Inside this article
As inconvenient as it might be, shipping issues do arise every so often and the sooner we accept them as part of the online selling process, the better we can manage them.
Find out which are the most common shipping issues and 13 tips to avoid them in the first place.
Most common shipping issues
Online retailers dread having to deal with problems in the shipping process: difficulties with couriers, customs hold-ups and lost packages are way more frequent than we’d like to admit. However, with numerous other parties involved, not everything rests with you. The fact is that couriers, customers and legal processes also play an important role in the shipping process.
Below you'll see some of the most common issues that arise and who is generally at fault.
|Reason for issue||Agent involved|
|Error in the shipping data||Customer making the purchase|
|Error in the packing process||Online shop processing the shipment|
|Package held at customs||Online shop, incomplete documentation|
|Delay in delivery||Courier|
|Problem in completing delivery||Missing customer|
If there are complications with your eCommerce shipments, it may take a toll on your business and lead to a loss in revenue. If that’s not enough, your customer can feel they didn’t receive the treatment they deserved after placing their trust in your brand. If you failed once, why wouldn’t you fail again? Losing their trust means they likely won’t buy from you again and their disappointment can lead to a lack of confidence in your online shop, which may go on to damage your image with third parties.
Regardless of whether we’re talking about domestic or international shipments, you should always check that everything is in order before the courier picks up your package.
If you work with MRW, UPS, DHL, SEUR, DPD, FedEx or with any other courier, there are certain rules that you should not overlook.
How to avoid eCommerce shipping issues: 13 effective tips
Some things are beyond our control but there are things you can do to prevent problems arising in the first place. So in this article, we’ll give you 13 tips on what to check to avoid potential shipping issues. Make sure not to miss any:
1. All data must be complete and correct
Sounds obvious, right? But it is an all-too-common occurrence for a retailer to arrange for a courier to pick up a package that ends up having the wrong barcode an incorrect address or any other kind of information, missing. How are they supposed to deliver something to a street that doesn’t exist? Before processing your shipments, make sure the information that your customer has entered is correct and that nothing is missing.
Phone directories are a thing of the past and nowadays confirming an address can be done from anywhere in the world using your smartphone. This avoids the courier needing you to call or email the customer, keeps communication running smoothly and prevents time being wasted. As they say, better safe than sorry.
2. The shipping label must be well-placed
The shipping label shouldn’t be twisted, folded or hidden in any way but be in good condition and in a visible spot. Remember that this tiny space actually holds all the information required for the package to cross borders, get through customs and reach its destination without getting lost and avoiding delays. Before you send an order out, ensure the products match the products on the order and that the label has a product description. This is a requirement when you make international shipments.
3. Remember, packaging is key
As we know, one of 2021’s main trends in eCommerce has been that packaging makes a real difference in providing a better customer experience.
However, the package is also the vehicle in which our order travels to its final destination. As such, it should have certain features to ease the process:
- It should be easy to handle
- All instructions related to the goods must be correctly relayed. For example, the package should be labelled fragile to avoid damaging the goods along their journey.
- The dimensional weight must be correct: the courier may charge you extra if the price of your shipment does not match the volumetric weight.
- If the recipient receives a damaged package, it must be kept and photographed. Both will be needed as proof when opening a claim with the courier. If missing, the courier may try to avoid reimbursing the amount and you, as an online shop, may end up needing to refund your customers for the courier’s mistake.
4. HS code
This code is a digit combination that classifies the goods for import/export and is used by customs authorities to identify the duty and tax rates for specific types of products. This is why the HS code must be included in every international shipment.
To know which code relates to each product, simply type a simple description of the product followed by ‘HS Code’ on any search engine. Generally, this code is 6 digits long and internationally standardised. However, you can find some codes with up to 10 digits.
5. Content description
There’s no need to give too many details, a brief description of the package contents is enough. It doesn’t matter if it is just a gift, customs have no time for surprises.
This information is crucial for shipments heading out of the EU. The description must be short and written in English, so it can be understood everywhere.
Regarding international shipments, packages to special territories within the EU must be backed with three copies of your invoices placed inside a clear envelope and attached to the outside of the package.
Business information, such as VAT number and the registration number of the company, must be also included. Fortunately, if you process your shipments with Outvio, all this data will be included when you print your invoices.
Remember that it is compulsory to include the value of the shipment in the invoices. Some couriers won’t accept invoices if this information is not specified.
Before anything else, make sure you know all the conditions that apply to shipping to a certain region. Customs regulations can vary from place to place, even within a country.
Make sure to check the conditions that apply to that particular destination with your courier. Sometimes, your customer must pay a certain amount to receive the goods.
8. Shipments to special territories within the EU
Although these destinations are within country borders, shipping there should be considered international shipping.
When dealing with shipments to special territories within the EU remember to include the following:
- Three copies of your invoice in a clear envelope attached to the outside of the package.
- ID number of your customer together with all their personal information.
- Additional information required by the customs authorities.
9. Shipments to Russia
Currently, sending packages to private individuals is not allowed in Russia. For this reason, you must ensure the recipient's address is a business address, such as the company where your customer works (not their home address). Otherwise, your package will be held up at customs, leading to delays and who knows what else.
10. EORI Number
What is the EORI number?
EORI stands for Economic Operator Registration and Identification number. It is assigned by customs offices and is valid throughout the EU.
Who needs an EORI number?
According to the European Commission, ‘any economic operator established in the customs territory of the Union needs, for customs purposes, an EORI number’. They further state that in some cases, economic operators not established in the customs territory of the Union may also require an EORI number.
Remember that you have to be registered in the country where the company is based.
How does the EORI number look?
The EORI number consists of the country code of the issuing state (prefix ‘ES’ in the case of Spain), and the company’s Tax Identification Number (NIF).
REX stands for Registered Exporter System.
Through this system, export businesses can self-certify the origin of goods. The main advantages of this are that it both simplifies export bureaucracy and reduces customs costs.
Export companies must be registered in REX in the country they reside in. Each company that exports goods to the EU or countries that have trade agreements with the EU must be an authorised exporter or a registered exporter. This is an essential condition of export to these countries.
12. In the right place, at the right time
Last but not least, make sure that the recipient is at the indicated address at the moment of delivery. Some couriers only attempt delivery once and if no one is there to collect the package, it is returned to the sender. This can cause financial loss and lead to your customer making a claim or complaint to customer service.
Carefully read the conditions of every courier service. It’s always better to choose carriers that offer more than one delivery attempt and to take into account any additional fees that are incurred for further attempts. Some couriers offer up to 4 attempts, with the first two for free and the further ones at an additional cost. If after the fourth, the delivery can’t be completed, the package is returned to its origin, meaning extra expense for your eCommerce business.
Although it won’t prevent any issues arising, insurance can definitely help you when they do.
With shipments that include valuable items, ask yourself whether it might actually be worth insuring them.
Many couriers don’t want the responsibility of handling art pieces, collector's items, jewellery or handicrafts. Generally, they are difficult to value, which makes covering the cost problematic in the case of loss.
Make sure you know which items are not accepted by each courier service and under what conditions.
As we can see, the shipping process can be a real minefield. Disputes with couriers and customers will happen every now and then. At Outvio we help you with the logistics of eCommerce to make the shipping and returns process simple. Our complete software solution provides you with all the assistance you need, from shipping, to tracking and incident management to return automation. Nothing gets overlooked.
When processing your shipment, our software automatically detects any missing information, as indicated by a green, yellow or red status flag next to the mandatory fields. And, thanks to the use of cutting-edge AI, our system can identify potential issues, sending you a notification to solve them. And, if the issues already happened, we provide a tool for communicating with the courier to avoid any unnecessary calls.