Top Shipping Mistakes to Avoid: A Comprehensive Guide for Online Small Shops

Top Shipping Mistakes to Avoid

As shop owners, we are all about delivering smiles and satisfaction right to our customer’s doorsteps. But let's face it, the shipping process isn't always a walk in the park, is it? 

From figuring out the best packaging to use to ensuring each order arrives in perfect condition, there's a lot that goes into this final, crucial step in your customer's purchasing journey. Especially when we're aiming for that eco-friendly approach, things can get a little tricky.

We understand the challenges that come with the shipping process, so we’ve put this article together. Let's talk about the top shipping mistakes you should avoid.

The common shipping mistakes online small shop owners must avoid include inaccurate address information, insufficient packaging and protection, neglecting to weigh and measure packages accurately, ignoring shipping carrier guidelines, inadequate labeling and documentation, and failing to optimize shipping costs. 

This isn't about pointing fingers at our blunders, but rather, learning from them to create a smoother, greener shipping process for us all. We aim to provide valuable insights and practical tips to help you enhance your shipping practices and deliver a better experience to your customers. 

So, are you ready to up your shipping game? Let's jump right in!

1. Inaccurate Address Information

package address information

Ever prepared a carefully packaged product and sent it off with high hopes, only to have it return like a boomerang because of inaccurate address details? Tough, right, but it happens to the best of us.

Inaccurate address information is a common culprit behind delivery delays, returned packages, and unnecessary shipping costs. And trust us, it's not just you who's frustrated. Your customers don't want their anticipated packages lost in the mail either.

Attention to detail is key here. We know, amidst the hustle and bustle of running your shop, it's easy to miss the finer points. That's why it's crucial to double-check your customers' shipping information before generating shipping labels. By doing so, you can ensure accurate and timely deliveries, avoiding unnecessary delays and frustrations.

Moreover, in the unfortunate event of a problem with an order, quickly inform the customers as soon as you find out. Many times, people tend to tune out shortly after placing an order, so if you wait until a day later to address the issue, the order might remain on hold. Prompt communication shows your dedication to customer satisfaction and allows for swift resolution.

Furthermore, consider investing in address validation tools or services, especially if you're dealing with high volumes of orders. These tools can spot errors before you ship, ensuring accuracy at the first step of shipping. They cross-check the given addresses with a reliable database and spot errors before you hit the 'ship' button. It's a small step that makes a big difference in a smooth shipping journey.

Here's a pro-tip for you: If you're using platforms like Shopify, you already have this feature built-in! It notifies you if the provided address is different from what's in their database. Neat, right?

Accurate address details are the first checkpoint in ensuring your carefully curated products reach their new homes safely. So, let's aim for zero boomerangs and more high fives!

2. Insufficient Packaging and Protection

secured packaging

Imagine the disappointment of opening a long-anticipated order, only to find it damaged due to poor packaging. It can instantly turn a moment of joy into a frustrating experience.

Insufficient packaging and protection is a significant shipping mistake. It's not just the disappointment of a broken item; it's the additional cost, the hassle of returns, replacements, and the environmental impact that really pile up.

Your products are more than mere objects. They are treasures eagerly awaited by your customers, and they deserve to arrive safely at their new homes, whether they're delicate pieces of jewelry, handmade candles, or vintage books. 

So, how can we ensure our packages weather their journeys? Here are a few best practices:

  • Use Appropriate Inner and Outer Packaging

Consider the outer packaging as your product’s armor against the world. Inner packaging cushions your product and protects it from shocks and bumps. Select robust boxes or mailers for the outside, and use sufficient cushioning materials on the inside.

  • Choose the Right Size Box

A box that's too big means your product will have too much room to bounce around. A box that's too small won't leave enough space for protective materials. The key is to find that 'just right' size to fit your products well.

  • Securely Seal Packages

No one wants their package to pop open midway through its journey. Use strong, reliable tape like our high-quality packing tapes at Impack to seal your packages and prevent accidental openings. 

When you put a little more thought into packaging, you can wave goodbye to the woes of damaged deliveries. This ensures that every customer receives their package in perfect condition, which not only boosts their satisfaction but also helps build long-term trust in our brand. 

3. Neglecting to Weigh and Measure Packages

Neglecting to weigh and measure your packages accurately can lead to unexpected delays and shipping costs that are way above your estimates. Shipping costs are typically based on the weight and dimensions of your package. Any mistakes in these measurements can lead to incorrect shipping rates, resulting in additional charges down the line. This adds to your costs and eats into your profits.

Accurate weighing and measuring prevent you from overpaying or underpaying for shipping. Overpaying means you're losing money that could be invested elsewhere in your business. Underpaying might seem like a win at first, but trust us, when carriers charge you for the difference later on, it’s definitely not a pleasant experience.

Below are a few tips to aid in proper weighing and measuring:

  • Invest in a Quality Scale

Regularly weighing your packages before shipping them out can save you from a lot of surprises. As it’s often hard to read the readings from a kitchen scale or even a regular scale, a reliable shipping scale is an investment that will quickly pay for itself. 

  • Measure Twice, Ship Once

Don't just eyeball it when it comes to package dimensions. Use a tape measure to get the exact length, width, and height of your package. Also, don’t forget to factor in the weight of your packaging materials. Everything from the box to the tape adds to the total weight! And remember - it never hurts to double-check!

  • Consider Using Dimensioning Tools

For ultimate accuracy, consider dimensioning tools or apps. These can give you precise measurements, resulting in more exact shipping costs.

  • Stay Updated with Carrier Guidelines

Shipping carriers often update their guidelines. Staying up-to-date with these changes helps you avoid any unexpected shifts in shipping costs or procedures. Additionally, many shipping carriers and e-commerce platforms offer shipping calculators. You can input the weight and dimensions of your package to get an exact shipping cost.

4. Ignoring Shipping Carrier Guidelines

Have you tried to assemble a new gadget without reading the instructions, and ended up a bit lost? The same thing can happen when shipping carrier guidelines are ignored. It can lead to confusion, delays and yes, even some disappointment. 

Every shipping carrier – be it USPS, FedEx, UPS, or others – has a unique set of guidelines that dictate their handling procedures. These rules provide instructions on everything from packaging requirements and labeling to weight restrictions and special handling procedures. When these guidelines are ignored, it can result in problems, such as shipping delays, additional charges, or, in some cases, the carrier refusing to accept your packages altogether. 

Here are a few important practices to keep in mind:

  • Know Your Carrier's Rules

Familiarize yourself with the specific rules and regulations of the carrier you're using. For example, USPS restricts the shipment of certain hazardous materials, while FedEx has specific rules around the shipment of lithium batteries.

  • Follow Packaging and Labeling Instructions

Each carrier has guidelines on how to correctly label and package items. UPS, for instance, provides detailed instructions on label placement, advising that labels should be placed on the package's largest surface. Ignoring such details can result in mishandling of the package or delivery to the wrong address.

  • Understand Weight and Size Restrictions

Each carrier has limits on the acceptable weight and size of packages. Knowing these can save you from unwanted additional charges or package rejection. For example, USPS has a maximum weight limit of 70 lbs for Priority Mail packages, and exceeding this can lead to additional charges or package rejection.

  • Comply with Restrictions on Prohibited Items

Carriers have lists of prohibited items that they will not ship. For instance, FedEx won't ship tobacco, while UPS won't ship currency. Ignorance of these prohibitions can result in your package not being shipped, or even legal trouble.

  • Stay Updated

Carrier guidelines can and do change. It's important to stay updated on these changes. For example, carriers often update their fuel surcharge rates and knowing these updates can help you avoid unexpected costs.

5. Inadequate Labeling and Documentation

woman checking shipping information

Labels and documents are crucial roadmaps that guide your shipments from your hands to your customers. Skipping or mishandling this critical information can lead to delays, misdeliveries, or returns, hurdles we all want to avoid.

Every piece of information, from shipping labels that hold the 'to and from' details, to necessary customs documentation for international shipments, plays a vital role in delivering your package to its final destination. Comprehensive and correct customs documentation for international shipments helps navigate the customs process smoothly and delivers your package to your customer faster.

To get your labeling and documentation right, consider the following tips:

  • Use Clear, Legible Print

Ensure all labels are printed clearly and are easily readable. Unclear handwriting or faint print can lead to mix-ups. In addition, use waterproof and durable labels to ensure visibility throughout the shipping journey.

  • Position Labels Correctly

Labels should ideally be placed on a flat surface of the package, avoiding seams or tape. Ensure the barcode on the label is in a 'landscape' orientation and is not blurred or wrinkled.

  • Double-check Address Details

Always double-check the 'to' and 'from' information on your labels. Even small errors can lead to big problems.

  • Fill Out All Required Customs Info

For international shipments, make sure all required customs information is provided to avoid delays or unnecessary additional charges.

  • Stay Updated on Customs Regulations

If you're frequently shipping internationally, stay on top of the latest customs requirements to avoid hold-ups.

6. Failing to Optimize Shipping Costs

Have you ever rushed through a sales event and then realized you missed out on an extra discount code at checkout? That's quite similar to not optimizing your shipping costs—you end up spending more than necessary. 

Shipping costs can quickly stack up, nibbling away at your profits. If you're not proactively managing these costs, you could be missing out on important savings opportunities, which can negatively impact your bottom line. The good news is, with a bit of planning and strategy, you can optimize these costs and save money without compromising the quality of your service. 

Efficiently managing and reducing your shipping costs allows you to pass on savings to your customers. This makes your offerings more appealing, giving you an advantage over competitors.

For some best practices to optimize your shipping costs, check these out:

  • Compare Carrier Rates

Don't limit yourself to one carrier. Compare shipping rates from different carriers to find the most cost-effective options for your packages.

  • Negotiate with Carriers

If you ship high volumes, negotiate with carriers. They are often willing to offer discounts to keep your business.

  • Take Advantage of Discounted Shipping Programs

Many carriers offer discounted shipping programs. If you ship regularly or in large volumes, these programs can lead to significant savings.

  • Use Shipping Software or Platforms

Some shipping software and platforms can streamline your shipping process, offer cost comparisons, and provide access to discounted rates.

  • Choose the Right Packaging

You need to keep shipping costs in mind even when designing or selecting your packaging. Opt for the correct packaging size to avoid unnecessary dimensional weight fees, as bulky or oversized packages cost more to ship.

  • Consolidate Shipments

If you're sending multiple packages to the same location, consolidate them into one shipment to save on costs.

  • Regularly Review Your Shipping Costs

Conduct regular audits of your shipping expenses. This will help you spot any trends, identify issues, and make necessary adjustments to remain cost-effective.

Ready, Set, Ship

With the tips in this article, mastering the art of shipping is within your reach. When you pay attention to aspects like accurate measurement, label accuracy, compliance with carrier guidelines, and cost optimization, you can turn shipping from a challenging chore into a seamless part of your business process.

Remember, the key to successful shipping lies in the details. It's about equipping yourself with the right knowledge, tools, and strategies to ensure every package you send out is a successful delivery waiting to happen. After all, every package is a promise to a customer, and fulfilling that promise accurately and efficiently is what truly counts.

Ready to take your shipping process to the next level? Take the first step today. Review your shipping practices, identify improvement areas, and start implementing the tips we've shared. Here's to efficient and effective shipping!

Back to blog

Leave a comment