From Idea to First Customer: Getting Your Product to Your Customer

Written by Kathryn Marr on September 24, 2020 Sell Online.

Now that you’ve chosen an operating system and built your online store, it’s time to determine the best way to get your products into the hands of excited customers.

Navigate the Journey:

Part One: Choosing an Audience
Part Two: Finding a Problem to Solve
Part Three: Selling It Before You Make It
Part Four: Creating the Product
Part Five: Choosing an Operating System

There are many ways to ship your products and the right method differs for every store. Shipping doesn’t need to be complex, especially when you’re just getting started. We’ll walk you through available options and guide you to the best solution for your business.

Three elements of shipping

Shipping can be broken down into three key elements: carriers, logistics, and customer experience.

Carriers

Shipping carriers physically deliver your products to your customers and typically charge based on a combination of weight, speed, and distance. When choosing a carrier, the first thing to consider is your location. What options are available in your country? For example, common options for US-based businesses include USPS, UPS, and FedEx.

Then, consider the needs of your product. Some carriers have size limits or can’t accomodate special requirements. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are your products heavy or large?
  • Are they perishable or fragile?
  • Are they restricted, like alcohol or firearms?
  • Are they particularly valuable and do they require insurance?

If you answered “yes,” then you’ll need to make sure that your carrier can meet those requirements.

Finally, consider  your customers’ needs. They may want to track their orders or prefer weekend deliveries. Ensure that your carrier delivers to their area and offers cost and speed options that match their needs. 

Logistics

What happens after a customer places an order? Evaluate the process from start to finish. Do you or your fulfillment partners receive an email as soon as payment is made? 

You may create each product to order, but if not, consider how you handle inventory management. After a product is sold, the quantity available on your site should adjust accordingly. If you sell items elsewhere (in stores, at festivals, etc.,) inventory levels should sync so customers never purchase a product only to find out it’s not available. 

Finally, think about your packaging. Packaging should serve two primary purposes:

  1. Keep your products safe. Don’t choose a box that’s too big; your items might shift in transit. Use enough bubble wrap and make any other special accommodations that your products require (waterproof bags for liquids, dry ice for perishable foods, and shrink wrap for paper goods).
  2. Delight your customers. Beautiful packaging, handwritten thank you notes, free gifts, and coupons for future purchases go a long way. An excellent unboxing experience can lead someone to refer you to a friend or keep them coming back time and time again.

Customer experience

Buyers expect to receive products quickly and in perfect condition while paying as little as possible. But you must also find a solution that works for your business. 

It’s time to determine your shipping methods — the rates and options that customers select at checkout. First, think through a few key principles:

  1. Dates. Where your customers live, how long delivery may take, and whether you want to offer express shipping.
  2. Weights. The size and weight of each product, which impacts your overall shipping costs. 
  3. Rates. How much do you want to charge for shipping? Carriers will have their own rates, but you can charge less, the same, or more.

Your goal is to offer shipping methods and pricing that meet customer needs without reducing  your profits. Here are a few options:

  • Live rates. Sync your store and carrier to display real-time rates based on size, weight, and distance. This method is transparent and accurate: customers can choose from a range of options and you’ll never charge too little (or too much!) for shipping.   
  • Table rates. Set up a table of rules that calculate shipping based on product prices, sizes, order totals, destinations, and other factors. This is the most customizable option: You might charge $4.00 for anything that weighs less than five pounds, $8.00 for anything that weighs five pounds or more, and offer free shipping only to the state of Pennsylvania.
  • Flat rates. Charge the same amount regardless of order weight or size. This simplifies shipping for you and your customers and is a great solution if your products are similar weights and sizes. Charge a flat rate per item, a percentage-based cost, or a minimum fee.
  • Free shipping. This strategy makes customers happy and, in the long run, can improve your margins. You could increase product prices to account for shipping costs, but shoppers may not love the high cost. Or keep prices low and shipping free in the hopes that increased sales will make it financially worthwhile. This is another example of why it’s critical to know your audience — what’s most important to them?
  • Local pickup. Let buyers pick up their order at your place of business. You and your customers won’t have to pay for shipping — it’s a win-win! This is a great option if many of your buyers are local and your products are large or perishable (like furniture or fresh produce).
  • A combination of methods. Mix and match two or more shipping methods for the best of both worlds. For example, offer free shipping for orders over $50 and charge a flat rate for anything under. This rewards customers for larger purchases while  keeping things simple.

The most important thing is to choose an approach that aligns with the needs of your audience and products. If you do that, then you’re off to a great start!

Once you’ve decided on a shipping strategy, consider how you’ll keep customers in the loop. You might want to send an email at each stage in the process: Order Complete, Product Shipped, and Product Delivered. And with tracking numbers, buyers can check the progress of their shipment at any time without needing to ask your team. 

Finally, think through your customer support process. A great place to start is by making it easy for people to find answers to their questions before needing to reach out. Make FAQ pages, return policies, and shipping information readily available. 

But also make it easy for people to ask questions. Offer several contact methods — like phone, contact form, live chat, or email — so that there’s something for everyone.  

Keep it simple

Shipping doesn’t have to be complicated; it’s best to start with something simple and expand as you grow. Consider the needs of your audience, product, and business to find the perfect strategy for you.

Looking for more information? Our full eCommerce shipping guide provides everything you need to choose and implement the right strategy.

WooCommerce Shipping dashboard for creating shipping labels

If you’re located in the U.S., the best way to get started is with WooCommerce Shipping. Print shipping labels from the WordPress dashboard, save up to 90% with USPS, and integrate with the USPS Shipping Method extension to display live rates.

If you’re located outside of the U.S., check out our full list of shipping extensions.

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