The incredible stuff you’ve read about dropshipping is true. You really can launch a store in 30 minutes. You can also earn a living while traveling the world, and even pocket $1 million in your first eight months.
That said, dropshipping isn’t easy. And one of the things that requires the most energy and attention is right there in the name – shipping.
For dropshippers, shipping can be one of the most time-consuming, energy-draining aspects of running an online store. We hear all the time from dropshippers who have questions about shipping costs, delivery methods, and so on.
This post will go over 13 shipping tips designed to make your life easier and your customers happier.
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- 1. Order your own products to experience the shipping process
- 2. Make sure your customers know how long shipping takes
- 3. Make sure you know how long shipping takes
- 4. Contact suppliers with shipping questions
- 5. Try to have fun with slow shipping times
- 6. Use ePacket delivery
- 7. Offer free shipping
- 8. Set up shipping zones in Shopify
- 9. Target countries with the best shipping options
- 10. Get customers’ phone numbers
- Conclusions On Shipping
- Want to learn more?
1. Order your own products to experience the shipping process
Okay, you don’t need to order each variation of each product. But try to order at least one item per supplier to get a feel for how they handle shipping.
See how long it takes to accept your payment and process your order. Analyze what the package looks like when it arrives – is it stuffed with promotions and flyers? And check if the tracking number works. Because with some suppliers, the shipping info you get with the tracking number is, well, not totally inspiring:
Placing some test orders will give you an up-close look at how suppliers do shipping, and give you a feel for which ones you can trust with your customers’ orders.
2. Make sure your customers know how long shipping takes
Setting realistic expectations for ecommerce shipping now will save headaches later. Don’t be shy about delivery times, even if they’re long.
Suppose your supplier tells you it will take 20-40 days to deliver a product. Claiming “Delivery within three weeks!” might drive a few more sales, but it will also drive more emails to your inbox from people asking for refunds.
It might even be a good idea to have a “shipping details” page on your website that you can link to from checkout and the footer. The more transparent, the better.
Sure, you don’t want shipping info to dominate your store. And it’s not good to remind people that shipping could take more than a month. But being transparent will disarm complaints and refund requests.
Also, if your supplier has an Estimated Delivery Time that looks like this…
… it’s a good idea to put “14-35 days” or “20-35 days” instead of “7-35 days.” A couple reasons:
- Shoppers might be more skeptical of a huge delivery window than a long wait. A one-month window like “7-35 days” might look like a red flag.
- If your package does arrive in seven days, your shoppers probably won’t mind the early arrival.
3. Make sure you know how long shipping takes
Of course, it’s hard to tell your customers what to expect if you don’t know what to expect. And sometimes it’s hard to know.
For starters, estimates like “20-40 days” aren’t very precise. What’s more, suppliers don’t always have the best info available. Here, for example, is shipping info from the same supplier regarding the same order.
So they guarantee 60 days, estimate 20-40 days and refund after 35 days. Um, okay?
This gets back to our first tip – order the products yourself. See how quickly orders are processed and how long it takes before items are shipped. A supplier might say “7-35 days” and you see that it takes seven days for the payment to go through and another 10 days before the shipment is dispatched.
A first-hand investigation into shipping times will also give you a chance to…
4. Contact suppliers with shipping questions
While not all dropshipping suppliers have flawless communication – see above confusion about shipping times – they do normally reply if you contact them.
Contacting suppliers gives you a chance to personally gauge their responsiveness and reliability. Here, for example, is an AliExpress supplier that is quick with answers to a shipping inquiry:
If you ask shipping questions and don’t get any answers, that might be a sign that you should ditch that supplier and find another dropshipping company for your business..
5. Try to have fun with slow shipping times
This is easier said than done. However, if you’re being transparent and clear about shipping times, then you might as well have some fun with it.
For instance, if you’re in the yoga niche and your product might take a few weeks to arrive, remind users that yoga is a good way to strengthen patience. If you sell sweaters, assure customers that it will still be cold when the sweater gets there.
You can easily amend the content of your automated shipping emails in Shopify, as well as which emails customers receive at different stages of the shipping fulfillment process. Just click on “Notifications” in your Shopify Settings, and update the emails that are most relevant:
Let’s say you want to personalize the “Shipping confirmation.” Click on it, and you’ll have access to a code-filled editor. Don’t be intimidated by all the code! You can find the snippets that are most relevant to your customers. So if we take this “yoga strengthens patience” example, then we could change this…
… to this:
In addition to cultivating a fun identity around your brand, leaving a paper trail of shipping time info will further protect you from refund claims.
6. Use ePacket delivery
ePacket is the most reliable way to ship – at least the most reliable way that doesn’t cost tons of extra money.
ePacket is a shipping method for products shipped from China and Hong Kong. It originally launched as a collaboration between China and the US, and is now available for products shipped to dozens of countries, including Canada, Australia and much of Europe.
This is the sort of shipping breakdown you can find with lots of products. If you take price plus speed – plus the reassurance of receiving a tracking number, which isn’t always the case with other shipping methods – ePacket is clearly the best option:
You can set your default method to ePacket in the “Settings” of your Oberlo account:
Even if a supplier uses ePacket, things can still move a bit slowly, especially compared to some of the bigger ecommerce players. Again, though, with all the potential for shipping craziness, ePacket is your best bet.
If you feel that you can find more cost-efficient delivery routes for your customers, talk to your suppliers about Free on Board (FOB) shipping and whether this could be an option for them.
7. Offer free shipping
People dig free. Sure, it’s nice when an Amazon order turns up in one day. But it’s our experience that customers are more cost-conscious than time-conscious: They tend not to mind long delivery times if the product comes with free shipping.
Incorporate shipping rates into the cost of the product, especially if you’re using ePacket delivery, which ranges from free to cheap. Go ahead and charge a little bit extra for the product itself, and then tell the world about your free shipping.
Being loud about your FREE SHIPPING!!! will immediately impact expectations. People will anticipate and accept a slower delivery time – and they’ll love you for giving them something for nothing.
8. Charge flat shipping rates
One of the main reasons customers abandon their carts without making a purchase is they’re suddenly surprised by expensive shipping fees when they arrive at the checkout. How you charge your customers for shipping can make or break your chances of a sale.
The best way to improve conversions is often to provide free shipping. Sometimes, adding a little extra to the product's price is more appealing to a customer than charging for shipping.
If you can’t afford to offer free shipping, flat fees may be a better option. Using a flat fee for every order's shipping is a great way to set expectations for your customers. They’ll be able to calculate what they can expect to pay straight away.
For instance, you might charge $3.99 for ANY order shipped within the United States, as long as the package doesn’t contain a particularly heavy item, like a piece of furniture.
The good news is that flat rate shipping ensures you can be as up-front and direct as possible with your customers. It also saves some exhausting calculations.
9. Set up shipping zones in Shopify
There are some countries that cost a small fortune to ship to. For example, it might cost you next to nothing to ship a product to Western Europe, while shipping the same product to shipment to Eastern Europe is crazy expensive.
To get around this, you can set up custom shipping zones in Shopify. For countries with low shipping costs, you could have a free shipping zone:
And then you can have a specific shipping zone for countries that are expensive. Just remember to add a qualifier that your free shipping is not available for all countries.
Shopify will apply the relevant shipping cost at checkout.
Check out our video on how to set up shipping in Shopify for dropshipping to learn more about shipping rate adjustments.
10. Target countries with the best shipping options
Advertising platforms like Facebook and Google Ads let you use location targeting to determine where your campaigns are displayed. So instead of blindly blasting out ads, use what you know about shipping times and prices to inform your marketing campaigns.
With ePacket, your margins with shipments to the US will be considerably better than with products shipped to Canada:
Not only is $1.42 a lot less than $4.05, but shoppers might be more likely to convert with a 12-20 day window than a 16-26 day window.
These differences pop up in Europe, too. Here we see that Norway has both faster shipping and lower prices than its next door neighbor Denmark:
You would pocket about $1 more per order from a Norwegian customer than a Danish one. Use this knowledge to set geo-targeting rules on your campaigns and put yourself in a position to have the highest margins possible.
11. Get customers’ phone numbers
Shoppers aren’t always eager to give out their phone number. Okay, they are never eager to give out their phone numbers.
But asking customers to leave their phone number can help with shipping. Delivery companies often send SMS notifications or call. Including “phone number” as a field when you get customers’ information reduces the chances that a delivery gets missed.
You can update your Shopify store settings to make phone numbers required:
12. Offer local delivery
Do you ship specifically to customers in your local area? Offering local delivery can be a great way to make your business stand out.
With local delivery, you’ll often be able to get your items to your customers quicker, which leads to better client satisfaction.
Local delivery can also save you some money when it comes to fulfilling orders. You don’t have to pay for the same postage fees if you have someone with a truck or a van who can deliver all of your goods for you. You might even allow your customers to pick products up from a drop-off point.
So consider setting up local delivery in your Shopify store. You can offer both in-store pickup and standard delivery, and display different rates for each option.
13. Try DDP shipping
If you’re shipping products to different countries or locations, you may want to consider DDP shipping.
Otherwise known as Deliver Duty Paid shipping, this prevents customers from having to pay a secondary fee when their item arrives in their chosen country.
Even if your international shipping rates are competitive, most customers will avoid buying from companies overseas if they’re going to have to pay a shipping tax when their item arrives.
It’s important to do your research before you offer this, though. This duty calculator gives you a good idea of the duty you’ll have to pay for shipping to different countries.
Conclusions On Shipping
Shipping is one of the biggest challenges that dropshippers have. By definition, dropshippers have to rely on suppliers to process orders and deliver products. That’s how the whole thing works.
But there are huge differences between suppliers when it comes to cost, reliability, and communication. So to wrap up, here are 13 ways that you can protect yourself and your customers from the shipping-related headaches that keep dropshippers up at night.
- Order your own products to experience the shipping process
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and get a front-row seat for how your suppliers handle shipping.
- Make sure your customers know how long shipping takes
Slow shipping times are way less annoying if customers know what to expect.
- Make sure you know how long shipping takes
Dropshipping suppliers aren’t always crystal clear on this, so do your homework about shipping times.
- Contact suppliers with shipping questions
This is a great way to gauge the responsiveness of suppliers and get a feel for how reliable they will be with your customers’ orders.
- Try to have fun with slow shipping times
As a dropshipper, you can’t control how fast (or slow) orders deliver. But you can make your customers feel better about the wait with engaging messages and updates.
- Use ePacket delivery
ePacket delivery is usually the best shipping method that dropshippers can use.
- Offer free shipping
“20-40 days” looks a lot more reasonable when the words “Free shipping!” are next to it.
- Charge flat shipping rates
Help your customers avoid last-minute shipping surcharges by offering a flat rate to ship their order.
- Set up shipping zones in Shopify
If your suppliers have crazy costs for certain countries, lump those countries into a shipping zone and slap a fee on shipments to that zone.
- Target countries with best shipping options
Use what you know about shipping times and costs to market to customers in countries that will net you the highest margins.
- Get customers’ phone numbers
After the order is placed and the supplier has shipped, there’s still the issue of getting the package into your customer’s hands. A phone number increases the chances of success on this step.
- Offer local delivery
Local delivery helps your customers receive their packages reliably and quickly. Plus, it enables you to schedule drop-offs and pickups in a matter of minutes.
- Try DDP shipping
Make your products attractive to customers by mentioning that they’ll arrive with import duties cleared.