10 Shipping Tips to Make Your Life Easier (And Customers Happier)

Woman typing on computer with packages at her side

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 methods, tracking packages, and so on.

This post will go over 10 shipping tips designed to make your life easier and your customers happier.

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:

Tracking number not workingOrdering your products 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 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…

A delivery window of 7 to 35 days
… 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 you 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.

Status update on ePacket delivery

Refund details for pending delivery

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:

Customer support answers about shipping from a supplierIf you ask shipping questions and don’t get any answers, that might be a sign that you should ditch that supplier.

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:

Shopify notification settings
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…

Shipping notification template in Shopify
… to this:

Updated shipping notification update in Shopify
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 country, 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:

Shipping options for delivery to United States
You can set your default method to ePacket in the “Settings” of your Oberlo account:

Shipping method settings Oberlo
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.

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 is cheap.

Build shipping 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. 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:

Custom shipping zone in Shopify
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.

Eastern European shipping zone

Costs for Eastern Europe shipping zone
Shopify will apply the relevant shipping cost at checkout.

9. Target countries with the best shipping options

Advertising platforms like Facebook and AdWords 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 you marketing campaigns.

With this product, your margins with shipments to the US will be considerably better than with products shipped to Canada:

Shipping costs United States

Shipping costs 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 lower prices and faster delivery times than its next door neighbor Denmark:

Shipping costs Norway

Shipping costs 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.

10. 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:

Shopify telephone settings
Conclusions On Shipping

Shipping is one of 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 10 ways that you can protect yourself and your customers from the shipping-related headaches that keep dropshippers up at night.

1. 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.

2. Make sure your customers know how long shipping takes

Slow shipping times are way less annoying if customers know what to expect.

3. Make sure you know how long shipping takes

Dropshipping suppliers aren’t always crystal clear on this, so do your homework about shipping times.

4. 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.

5. Try to have fun with slow shipping times

As a dropshipper, you can’t control how fast (or slow) orders take. But you can make your customers feel better about the wait with engaging messages and updates.

6. Use ePacket delivery

ePacket delivery is usually the best shipping method that dropshippers can use.

7. Offer free shipping

“20-40 days” looks a lot more reasonable when the words “Free shipping!” are next to it.

8. Set up shipping zones in Shopify

If your suppliers have crazy costs times for certain countries, lump those countries into a shipping zone and slap a fee on shipments to that zone.

9. 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.

10. 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 final step.

Want to learn more?

Should You Offer Free Shipping?

Case Study: International Dropshipping vs Dropshipping in the USA

How to Start a Successful Free Plus Shipping Business

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