Shipping

Shipping automation: an advanced guide for eCommerce and online shops

Mariluz Sampalo

Mariluz Sampalo

Dec 17, 2021

Shipping automation with software and tools like barcode reader for packages

Inside this article

  • iconWhat are the advantages of shipping automation in eCommerce?
  • iconConnect your checkout with your logistics
  • iconOptimize the logistics for order management
  • iconAutomatic prevention of incidents
  • iconAutomate returns
  • iconGet a panoramic view of your business
  • Numerous leading firms are investing resources in shipping automation. They are aware of the positive effects of processing a high volume of orders in a reduced amount of time.

    If you run an eCommerce business and have reached a considerable amount of sales, you would have probably noticed how the shipping logistics are becoming more and more difficult to control. Unfortunately, complicated shipping logistics are an unavoidable element within the eCommerce industry.

    According to this Statista study, the general trend for the following years will be to promote complete logistic automation, instead of focusing purely on shipping. Online shops that have figured out their direct sales channels will benefit from this since this will allow them to improve the ROI by reducing the costs invested in logistics while also extending the lifetime value of the buyers.

    Statista ecommerce size evolution

    Source: Statista

    This guide analyzes the needed steps for shipping automation in any eCommerce, gives tangible information to optimize your logistics and examines how to choose quality automation software for your business.

    What are the advantages of shipping automation in eCommerce?

    The arrival of the digital era has made online shopping one of the main supply channels, and, with it, the need to manage the tasks in a more precise and agile way. The goal ultimately is to squeeze the possibilities of every online business to do more with less. In this sense, shipping has a fundamental role. Let’s see why.

    On the one hand, shipping automation guarantees shorter delivery times that adjust to consumers’ demands. Thus, the purchasing experience will be more satisfactory and directly affect profits: the faster you deliver the package, the more chances the buyer will become a repeat customer.

    In addition to the purchasing experience, you need to improve the logistics tasks. Any eCommerce business that is not ready to professionally deal with high volumes of orders will surely use inadequate methods to dispatch the shipments. The higher the number of sales, the more orders to accumulate and the more inefficient processes become. It’s a vicious circle that needs to be solved. 

    When a bottleneck occurs, the growth of the online shop slows down, its profit margins can be reduced and customer loyalty and retention hindered. The following graph by McKinsey reflects some of the aspects that more risks cause within the supply chain.

    Weaknesses in the supply chain and shipment management in online shops

    Shipping automation solves these problems, reducing logistic costs and increasing your company's profit margins. Having said this now is the moment to dive deep into the most crucial shipping aspects for eCommerce.

    Connect your checkout with your logistics

    Checkout is the first element to optimize if you want to speed up the preparation of orders. For this, we recommend establishing links between orders and notifications to the warehouse or any other location related to the preparation of shipments. This will enable your staff to design efficient work routes and prioritise picking and packing depending on the shipping method selected in checkout. 

    Optimized checkout is more important than it seems since not all users choose express deliveries. Some may opt for slower deliveries if the costs are lower or pick a specific date and time for their convenience. All these preferences affect order preparation, hence the importance of connecting checkout and logistics.

    By integrating Outvio with your eCommerce, you will manage the orders received within the checkout page and directly send them to the warehouse. Its interface is designed to be intuitive. In only five minutes you can prepare the picking lists and print the labels to shorten the time needed to prepare orders. Moreover, the software allows you to process orders in bulk and notify your warehouse network in a single click, taking into consideration your shipping preferences and your customers'. Outvio will help you to be organized and prioritize the shipments according to their level of urgency.

    Set up your shipping rules

    Another critical aspect is defining shipping rules before processing the orders from checkout. As we mentioned before, the wide variety of situations and circumstances will require modifying a vast number of factors. For instance, from which warehouse will the shipments be sent, the size of the package —this is important since weight and dimensions directly affect the shipping rate—, which courier will be responsible for the shipment, etc.

    All this information should be passed on to your staff automatically. If you decide to do it manually, you will lose time, resources and eventually crucial information, which is something that any eCommerce business or online shop wants to avoid. Luckily, Outvio gives you the possibility to set up different shipping rules to select the most convenient option every time. Outvio saves the filters, so you only need to do this setup once. Moreover, Outvio automatically compares the shipping rates from all your couriers and makes an organized list to ease the process of picking the courier.

    Offer several shipping methods

    Abandoned carts are inherent to any online shop. In fact, the more traffic the eCommerce receives on its checkout, the more leads are lost.

    One possible way to make buyers stay on the checkout page is to offer various shipping methods. They will provide you with the necessary tools to cover your customers’ needs, like express shipments or low-cost shipments, boosting the number of sales. 

    Optimize the logistics for order management

    Once your checkout and logistic channels are connected, the next step is to automate the physical preparation of orders. Generally speaking, this task involves various processes happening in the warehouse facilities. Likewise, the contracts you have with your couriers will also play a role in preparing orders since you may have specific dimensions and rates stipulated. To optimize the internal processes of your warehouses, you can follow our next tips.

    Label and shipping documents printing

    Creating all the required documentation for the shipments can be difficult if you do not have a system set up for it. For this reason, shipping automation works best with a tool that allows you to print labels, packing lists and invoices automatically.

    If you have already connected your online shop with Outvio and you have defined your shipping rules, this problem is already solved. The software will print all the required documentation for couriers and customs. Then, you will only need to select which orders you want to process and get the package ready within minutes.

    Picking and packing automation

    Picking and packing lists are documents that give your staff the required information to collect and pack the products. This information combines both tasks to make the preparation cycle more efficient, reducing the time needed for picking and packing.

    However, just like the labels and other shipping documents, the picking and packing lists can be made manually or automatically. As you can imagine, carrying out these tasks manually directly impacts the company’s efficiency making its response times slow and improvable, increasing the chances of any mistake happening.

    Thanks to Outvio’s Scan & Pack tool, you will be able to print picking and packing lists, shipping labels and other shipping documents automatically. Scan the barcodes on your products and classify them accordingly. This feature minimizes the workload in a warehouse by 50%.

    Automating the picking and packing process of your orders will simplify the tasks and reduce incidents

    Reduce the walking distance within your warehouse

    Implementing all of these changes is a good step, but not enough. Outvio’s software will allow you to manage and automate shipping tasks. However, this is a partial solution, not a complete one. 

    A warehouse with high quantities of stock needs technology to automate the release and stocking of goods, as well as relocations. The machinery used will heavily depend on the dimensions of the warehouse. However, the most frequent ones are forklifts, pallet jacks and other vehicles for warehousing or even tablets with AR technology.

    Ideally, you would want to automate shipping to optimize manual and management processes simultaneously. The following infographic from Netsuite shows what functionalities can be combined to achieve the perfect automation.

    Infographic with improvements in any eCommerce shipping system and logistics

    Synchronize your shipments with the arrival of couriers

    Efficiently managing daily pick-ups with couriers is indispensable if you want to automate eCommerce shipments. However, having a courier sent to your facilities shouldn't happen if the packages are not ready. This will slow down your deliveries and reduce your profits since you will be paying for a service that will not be used.

    To prevent these kinds of situations from happening, in addition to optimizing the before mentioned processes, it is essential to have all your couriers integrated into a single interface. Otherwise, it would be impossible to synchronize so many workflows. Outvio keeps the eCommerce in touch with its couriers and enables it to update time slots for any pick-up. This will guarantee you huge savings on inefficient transport.

    Despite all this, another critical component cannot be missed out: interconnectivity between the different logistics divisions. For this, implementing some systems that promote synergies is key. The most relevant are:

    • Warehouse management system (WMS)
    • Radio-frequency identification terminals (RFID) with devices adapted for 3G and 4G
    • Enterprise resource planning platform (ERP)

    Automatic prevention of incidents

    The last thing you want is to put in danger the cost reduction and the customers’ satisfaction by incidents and delays in the delivery process. If certain guarantees are not offered to the buyers, investing in shipping automation is worthless.

    Unfortunately, logistic issues can be caused by multiple agents, both internal and external. This means that controlling and monitoring measures must be set into place. We recommend making a prevention plan for logistic issues. You can start by:

    • Identifying possible bottlenecks in your logistic system
    • Prioritizing the risks considering their probability and acting accordingly
    • Implementing control and prevention mechanisms
    • Doing regular maintenance of your infrastructure and processes

    Outvio’s tracking portal, thanks to its intelligent incident-prevention system can be extremely beneficial. The software will update the status of the orders in real-time. When an anomaly is found, it notifies you to give you more time to solve the incident.

    Automate returns

    Returns are one of the main challenges eCommerce faces daily. They require a perfect strategic design and need to be carried out with a profitable reverse logistic system. This is the moment of truth: returns can easily elevate logistic costs and, as a consequence, reduce profit margins considerably.

    Moreover, making them possible is not enough. Your return policy must be aligned with your customers’ shopping habits. Most commonly, this means free, flexible and easy returns, which complicates, even more, the whole process since you will need to cover all the costs caused by the returns.

    This is why return automation through a specialized portal is the only way to reduce costs and improve customer experience. You can read more on the topic of returns in our blog post and learn everything you need on reverse logistics.

    Get a panoramic view of your business

    As abstract as it may seem, there is nothing more important for shipping automation than the approach. Getting a panoramic view of the entirety of the supply chain will allow you to comprehend the reason behind the successes and failures, and how to improve them. In other words, you need a holistic approach.

    This is why Outvio exists. To enable online shops of all sizes to provide the best-quality post-sales services from a single dashboard and, therefore, a holistic view of your eCommerce business. Our software comes with a variety of advanced functionalities, many of them covered in this article, to make your processes more efficient and faster. Discover how to propel your business with Outvio's tricks to reduce shipping costs.