Real Questions About Shipping & Fulfillment, Answered

Shipping and fulfillment is really complicated! A lot of people have questions about how it works, and they submitted them by the dozen in our weekly giveaway contests in 2019 and 2020.

In this series of posts, we answer quick questions about shipping and fulfillment submitted to us by people like you!

How are online stores trying to feel more like brick-and-mortar stores?

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many businesses were forced to transition from storefronts to virtual storefronts. With this comes a new set of challenges. After all, how can you give customers the experience they are searching for when shopping online? 

Why is Walmart turning some of its stores into fulfillment centers?

First, if you haven’t heard the news, Business Insider ran an article about it recently. It’s titled “Walmart is turning 4 of its stores into partial e-commerce hubs in an unprecedented test of combing in person and online shopping.”

It’s not just Walmart, either. Macy’s is turning two of its stores into fulfillment centers too. The big question, however, is why?

How do you write good product descriptions?

No matter how mainstream online shopping becomes, there will always be a bit of anxiety that goes with making a purchase when you can’t see or touch the product. Writing good product descriptions gives you a chance to address that anxiety for your customers.

How do regional shipping carriers work?

Every Friday, we answer a common question about fulfillment, shipping, or business. We recently started working with a new regional shipping carrier: PCF Final Mile. They serve the northeastern US with extremely fast shipping. Today, to understand why that’s important and to follow up on last week’s post, today we will answer the following: “how do regional shipping carriers work?” 

What is last-mile delivery?

As strange as it may seem at first, postal carriers do this for a reason. FedEx and UPS both use a “hub-and-spoke” system to bounce packages from hub to hub until they’re close to your home. The hub-to-hub transit process, though not always a straight line, is really efficient.

How will shipping change permanently because of coronavirus?

It is no surprise that 2020 will go down in the history books as one of the weirdest years to date. COVID-19 reshaped society and how businesses function within it. All businesses in all industries are trying to adapt, and the shipping industry is no exception.

We’ve helped 1000+ businesses save time, money, and headache with stress-free fulfillment. And we’d love to do the same for you.

Why are holiday sales starting in October this year (2020)?

When you think of the fourth quarter holiday season, you probably naturally think about the stretch of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. After all, this is when Black Friday and Cyber Monday take place. Yet because of an “alliance between Coresight, Shopkick and dozens of retailers and brands, [the first shopping event will be] for October 10-11.“

How will holiday shopping be different this year (2020)?

As you can imagine, many shoppers are uncomfortable with the idea of going into packed stores for Black Friday shopping like in prior years. We know that the coronavirus is transmitted by people being in close contact, so a lot of sales that would be in-person are now moving online.

Why does Amazon want to buy malls?

Mall buildings are huge, widespread, and located close to major and minor population centers. The real estate is perfect for business use – it’s just a matter of finding the right business.

How should I ship fragile items?

The first rule of shipping fragile objects is to choose a rigid box. The last thing you want to do is ship a Faberge egg in a polybag or padded envelope!

How do companies ship temperature-sensitive goods?

Shipping temperature-sensitive goods is so common and important that there’s a name for the special procedures required: cold chain logistics. The basic concept is simple – the cold chain is a logistics network used to package, handle, label, and ship items that cannot be exposed to heat.

How do I create a product prototype?

We recommend that no matter what product you are trying to manufacture, try to make the best possible prototype you can on your own. Even a rough or non-functional prototype can be used as a visual aid to describe to manufacturers what you are trying to make.

We’ve helped 1000+ businesses save time, money, and headache with stress-free fulfillment. And we’d love to do the same for you.

Where do I find a manufacturer for my new product?

If you find that you really need manufacturing, though, the first decision you will have to make is “domestic or overseas?” Domestic manufacturing may cost more to create but less to send to your warehouse. Overseas manufacturing, on the other hand, will probably cost less but might take longer to ship to your warehouse and could leave your supply chain vulnerable to disruptions.

What is a Kickstarter pledge manager?

Once you log into the pledge manager, you are asked to fill out a survey with information such as your mailing address. This is all pretty normal and can be done without using a pledge manager. Then you are asked to pay for shipping, check out related projects, and to answer additional questions.

How does same-day shipping work?

Amazon smartly uses their data to predict the demand of certain items in certain geographic areas. The math and science behind this can become really complex really quickly, but suffice it to say that their demand predictions are surprisingly accurate. That allows Amazon to store items you’re likely to buy in warehouse that are close to you.

What is a 4PL Company?

There is one major benefit to using a 4PL – you can outsource all of supply chain management to another company. That means supply chain experts can not only complete routine tasks on your company’s behalf, but also actively suggest and even implement business strategies.

What is a 3PL company?

Supply chain management encompasses everything from the acquisition of raw material to manufacturing to shipping to order fulfillment. Basically, it covers everything that has to do with creating a physical product and getting it into a customer’s hands. A 3PL company can take one or more supply chain management responsibilities off your hands.

Why is sea shipping cheaper than air shipping?

When you have a large freight shipment to transport across the globe, you have two main options: you can either ship by air or by sea. Sea shipping is almost always the cheaper option and, for the most part, the more environmentally-friendly option to boot. Therefore, for many, choosing sea shipping over air shipping is a no-brainer.

We’ve helped 1000+ businesses save time, money, and headache with stress-free fulfillment. And we’d love to do the same for you.

How does the USPS make money on flat-rate shipping?

This question caught me off-guard because I’ve wondered the same thing myself. How does the USPS make money on flat-rate shipping? We’ve talked before about how flat-rate shipping is a good deal and why businesses should use it. This raises a bigger question, though: what’s in it for the USPS?

Why do people abandon shopping carts online?

According to the Baymard Institute, 68% of customers abandon their shopping carts. Figuring out how to reduce this behavior would save eCommerce owners a ton of money!

What are the fastest-growing industries right now?

The coronavirus has so completely disrupted day-to-day life that predictions about 2020 made in 2019 hold no real authority. As such, to find the fastest-growing industries, you have to look for “industries on track to overperform in 2020.”

What are the most sold items since the pandemic began?

First things first: no one can give you a definitive answer right now about the hottest pandemic items. The pandemic is still going on, so knowing the most sold items is impossible until the pandemic subsides.

How do you handle surges of orders?

We’ve been really busy lately because of the coronavirus pandemic. As you can imagine, with so many people staying in their homes, eCommerce orders have dramatically increased.

Why are my Amazon shipments delayed right now?

The simple answer is “because of the coronavirus.” But that seems a bit too easy, doesn’t it? In this post, we explain why the coronavirus is causing Amazon shipments to be delayed.

We’ve helped 1000+ businesses save time, money, and headache with stress-free fulfillment. And we’d love to do the same for you.

Why is the USPS shipping by sea now?

As you may know from past posts on our blog, sea shipping is a lot slower than air shipping. In fact, the USPS doesn’t usually do this because it’s slow and unpredictable. Sea route arrival dates depend on weather and how crowded the ports are.

How do I save on postage?

Money is tight these days. Not only is the economy looking a bit worse for wear, but many of us are actually forbidden from working entirely! This is a strange new world to inhabit, and with extra time and little money, many people are responding by being more frugal.

Why is coronavirus causing shipping delays?

From Amazon to FedEx to UPS, a lot of the major players in shipping and eCommerce have had the unenviable task of telling customers that “shipping will be slower than usual.”

Can you get coronavirus in the mail?

To be honest, this question occurred to me long before writing this post. In fact, it was right before Italy’s lockdown that I started becoming nervous about checking the mail. I became nervous, somewhat obsessively so, with whether it was safe to check the mail or not.

Why is warehousing/fulfillment considered essential during the pandemic?

In the month of March alone, over half of the states in the United States and three-quarters of the population were under some form of stay-at-home order.

How and why is the USPS still running during the pandemic?

“The postman always delivers.” This phrase has been in use for a very long time and it’s so true. Trying to stop US Postal Service is like trying to stop a train. It doesn’t matter if FedEx and UPS do similar work. When the government shuts down, the post office doesn’t. USPS delivers in the sunshine, rain, snow, and hail. It doesn’t even matter that the USPS runs at a loss.

We’ve helped 1000+ businesses save time, money, and headache with stress-free fulfillment. And we’d love to do the same for you.

What is the difference between parcel and freight?

There are two basic ways you can ship items: parcel and freight. Even though many companies, such as FedEx, deliver both, the difference between the two is very important.

What is the heaviest package you can ship?

While we at Fulfillrite generally specialize in small, lightweight items, we can ship larger ones if needed. This is because postal carriers, including USPS, FedEx, UPS, and DHL, all have surprisingly lenient rules on the weight of packages that can be shipped.

What should I do when my shipment is stuck at customs?

Imagine this. You’re waiting on a Kickstarter reward to arrive from a campaign you backed six months ago. It’s a brand new board game and you’ve been looking forward to playing it. Then you receive a package tracking notification by email. “Held at customs.”

How do you ship in an environmentally-friendly way?

Online shopping and quick delivery have become the norm. Unfortunately, the many fantastic advancements of the modern age, and really, the industrial age at large, have not been great for the environment.

How does shipping insurance work?

Shipping has become remarkably fast and reliable. Even still, it’s an act of faith to enclose something valuable in a box and put it in the mail. You hope that it will arrive at its destination.

How do you know how much inventory to buy?

When you have a business where keeping inventory in stock at all times is vital, you have to figure out how much inventory to buy. This can seem like a daunting task, but there are several different methods you can use to estimate inventory needs. We’ll talk about them in this week’s post.

We’ve helped 1000+ businesses save time, money, and headache with stress-free fulfillment. And we’d love to do the same for you.

Why do shipping rates differ between carriers?

Shipping looks simple, but it can be shockingly complicated. In fact, dealing with the complexity of shipping is why businesses like ours exist and help companies succeed. Even still, you may wonder, “why haven’t shipping rates stabilized across carriers by now? Every company has access to every other company’s rates!”

How long do products normally take to ship?

One to four business days is a decent average for domestic shipping time. Yet other variables must be accounted for when estimating shipping speed. There are countless ways to have products delivered to your home, and there have never been more options for shipping. 

What are the biggest challenges in the fulfillment industry?

This is an exceptionally thoughtful question and we want to give a similarly thoughtful response. We will tell you the two biggest challenges in the fulfillment industry as we see them. We’re not pulling challenge ideas from other sites, but are instead speaking from the heart on this post.

How do you process returns?

Businesses spend an enormous amount of time and money thinking about how to get their products into customers’ hands. This, of course, makes logical sense. What’s more complicated, however, is getting products back.

Air shipping or sea shipping – which is better for the environment?

This is a great question. It’s said that freight transportation accounts for 7% of all emissions worldwide. When you think about the sheer amount of greenhouse gases and other pollutants being released into the environment in the process of shipping products, it’s only sensible to want to keep that in check.

How do you deal with the stress of holiday shipping?

It’s a great question and it was submitted right after the holidays, too! Everybody knows that warehouse work during the holidays can be stressful. So we’re going to talk about how we keep shipping on time without losing it from the stress.

We’ve helped 1000+ businesses save time, money, and headache with stress-free fulfillment. And we’d love to do the same for you.

Robotic Order Fulfillment: What Do Warehouse Robots Actually Do?

If you’ve been following fulfillment news lately, you know the robot uprising is right around the corner. Well, that’s what the flashy media stories seem to suggest. But you’re a savvy reader, so you’re probably asking “is robotic order fulfillment really just around the corner?”

When does it make sense to outsource fulfillment?

Once your business starts selling enough items, it becomes a pain for you to ship them in-house all on your own. This is a simple truth that provides the bedrock foundation of Fulfillrite as a business, and we’ve been in business for over 10 years! There is no hard and fast number of orders when a business definitely needs to outsource fulfillment.

What happens when there’s a typo in the mailing address?

It’s more common than you might think for people to make typos in their mailing addresses. As many as 4.7% of packages have to be reshipped because of shipping errors, and this can cost a business as much as $35-70 FOR EACH ONE.

How does free shipping work?

Free shipping doesn’t exist. Sure, free shipping exists in the sense that online retailers big and small offer it when purchasing, say, $25 or $50 of merchandise or more. The simple truth is that packages cost money to ship simply because postal carriers have to pay their employees, the fuel in their vehicles, and so on.

What are shipping zones and how do they work?

If you’ve ever used the US Postal Service to ship a package from one place to another, you’ve probably seen the term “shipping zone.” It’s not just the USPS, though, because FedEx and UPS also use shipping zones.

How do packages get lost in the mail?

At Fulfillrite, we’re constantly researching what’s going on in the shipping and fulfillment industry. As you can imagine, we’ve stumbled across an enormous amount of online conversations around lost packages. A package being lost in the mail is not a common experience, but many people would argue otherwise.

We’ve helped 1000+ businesses save time, money, and headache with stress-free fulfillment. And we’d love to do the same for you.

How do items break in shipping?

You wait for a few days to receive something you bought online. When the box finally arrives, your eager anticipation reaches its apex. The box looks like it’s seen better days, and your heart sinks a little. When you open the box, your fears are confirmed.

Why do shipping prices vary so much?

With stamp prices going up seemingly every year, people often wonder how those prices are set.

How is time to ship determined?

You’ve ordered something that you really want online. Naturally, you’re very excited and you want to receive it two days from now. No, make it tomorrow. You know what, why not overnight? Then you take a closer look and see the fine print: “will arrive between the Saturday after next and five years from now.”

Who is liable when a package is lost in the mail?

A short while ago, we answered a quick question about what to do when your package is stolen.  It’s a good primer for both business owners and customers, but it doesn’t really answer the question of who exactly is at fault when a package is lost in the mail. Let’s take a moment to discuss that.

Why does expedited shipping cost so much?

Expedited shipping means goods go much more directly from their origin to their destination. As we’ve discussed before, it’s usually not cost-efficient for goods to go straight from point A to point B.

Are Customs and VAT the Same Thing?

While customs and VAT are different concepts, this question is actually a pretty nuanced one. We’ve written a bit previously on how these charges work, but it bears mention again simply because this question is such a common one.

We’ve helped 1000+ businesses save time, money, and headache with stress-free fulfillment. And we’d love to do the same for you.

Porch Pirates: What do you do if someone steals your package?

Thirty-one percent of people have had a package stolen from their doorstep. The people who commit the heinous crime of stealing from people’s doorsteps are called porch pirates. They have a surprisingly big impact on the economy. After all, the possibility of losing, say, a $1,000 package that you rightly ordered can really put a damper on eCommerce.

Why Don’t Packages Go Straight to Their Destination?

Naturally, you find yourself asking: “What on earth? Why don’t packages go straight to their destination?” Indeed, why would a postal carrier, with various stops all of the country, and for that matter, the world bother to ship a package in a way that doesn’t make obvious sense?

What is dropshipping and how does it work?

Dropshipping has become a popular idea in the last few years. When a concept becomes as buzzy and popular as dropshipping, it becomes difficult to tell what it actually means. That’s because people just throw around the term.

How does package tracking work?

Package tracking falls under the larger umbrella of order tracking. Order tracking involves tracking everything about an order – including the steps before it’s sent out for delivery. Package tracking involves the delivery process.

Why don’t manufacturers fulfill shipments?

There has been a growing trend for a while where brands are beginning to sell directly to consumers. That means brands are looking to cut out middlemen of all types such as retailers and wholesalers. Ecommerce is growing, brick and mortar stores are shrinking.

How do I reduce shipping costs for my business?

Shipping costs can quickly add up, so it’s no surprise that a lot of businesses are looking to save. We’ve spilled a lot of ink talking about how you can do so. Indeed, saving you costs on shipping is one of the most compelling reasons to outsource fulfillment.

We’ve helped 1000+ businesses save time, money, and headache with stress-free fulfillment. And we’d love to do the same for you.

How are customs handled after a Kickstarter campaign?

Broadly speaking, there are two points in the supply chain management process where customs fees are applied. In order to talk about when customs fees are applied, let’s run with a pretty standard assumption. The assumption is that most Kickstarter campaigns, creators use the funds to have goods manufactured, shipped to a fulfillment center, and then shipped to customers.

What causes delays in shipping after a Kickstarter campaign?

Right after most Kickstarter campaigns, a lot of different events need to take place. For starters, creators often cannot start without the funds, which take a couple of weeks to clear. Most Kickstarter campaigns have to be manufactured, shipped to a warehouse, and fulfilled.

How do items get damaged in shipping?

Moving items from Point A to Point B is far more complicated than most people will ever realize. In both transit and warehousing, your products can be exposed to a variety of different damaging conditions. For one, the risk of dropping items is pretty high.

We’ve helped 1000+ businesses save time, money, and headache with stress-free fulfillment. And we’d love to do the same for you.