1)Overview of eCommerce Shipping in Detail
When any of the 100 million online shoppers across India places an order on a website, they likely do so with little knowledge of the journey their order is about to embark upon. With just a few clicks, your eCommerce company is assigned a quest to ensure this treasure you’re selling reaches the customer. Ecommerce shipping is essentially the muscle that works to make sure this journey goes successfully. However, with all the twists and turns that orders must face in their Odyssey-like passage, shipping companies must keep up with new challenges. The muscle of any story must become stronger and smarter. Similarly, shipping solutions must become more effective and efficient to keep up with eCommerce needs.
2)What is eCommerce Shipping
eCommerce Shipping is the entire process by which an order is confirmed, created and fulfilled. This process has a multitude of minute and complex tasks that ensure the system functions in a streamlined manner. These tasks include everything from warehousing to last-mile delivery. Ecommerce shipping companies must first handle stocking the inventory, creation and manifestation of orders, generation of shipping labels and order packing and picking. Only then the long process of final delivery begins which comes with its own set of tasks and challenges. To enable a truly seamless delivery experience for customers, eCommerce service providers must rely on the latest trends in ecommerce shipping. This usually means the inclusion of advanced technology, better collection of data and use of more strategic workflow.
3)What are the Different Stages of eCommerce Shipping?
The shipping industry has been around for a great many decades, being strengthened by global trade regulations. However, the e-commerce industry only began to develop in India over the last 20 years. As a result, shipping companies have had to up their ante to meet this steadily rising modern demand. Ecommerce retailers may provide similar services to traditional retailers, but the former offers quicker selection and convenience. For orders shipped through an eCommerce platform, there are essentially 3 shipping stages.
Receiving an order is a function that falls into 2 categories. The first is the receipt of the order on the ecommerce platform. This is when the customer makes their selection, enters their pin code details and confirms their intent to purchase the order. The second is the creation of the order with the concerned shipping partner. Shipping partners are selected on the basis of the respective delivery destination and previous delivery data. Once the shipping partner has been chosen, the order is created on the shipping partner platform.
After the order has been created on the shipping partner’s platform, the shipping partner must process the order. The process of readying an order for pickup and delivery is called order manifestation. It involves generating an Airway Bill (AWB) and shipping label. These enable the order to be tracked in transit for more streamlined shipping services. It may also include other labourial tasks required for shipment, like unstocking and packaging the order.
The actual transportation of an order can be a complex process. This can be doubly so for cross-border shipments. Reaching a wider customer base is an important element in the growth of any E-commerce business. So a big part of eCommerce shipping is ensuring vehicles are available and orders can be tracked. Safety of the orders must also be ensured, with the help of in-transit storage facilities and customized services like temperature-sensitive transport.
4)What are the Different Types of eCommerce Shipping Methods and Strategies?
Ecommerce shipping services come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. This is what enables them to fit the needs of different e-commerce industries. Some products, like electronics or perishables, require super fast delivery to keep customers satisfied. Other e-commerce services may be provided to customers across the world. Speed is typical of the essence when it comes to eCommerce shipping. That is why these logistics companies in India employ many types of strategies, like those listed below.
Freight shipping is the base of all eCommerce retailer shipping operations. It is the transportation of commodities from merchants to customers via air, land or sea. Ecommerce freight shipping entails a great many specialised and customised services that can be utilized by different industries, from fashion to furniture.
This shipping service can be utilised by customers to request (or pay an additional fee) for delivery to be fulfilled within 2 days from a specified date. The calculation of this time frame can slightly differ depending on the delivery process followed by the eCommerce enterprise and its shipping partner in India.
In simplest terms, same-day delivery is a shipping service that enables customers to receive their orders within 1 business day or 24 hours. These types of deliveries typically are conditional, have a cut-off time or are slot-based. For example, orders placed before 9 am may be delivered between 4 and 6 pm the same day.
Overnight shipping is another type of speedy shipping service, like same-day delivery and 2-day delivery. Overnight shipping essentially ensures that the order arrives the next business day after the order has placed. It is similar to next-day delivery services.
Expedited shipping is a shipping service offered by a range of shipping companies and third-party logistics tools. It essentially enables customers to select priority shipping services. These are speedier than the standard shipment services and allow orders to move from the pickup stage to delivery faster.
Many eCommerce shipping companies operate globally, like FedEx and UPS. For e-commerce businesses that provide their services worldwide, this shipping service is a must-have. A well-equipped internationally operational shipping company will also be able to help navigate through customs regulations.
Good eCommerce shipping services must be sustainable. Some shipping partners like to ensure sustainability while also offering convenience in deliveries. Shipping service providers like DHL provide eco-friendly delivery services. These shipping mechanisms are designed to reduce wastage and carbon emissions.
4.8)Hybrid shipping services
Hybrid shipping services are shipments that are streamlined with the help of multiple third-party logistics tools. For example, Tool A is used to pick up an order from a particular vendor or storage facility and transport and deliver it to a shipping partner like FedEx. FedEx processes and ships it, using a local courier service to handle last-mile delivery. Using a multitude of shipping service providers, hybrid shipping services enable faster and more cost-effective delivery, if well-managed.
5)What the Shipping Process Entails in eCommerce or How Does eCommerce Shipping Works?
Ecommerce shipping is more than just a service. It is an assembly line of logistics functions that creates a bridge between you and your customers. Given the rate at which orders are placed online, this needs to be a quick-draw bridge. You can help keep orders moving by understanding how this mechanism works. It comes to the 5 major steps listed below.
5.1)Warehousing and Distribution
Most customers want their orders fast, so stock needs to be available at a moment's notice. In case stock is held by the supplier, certain shipping companies handle vendor pickup. Other shipping companies offer storage facilities for inventory to speed up the delivery process. A variety of shipping services are available that enable better warehouse management and inventory management. These eCommerce solutions focus on improved connectivity between orders and shipping agents.
5.2)Order Creation and Manifestation
Order manifestation begins with order creation, which essentially logs the order information into the shipping partners' platform. This step is then followed by the generation of an AW (airway bill). The AWB number acts as a unique identifier for each order and enables it to be tracked. The shipping label must then be printed with all relevant order details. After this, orders are packaged and assigned for pickup. Certain services, like shipping label creation and packaging, can be customized to improve brand awareness.
One of the major responsibilities placed in the hands of eCommerce shipping companies is to organize, arrange and manage the transportation of orders. This typically involves hiring, renting or making use of an in-house vehicle or a fleet of vehicles. For better tracking services, some shipping companies like Safe-Express, equip their fleets with GPRS-enabled devices to give real-time updates on vehicle location. In addition to this, the safety of orders can be further assured through a network of in-transit centres for the storage of cross-border orders.
The final phase of the delivery process is known as last-mile delivery. It covers the progress of an order from the final transportation hub to the customer’s location. This is the step that should ideally end with the order being handed over. During the last-mile deliveries is when orders may typically encounter delays, become stuck shipments, or face issues with final delivery (maybe due to customer unavailability, address-related issues or fake deliveries). A good shipping company should be able to work in sync with the eCommerce company to ensure last-mile delivery is carried out successfully.
For a truly well-rounded ecommerce shipping experience, a logistics partner must be ready to handle forward logistics and reverse logistics with equal efficiency. When orders are cancelled or returned, they must go through a similar journey to reach the origin warehouse. Only then can they be restocked and resold, thus ensuring minimal losses. To ensure the safety of returning orders, the ideal shipping solution should typically equip you to track and monitor orders on their reverse journey.
6)eCommerce Shipping Costs and Rates
Giving customers a good delivery experience is all well and good, but at what cost? Given that profitability is the bottom line of every eCommerce venture, what you receive from customers should cover the costs of eCommerce shipping and then some. You would accordingly have to set your prices keeping in mind shipping costs. With that in mind, here’s a quick guide to eCommerce shipping costs. It includes a few tips on how shipping costs are calculated and what factors influence them. You can also get an idea of how to reduce costs and the different types of shipping rates.
6.1)Calculating shipping costs
How shipping costs and freight rates are calculated can differ from one shipping company to another. Profitability is dependent on the cost of resources and different shipping methods may use different resources. Shipping costs can vary in accordance with factors like the date and time of delivery, order origin and destination, packaging and handling costs, and other shipping services as may be required. However, most shipping companies calculate shipping costs either on the basis of the weight of the order or its dimensions.
Dimensional weight (also known as DIM weight) is the volumetric weight of the order. It is calculated based on the cubic size of the order, i.e, by multiplying its dimensions (length x width x height). Most established shipping companies like UPS and FedEx typically calculate both DIM weight and actual weight. Shipping charges are then levied on the higher number. The only downside is that this can lead to weight discrepancies, especially in cases where the order dimensions are calculated after an order has been packed. Regular audits into the manner in which rates are calculated can help you ensure that lightweight orders are handled by shipping partners that charge based on actual weight and not DIM weight.
Shipping Zones can have an impact on costs levied on shipments. Shipping zones are distinctly designated by each shipping company based on their reach. A shipping zone essentially denotes a geographical region that can be reached by a shipping company. Each shipping company can reach a multitude of shipping zones, which are typically classified as groups or clusters of pin codes. These zones are categorized based on the original location of the order to be shipped. So Zone A might be local and have a 50 km radius. Zone B would have a radius of 51 to 150 km, while Zone C would reach 151 to 300 km and so on. A lower zone (like Zone D or E) may require more resources for efficient shipping and therefore result in a higher cost.
6.4)Shipping and handling
There are numerous additional costs that can come up in the process of order fulfillment and eCommerce shipping. Many of these costs are encompassed under the label shipping and handling costs. These are the costs associated with physical movement of individual orders. These can include loading and unloading charges, additional safety requirements, packaging of orders and many other potential functions. Each of these tasks may incur a separate cost which can be clubbed together under shipping and handling fees.
6.5)Flat rate shipping
Some ecommerce shipping solutions offer flat-rate shipping. This basically means that shipping costs aren’t levied based on order weight or destination. It is a single shipping rate levied for all orders within a certain shipping zone, agreed upon by you and your shipping partners. You could then similarly offer your customers a flat shipping rate to cover the costs.
6.6)Real-time carrier rates
Real-time carrier shipping rates are calculated in accordance with order dimensions and serviceability, as well as additional fees or surcharges. A popular eCommerce solution is a real-time shipping rate calculator as it enables you to charge customers the exact amount spent on the shipment of their order.
6.7)Offering free shipping
A good chunk of customers are enticed by purchases that do not charge additionally for shipping. Ecommerce businesses can offer customers free shipping by reducing their shipping costs as much as possible. Multiple solutions and shipping tools can be utilized to bring these costs down. Free shipping can be offered conditionally to maintain profitability. You can make free shipping available during certain periods of time, only on certain items, or only after orders of a specified value have been placed (eg: on purchasing of items valued at Rs 500 or up).
6.8)Reducing shipping costs
Reducing shipping costs requires a strategic three pronged approach. First, shipment volumes should be leveraged to negotiate more viable rates with shipping partners - a higher projection of order volumes gives you a greater scope for a reduced rate. Second, Ecommerce shipping solutions and specific features should be selected that automate or simplify certain functions - for example, selecting a shipping partner that charges based on actual weight for lightweight orders. Third, key problem areas that result in heavy losses, like a high RTO% or increased number of stuck shipments, need to be independently addressed. An eCommerce shipping solution that offers an effective NDR workflow can reduce the number of losses incurred by failed deliveries and actively improve customer experience.
7)eCommerce Shipping Partners and Companies
Learning about the inner workings of eCommerce shipping is just the first stage of preparation for your online business. Now that you’ve understood what you might encounter on your way, the next step in the process is to understand whom you might encounter. While there are numerous shipping companies spread across the country, there are a handful that are considered favorites for the e-commerce industry. These are the top 10 eCommerce shipping partners and companies utilised across India.
Aramex is a shipping company based out of the UAE that was founded in 1997. It was acquired by Delhivery to provide streamlined shipping services like express delivery and COD (cash-on-delivery) coverage to Indian eCommerce enterprises.
Blue Dart began operating in 1983 as a global carrier. Within India, it has a reach of 35000+ pin codes. BlueDart offers eCommerce shipping solutions like weather resistant-packaging, automated POD (proof-of-delivery), scheduled delivery, slot-based express delivery.
Delhivery was founded in India in 2011 and currently provides shipping services for its eCommerce partners across 17500+ pin codes in India. Its primarily shipping solutions include express delivery, scheduled delivery, and specialized handling for fragile, heavyweight or dangerous shipments.
DHL has been a big player in the eCommerce logistics industry in India since 1969. To enable the most efficient eCommerce shipping solutions, DHL makes use of a well-connected network of distribution centres. This also enables them to provide environmentally friendly delivery services with minimal wastage of resources.
Ecom Express is an India-based shipping company that focuses its efforts exclusively on eCommerce shipping solutions. It is a common choice among jewellery retailers as it is equipped to handle high-value shipments. It has a reach of 27000+ pin codes and offers 72-hour express shipping.
Ekart began its foray into logistics as the in-house shipping infrastructure for major eCommerce marketplace Flipkart. Today, Ekart has a reach of 3800+ pin codes and serves a multitude of eCommerce services providers. It provides same-day shipping services in 13 cities and next-day shipping for 50 cities across India.
FedEx has been a leader in logistics and shipping since 1971, making its services operational in India since 1984. It reaches more than 19000 pin codes across the country. It’s known for its express shipping services as well as specialized handling for eCommerce service providers that deal with heavy, light, fragile, high-value or dangerous goods.
Safe Express is an Indian shipping company that has been functioning since 1995 and now provides specialized e-commerce shipping solutions. It offers secured shipping services to 19000+ pin codes across India, by equipping vehicles with GPRS-enabled smart devices.
Shadowfax is a company founded in 2015 that specialises in providing shipping solutions for Indian eCommerce enterprises. In addition to widespread storage facilities, this shipping partner also provides express delivery services and efficient reverse logistics. It operates across 7000+ Indian pin codes.
XpressBees is another 2015-founded company, launched in India with the express purpose of providing exclusive e-commerce shipping solutions. It can enable the shipment of a wide range of products and shipping services like express delivery and cross-border customs clearance.
8)How to Choose the Best eCommerce Shipping Company or Partner in India?
We mentioned earlier that there are numerous eCommerce shipping companies in India. To be clear, there are over 150 different companies that e-commerce service providers can choose from when it comes to shipping partners. Given how much reliance your business has on your shipping partners, the selection process can be a little overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to have a strategy for narrowing down your options. These criteria can help you quickly sort through them and identify the right shipping partners for you.
8.1)Area of Operation
First things first, you need to make sure that the shipping solutions you’re looking at have the resources to reach your customer base. This is based on the average number of monthly orders you receive and the pin codes you need to service.
8.2)Terms of Service Level Agreement
When you enter into a relationship with a shipping partner, it's one defined by a contract, more specifically, a service level agreement. This contract lists out the costs involved and the range of shipping services that must be provided, failing which penalties are designated.
8.3)Cost of Shipping
At the end of the day, your goal is to make a profit. This means that the amount you spend on shipping should be outweighed by the value of the services. This value can be measured by the benefits they offer your business and your customers. For example, if a majority of your customers prefer COD (cash on delivery), a shipping partner with a fast COD reconciliation system is a must.
Customers are looking to get their orders at faster speeds and cheaper rates. Your customers may prefer scheduled delivery, slot-based delivery, express delivery, etc. Based on the services you need, you can narrow down your ideal shipping.
A frequent problem eCommerce enterprises encounter is fake deliveries. These situations end in customer phone calls asking why the order has been marked as delivered without actual delivery. Some shipping partners offer automated systems to confirm delivery via proof of delivery systems.
Every shipping partner will have a unique delivery mechanism. This is the process and combination of resources they use to ship orders regularly. Understanding what makes an eCommerce-shipping company in India process unique lets you select one that has the services you need.
8.7)Specialised Shipping Services
The eCommerce industry has a wide variety of products and services, reaches a varied range of locations and customers, and has many different requirements. Shipping companies offer a range of specialised services like secured delivery, insurance, fast delivery, customised packaging, etc. These services can make or break your business depending on the industry.
A high RTO% is the bane of every eCommerce business. Reducing that number is a task that must be actively pursued. A shipping partner that works consistently to help reduce that number is always preferable. They may do so either through the employment of the latest tech or efficient workflows.
Many of the features and services that an eCommerce business needs to ensure efficient shipping is technology-enabled. From API integrations to AI-based analytics, a tech-savvy partner is one that gives you a more exhaustive range of services.
9)What are Different Types of Services Offered by eCommerce Shipping Partners?
We’ve spent a lot of time discussing the need for eCommerce shipping services and which companies provide them. But what exactly are these shipping services? A big part of e-commerce shipping is comprehending the variety of tasks that need to be carried out to fulfill orders. These are the bulk of essential services that any eCommerce company will need from a shipping partner.
9.1)Warehousing & Storage
Many shipping companies maintain multiple warehouses and storage units for eCommerce inventory. This enables better distribution of goods across greater distances and ensures orders can be picked up for delivery quicker.
9.2)Choice of Transport
One of the main functions performed by shipping companies is maintaining or providing access to transportation. The shipping partner may have their own fleet of trucks or can rent or hire the same on a regular basis. Another common mode of transportation is by flight.
Speed is of the utmost importance for more customers now, who have become used to the speed and convenience of online shipping. Most shipping partners offer ranges of speedy delivery, like next-day delivery, same-day delivery, scheduled delivery and hyperlocal delivery.
A majority of online shoppers in India are still developing trust with the eCommerce industry and therefore prefer cash-on-delivery orders. Some shipping partners may charge additional fees for COD services and others may have more efficient mechanisms for COD Reconciliation (which ensures money is remitted back to you).
Secured delivery is not something that every business necessarily needs, but it can be helpful for reducing potential damage to orders in transit. Some shipping companies specialize in providing security and insurance services, which can be especially helpful for eCommerce companies dealing in high-value and fragile goods.
A good NDR workflow can make a huge difference when it comes to dealing with delivery exceptions like failed deliveries. Failed deliveries can occur for a variety of reasons and a good NDR management system can help address these delivery exceptions specifically.
9.7)Temperature Controlled Transit
Many eCommerce companies deal with products that may need to be contained in specific temperatures. Some shipping companies provide transportation options that enable the temperature to be controlled to ensure products aren’t damaged in transit.
Reverse logistics is an extremely important part of shipping services as many items can get lost or stuck during the return journey. Returns are a recurring part of eCommerce shipping and can occur if a customer requests it as a result of RTOs. A good system for reverse logistics can ensure returned orders are available for restocking and resale.
eCommerce Packaging is another of the major shipping services provided by almost all shipping companies. However, not all shipping companies provide the same packaging services. A few shipping partners can provide specialised packaging services that enable your brand to be better displayed and your orders to be safely transported. Here’s a breakdown of the most common types of packaging.
This is a specialised service offered by shipping companies that can let you give customers a unique packaging experience. A well-designed box that prominently displays your brand or products can help push cross-sales and bring back customers.
A damaged order is an undeniable loss for any business. Shipping companies like Blue Dart offer weather-resistant packaging, usually wrapped in plastic or protective materials that ensure orders stay intact, regardless of rain, snow or heat.
This is a more niche packaging service offered by few shipping services providers in India. For eCommerce service providers that pride themselves on reducing their carbon footprint, this kind of packaging can be a huge boon. It lets customers know that you are consciously reducing the harmful effects of wastage.
11)Shipping Labels and Insurance
Shipping labels and insurance are 2 services provided by nearly every shipping company. They can have a huge impact on your bottom line as they both affect overall losses. Let’s take a closer look at these two major functions performed by eCommerce shipping partners.
At the core of eCommerce shipping services are tasks related to the creation of shipping labels. Shipping labels are of immense importance as they contain all the order information and customer information. An inaccurate shipping label can result in lost orders, stuck shipments, delayed deliveries and numerous other potential losses. A tech-enabled system for shipping labels can help ensure the accuracy of data and faster processing of information.
For eCommerce businesses that deal in high-value or fragile items, shipping insurance is a must. In cases where an order has been damaged, broken or lost, customers would have to be reimbursed for the value of the order. Shipping insurance may increase shipping costs but reduce overall losses on frequently damaged orders.
12)How to Tracking Shipments and Returns in eCommerce?
Shipment tracking is the core mechanism of any good eCommerce delivery experience. With thousands of orders being shipped on a daily basis, tracking shipments is integral to order management and customer experience. Tracking shipments enables you to better understand the quality of services provided by shipping partners, monitor performance over time and initiate enhancements. One of the most effective ways to track shipments (in both forward and reverse logistics) is through the use of the best eCommerce shipping tracking software. This software should essentially serve the 3 main purposes listed below in addition to optimizing the numerous other tasks.
Your eCommerce business may have a daily order volume that can range between 10 and 1000 orders. The higher your volume of orders, the more shipping partners you'll need. With shipping software, you can view all orders with all carriers from a single platform. This saves you the trouble of toggling between shipping partner platforms just to check the status of a single order. All orders are displayed with their unique identification number in a unified view and segregated based on their delivery status.
12.2)Tracking eCommerce shipments
Shipment tracking has numerous benefits. The first and foremost is a better customer experience. Customer anxiety can be reduced when they see that orders are on the move and are aware of any delays that occur. A good shipment tracking software uses the latest tech solutions to ensure tracking updates are provided in real-time. The eCommerce courier and shipping tracking system also helps monitor the delivery performance of shipping partners. You can then determine which key functions are in need of what improvements. Shipment tracking help in determining optimal routes, reducing delays and addressing NDRs.
12.3)Managing eCommerce returns
A certain number of orders end in returns, whether customer-initiated or as a failed delivery. Tracking orders during their return journey is absolutely vital to ensuring the safety of an order. When a customer returns an order, the value of that order becomes a loss for your business. However, losing that order in the return journey can result in an unnecessary double loss. A shipping tracking software can process returns as new orders. Thereby giving it access to the same tracking facilities as orders being delivered to customers. The goal is to ensure the order reaches the origin warehouse to be resold.
13)eCommerce Shipping Integrations and APIs
In order to provide shipment tracking mechanisms to ecommerce businesses, shipping software makes use of various technologies. The most common are API integrations. An API (application programming interface) acts as a facilitator for the flow of information and instructions between two programs (like an ecommerce platform and a shipping partner platform). These integrations are installed and maintained through shipping software for a variety of purposes. The most prevalent are listed below.
13.1)Estimating Delivery Dates
Customers like to make informed purchases. Knowing when an order will arrive can greatly influence their interest in purchasing the order. The EDD API integration uses the customer's delivery address and past shipping data to accurately determine the estimated delivery date (EDD) and display it on the ecommerce platform.
After an order has been placed, it needs to be processed by the shipping partner in order to begin its journey. The faster this process is completed, the sooner an order can make its way to the customer. There are different API integrations that come into play here. There is one that creates the order in the carrier’s platform, and then another that generates the AWB. API integrations also push shipping label creation and assignment of delivery agents.
Because of the role API integrations play in helping platforms send data to each other quickly, they are a key component of order tracking. API integrations work to consistently pull real-time tracking updates from shipping platforms. They then send them instantaneously to eCommerce partners and their customers. Pull API integrations are most common for enabled shipment tracking. However, using Push API integrations as well ensures greater consistency-accuracy.
14)eCommerce Shipping Solutions in India with ClickPost
There’s a great deal of complexities that have to be addressed when it comes to e-commerce shipping. Preparing a comprehensive shipping strategy is the first step to growth for any business. As an eCommerce shipping management software, ClickPost can help you achieve the goals envisioned in your strategy.
ClickPost provides quick and easy integration with over 120+ shipping partners in India and the Middle East. Integration with storefronts like Shopify & Woocommerce and online marketplaces like Amazon is a simplified task. Not only are orders managed through a uniform user-friendly interface, orders can also be monitored, categorized and tracked in real-time.
ClickPost makes use of pull and push API integrations to make sure your customers receive up-to-the-minute order status notifications. ClickPost works tirelessly to keep updating and upgrading its features. This is to give you access to AI-driven carrier recommendation engines, AI-enabled analytics, and exception management. You are enabled to integrate with all order processing APIs through single ClickPost shipping and courier API integration.
Convert failed deliveries into successful ones quickly and easily using its NDR Management workflow. This system addresses NDRs with issue-specific queries to customers and fast transfer of delivery data. While automation and optimisation of delivery mechanisms are a focus, customer experiences are also enhanced using personalized communication.
ClickPost understands the need to regularly grow and improve with the help of data science and machine learning. To learn more about the features we offer and how they can help you, reach out to us for a demo of our product and insights on the tech-fueled shipping industry.