Congratulations! Your online store registered the first sale of a physical item. All you have so far was virtual, now its time to get real. By getting real i mean going out and arranging the delivery of your item. You could be selling a box of chocolates or a pack of pencils, one thing they all share in common; they need to be packed first.
We all love gifts, don’t we? Well, let me tell you a secret, buying something online is always like receiving a gift. Sometimes they are bought as gifts, which we all know. But I am talking about the stuff people buy for themselves. You chose an item, select it, pay for it and then wait to get it in hand. When a package comes in the post / courier the receiver is always excited to open it ! The item they bought could be some plastic bags for storing food in the freezer or their next shiny digital camera, the excitement is quite the same! If we can make sure the packaging is nice, neat and proper, the customer will be happy to have it in hand. Creating a first impression is very important. When packing an item, a good idea is to try to think as if you were the customer. This would make you avoid using an used shoe box to pack cupcakes. Who wants their cupcakes packed in used shoe box?
What do i use to pack my items?
Asking questions to yourself will give quite a lot of answers. Selecting packaging materials are not easy but there are many options. Look around you, we are constantly moving goods and they are all packed. Unless you are selling something very unique, you wont need to invent the packaging. So, there must be few different ways to pack the item already! Boxes are best for transporting goods, try to use boxes as much as you can. for example, you can use padded envelopes for small items, postal tubes for long/ round items.
Things to remember about the packaging materials:
- Practicality: Try to use something easily available. You don’t want to travel to another city to grab a packing box.
- Economy: Has to be reasonable in cost. Please remember there are some indirect costs related to packaging. For example, you will need packing tapes to seal boxes, filler to fill empty spaces inside boxes.
- Fit for the purpose: The packaging has to be good enough to carry your items. Consider the distance it has to travel, get an idea of handling from the courier company. Most parcels are carried to a central hub where they are sorted and then make 2-3 more separate travel till it reaches the receivers hand. Your packaging has to be strong enough to handle all the drops and bumps.
- Ease of use: Your packaging materials should be easy to use. If you are using cardboard boxes, make sure they are not too soft or too strong. Do not use less than necessary packing tapes.
Offer Special Packaging:
Try to offer special packaging service for your items. Offer Gift Wrapping for items which people may buy as a gift. If you can, offer customized packaging or anything exciting you can think of. You can charge a premium for these services and the customers wont mind paying that either!
Things to remember when packing:
Putting something in a box is not the end of story. Remember the customer has to open the box too. You know how you are putting the item inside, but they don’t! Don’t use excessive packaging. Nobody wants to spend half a day to get in the box to reach their next shaving razor! Excessive packaging could lead to product damage as well. The ideal packaging will be the one which wont cost a fortune but will look beautiful and will be easy to pack and open.
Record keeping of your shipments:
Print 2 sets of Packing Slips and Invoices for each order. Have your store Terms & Conditions printed in those documents. Clearly provide all possible contact informations in them too. Put a set of Packing Slip and Invoice inside each parcel. The person who packs the item should sign the packing slip, this way you would know whom to hold responsible for sending wrong item to a customer (once you grow, you will send one customers order to another, trust me!) or sending right items but the wrong quantity. Once you get the shipping receipt from the courier keep all 3 documents together for future reference. There are many practical consequences of shipping, i will try to write an article on that entirely.
Once you have packed something and are happy about the job, you want to go and drop it off to the courier company office. Try to drop an item off as soon as possible. A quick dispatch will ensure a quick delivery. So, do not delay in dropping that nicely packed box!
If your business grows well enough you will have the courier companies collecting parcels from you saving you the hustle of the bulky trips everyday!
How do the courier companies handle the parcels?
To be honest, you don’t want to know! They handle parcels as if there is no tomorrow. I can not think of any other way to put this. I have worked with almost all major courier companies in the world and they all are same. They collect your parcel, take them to a central hub where they sort them and then send to the final destinations. The courier companies depend on delivery man / drivers who are always in rush to collect and drop packages. If you are doing this occasionally, you will be careful and gentle. But if you are doing the same thing everyday and have to meet deadline constantly you wont give a toss about how you are grabbing a parcel. To avoid mishandling, you should label your parcels clearly with printed address in a clear bold font. If there is something fragile mark them as fragile, if something inside needs to be kept upright use some arrow signs pointing upwards. Also try to seal all openings of the package. If you send items regularly by courier, some of them will be damaged in transit, some will be lost. So, get a clear idea on how the compensation policy works for the courier company as well.
Don’t worry much about the handling of goods. The rate of damage is like the rate of death in airline crash. Millions of parcels are handled everyday, only few hundred gets damaged. Good packaging keeps loads of the products still usable even after the damage, so cheer up!
Selling things online is exciting. Its exciting for the person who buys the item as well. After ordering something online, when someone receives a nicely packed product in due time they appreciate it a lot. Since people nowadays take on social media to share every joy and sorrow of their life, they will probably share the experience on social media and that will probably get you more business. Why not make a nice card saying Thank you for ordering from our online store and please like us on Facebook? Delivering goods with a good experience is not very hard, is it?
This blog post has been written by:
Hasan Khan, manager of a hardware store based in North London where we sell a wide variety of products ranging from small nails to big power tools. I transformed the business by selling products online.
I love to read, follow Manchester United & trends in technology. My favorite time of the day is when i put my daughter to sleep!
I also go by the name Shawon. Studied Finance & Banking at Dhaka University. Worked briefly at a stock broker in Dhaka Stock Exchange and moved to the UK to study accountancy but gave up half way as i thought i would be better off in business.
Most recently am quite excited to write for the new entrepreneurs and would love to hear your feedback.