if deliveries run into any problems. Then explains how you’ll be resolving the issue as quickly as possible. People will often forgive mishaps if they believe you’re sorry and are doing everything possible to correct the issue.
  • Share tracking details: Customers want the ability to monitor their order. This helps reduce anxiety if issues arise as well as the likelihood of a customer service request.
  • Be proactive: If you become aware of any delivery issues, let customers know right away. Being forthright shows people you care and are doing what you can to fix it.
  • Offer insurance: When your order is insured by the courier, you’re off the hook with customers. Offering insurance on orders, especially high-value items, is a great way to reassure shoppers and minimize headaches later.

10. Returns Pricing (One More Calculation)

Reverse logistics, or returns processing, is an annoyingly vital aspect of eCommerce.

Since returns are commonplace, you’ll need to decide whether you or the customer pays.

Ultimately, who pays for returns is a matter of your profit margins. The cost of returns includes the rate for return shipping, printing labels, and coordinating drop-off. Based on your package sizes, delivery destinations, and other factors, you may be unable to pay for returns and stay in the black.

To assess this, calculate your average rate of returns. Also calculate the average cost of a return. When you know how many returns you complete in a given period, and the cost per return, you can add the average cost per return to the final cost of shipping to see whether you can afford to pay for returns.

Perhaps you offer free returns by raising your ticket price to cover the costs. Experimenting with different prices and the customer responses will give you a sense of what price increase people will tolerate.

Some merchants offer discounted returns and split the difference with shoppers. You can also offer free returns on certain items and not others.

If you decide to offer free returns, you’ll save time by including a return shipping label in the original package. You can also include a link to a label in your post-purchase emails.

If you decide the customer pays, make it obvious what must be done to complete a return. Include these steps on your website and in your post-purchase emails.

Shipping Is Easier With Easyship

A lot goes into eCommerce shipping. Cost management, customer expectations, returns – dealing with all these factors can put wrinkles in your forehead. Well aware of this fact, Easyship was started to help merchants like you to simplify and save on all shipping processes.

Our free tools like the shipping rate calculator and the duties and taxes calculator will always be free. If you’re ready to add time-saving, stress-reducing automation to your store, start by creating a free Easyship account. Take a peek around and see if our all-in-one shipping platform is right for you.