Revisiting Your Shipping Methods

Earn higher DSR marks with a few simple adjustments.

by Dennis L. Prince
- Feb 11, 2009

No doubt about it, many sellers have become anxious over the Detailed Seller Ratings (DSR) system at eBay, especially the rankings for shipping. You don't have to turn yourself inside out to earn high ratings, though; you may only need to revisit your shipping means and methods.

As you'll soon find out, successful sellers don't have to succumb to offering free shipping to coax five-star feedback. In fact, that's often a bad idea—even to buyers' sensibilities.

No, higher ratings for your shipping policies often come from a thoughtful approach that guarantees safe delivery at reasonable rates, even in a time when transport costs are at an all-time high.

Step 1: Realize there will be shipping costs (buyers already know it)

Since its inception, eBay has operated on this fundamental transactional protocol: Buyer will please pre-pay, plus postage. Although some would love to scoop up goods with no additional transit fees, the majority know that those costs will be reflected somewhere in the purchase price. Rather than bump up the prices of your items (and possibly lose sales to lower-priced competing goods), be fair and forthright in your sales policy, explaining your shipping methods and costs. Simple research online will indicate if you're attempting to overcharge for transit costs. Yet, that same research will bear out the fair costs you're passing along to your buyers. Nope, there's nothing wrong with that.

Step 2: Cut shipping costs, pass along savings

Now, when it comes to enticing buyers, lower shipping costs are always a compelling draw. Take time today to re-evaluate your shipping materials, carriers you use to transport goods and the methods you select to get items to eager buyers. Here are some things you can do today to lower your shipping costs without lowering your customers' satisfaction:

  • Take advantage of free shipping supplies provided by carriers, including USPS, UPS and FedEx. All major carriers offer free packing boxes and other supplies, which are designed to handle the most common shipping situations. If you're buying boxes and envelopes for reasonably sized items and amortizing those costs to your customers, stop immediately and use the free supplies instead.
  • Carriers' free packing supplies are designed to be lightweight but sturdy, helping you get the goods to their destination safely without over-packing and subsequently over-weighing a package. The trick is to use the package's design to lock in rigidity without needless overstuffing. Therefore, package lightly but tightly. The weight you save will amount to lower costs every time.
  • Utilize carriers that are most convenient to you. Postal and various carrier "sub station" locations are all about you, freeing you from having to travel to the official post office or carrier site. If you ship many items each week, investigate whether the carrier offers doorstep pickup, and save some fuel for yourself (and cost to your buyers).
  • When a buyer sends payment, you should have the goods on hand to properly pack and ship within moments

  • Realize that higher-priced transit methods don't always equal greater customer satisfaction. You can halve the cost of shipping to your buyers by selecting standard or prioritized transit, usually delivering items within five business days. Expedited or express services bring some hefty costs that many buyers would just as soon avoid, happy to wait an extra day or two for delivery.

As easy as that, you've just taken four reliable steps to reduce your packing and shipping costs, savings you can pass on to your customers without eroding your profits.

Step 3: Streamline your packing and shipping process

Recall that the second DSR ranking that has sellers anxious is "shipping time." Well, just as it's true that buyers realize there are costs associated with transporting items, they also expect a bit of lead time until they receive a shipped item. Even so, you can help shorten this time—often drastically—if you establish a streamlined method to get the goods on their way. Here's how:

  • Ensure you have a proper supply of packing goods on hand at all times. When a buyer sends payment (often electronically), you should have the goods on hand to properly pack and ship within moments.
  • Establish a packing and shipping schedule that works to your listing end dates as well as to the carriers' schedules. Ending auctions on the weekends allows buyers to pay for their purchases before the new workweek begins. If payment is received and you can ship on Monday or Tuesday—when practically all carriers are open to take your packages—buyers will usually receive their goods before the week is over. Making them wait over the subsequent weekend is typically disappointing.
  • If you collect for insurance or use a carrier with tracking services, e-mail the tracking number to your customers the day you ship. With this, they can track the package progress themselves while you move on to selling and shipping other goods.
  • Follow up with your buyers to ensure the items have arrived safely and on time. Chances are, though, that satisfied buyers will contact you first with a note of thanks and praise.

When you take the above steps and remain conscientious about performing delivery follow up, few buyers will find fault with your shipping approach—and they'll usually be forgiving when the carrier is slow in their execution.

Step 4: Let buyers decide how you'll ship

Finally, don't forget about offering shipping options. Within your eBay listings, you can offer multiple delivery methods that allow the buyers to choose how fast and at what cost they'd prefer to obtain their purchases. Offer two or three methods to choose from, and allow the buyers to decide what suits their needs.

In the end, by taking the approaches laid out here, you'll find that shipping costs and shipping times aren't a minefield to navigate—they're just part of doing good business online.

About the Author

Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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