Turning delivery from problematic process to plain sailing

David Grimes, CEO of My Parcel Delivery, provides the tips on how you can revolutionise your business delivery service.

To tie in with #MicroBizMatters day, which took place earlier this month, business owners were being encouraged to provide tips which they felt could benefit others. Following on from the event itself, where I appeared on the Makers, Creators and Manufacturers panel, I thought it might be helpful to share some of my top tips for managing the ins and outs of deliveries.

As a micro seller, you could well be someone who works from home on your own, sitting at the kitchen table, managing orders – like I once did myself before the business grew. E-commerce sites such as eBay, Etsy and Amazon Marketplace are popular platforms through which budding entrepreneurs can choose to start up their own business venture – whether they’re selling clothes, candles, cookies or cards. Trading online in this way is an exciting opportunity, but doesn’t come without its fair share of challenges.

Micro businesses may well be on a limited budget, so one challenge is managing how products are sent out to customers efficiently. For a business to earn loyal customers and good reviews, it’s essential that orders arrive on time and, of course, in one piece, as a poor delivery experience could damage trade.

In the UK, there are unfortunately no government policies in place to help fund transportation costs for smaller business owners, meaning that the delivery process can place a rather large financial burden on top of existing day-to-day operations.

However, as a microbusiness owner, there are a few things that you can do to make shipping a more cost effective and less stressful activity.

1. Create an ‘assembly line’

Physically preparing deliveries can be a time-consuming task, especially given that there may only be a few pairs of hands available to help. Assigning each person involved in the business a role – from packing items into boxes to finalising recipient address labels – will make fulfilment smoother.

From a practical point of view, it also makes sense to have all the necessary equipment stocked up before starting – a healthy supply of boxes, bubble wrap, parcel tape and whatever else will help you save time and money. As I mentioned when asked for my opinion at the event, you do have to value your own time as a microbusiness owner. This pre-organisation should keep the whole process moving and save time that might be otherwise wasted on dashing out at the last minute to pick up missing supplies.

2. Don’t limit yourself to one sender

Just as with shopping on the high-street or browsing online, I’d always encourage you to shop around for the best price when searching for a parcel sender – rather than simply opting for the first one you come across.

There are a plethora of delivery options to choose from and sometimes you can’t help but feel a little lost trying to find the one to best suit you and your customers’ needs.

Having said that, there’s no need to stick with one carrier for all orders. Of course, it’s nice to build up some sense of familiarity and loyalty with a brand, but when looking to keep costs to a minimum, you might find that there are better offers elsewhere depending on what it is you’re sending.

You might need the cheapest service today, but tomorrow a last-minute urgent order might need a timed service. If you’re delivering to a customer in the outer reaches of Scotland, you’ll probably need a different service to a central London delivery.

This is where a parcel comparison service can come into its own. It will provide rates – which are typically discounted in comparison to going direct – from several different couriers based upon the parcel’s contents and destination. This cuts out some of the leg work of finding quotes from multiple sources, making the entire process much simpler.

3. Take advantage of business specific services

Opting to take out a business account with a delivery service certainly has its perks and is well worth investing in if you’re going to be sending out multiple parcels each week. There may even be discounts applied to shipping based on the volume.

Additional benefits to having a business account could include improved compensation cover and dedicated support. When sending parcels out on a daily or even weekly basis, these types of business perks can be invaluable to the smooth running of your business.

4. Proper packaging

Simple, but important. There’s certainly value in making sure your parcel is packaged up correctly. After all, the last thing you want is for a customer to have to return a product which has been damaged in transit.

Stick to packaging guidelines, which tend to be the same for most companies, and you won’t go too far wrong. As a general rule, double check any maximum weight allowances and weigh your items properly before you place them in a box. Using internal packaging also prevents them from rolling around inside, and placing strong tape over the top of boxes helps to guarantee that everything is secure.

Of course, the unboxing of your items is often the only physical touch point between your brand and the customer. Although safety and security is key, adding a handwritten note, discount code or freebie can make the delivery experience one a customer might want to repeat.

Delivery can seem like a daunting task to face on your own, particularly for those sending out a large number of parcels every week. Instead of getting buried under mounds of unshipped items, though, follow the above tips to make sure your delivery strategy is working effectively for you.

Further reading on delivery

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Freddie Halvorson

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the Smallbusiness.co.uk and Growthbusiness.co.uk titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the Express.co.uk.

Related Topics

Shipping and Delivery

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