Around the World in 80 Days?!
Avoid Dropshipping Nightmares!
Months and months of waiting for products.
Angry customers and endless complaints.
You’ve probably heard all the horror stories associated with Chinese and other long-distance suppliers.
For all the advantages to dropshipping, delivery logistics aren’t one of them. In fact, shipping is one of the main things new entrepreneurs worry about when starting their business. In the day and age of next-day delivery and free shipping left right and center it’s hard to imagine how shipping all the way from China can work without losing all your customers. But it can! If you know the tips and tricks of the trade you can be confident you’ll be creating a loyal customer base.
Knowing the ins and outs of this industry like our back pocket, we’ve put together our ultimate list of top tips for navigating dropshipping logistics like a pro. Let’s take a look!
Recap: What’s Dropshipping?
You’ll already know that dropshipping means you never have to hold any of your own stock – Customer orders are sent directly to your supplier who then fulfills them directly. Which makes starting out on a limited budget easy, but can make shipping logistics a little more complex.
There are a couple of potential problems linked to this set up. For one, fulfillment is entirely out of your hands, so you need to be able to trust your supplier to fill orders in a timely manner. On top of this, many businesses choose suppliers in manufacturing countries such as China to take advantage of low production costs. But this moves the supplier further away from your customer base, creating longer shipping routes.
How Long Does Shipping Really Take?
Estimated shipping times between China and the US (or Europe) vary hugely and are usually quoted as a large range, which can be as little as 3-10 days or as long as 20-45 days. How long things are really going to take depends on a lot of factors, including the size of your product, the location of your supplier and your chosen delivery method. On average, ePacket, the preferred delivery method for most dropshippers, takes between 12 and 22 days to deliver a product to your customer’s door.
When Amazon delivers things literally the next day, will customers still choose to order something that may take three weeks to arrive? The simple answer is yes. And the large number of successful dropshippers out there is a testament to that. But you need to make sure you’re handling the issue in the best possible way. Which leads us to…
Your Guide to Happy Customers – Top Tips for Shipping
1. Take care when choosing a supplier
As mentioned earlier, working with a supplier you can trust is paramount when running a dropshipping business. You’re entrusting them with a crucial part of the selling process, so you need to know everything will go smoothly on their side.
When considering your options, there are a few important things to keep in mind:
- Reviews: Supplier reviews can give you an idea of the quality of their service, so be sure to always check those out.
- Processing time: When it comes to delivery, it’s not all about shipping alone. It’s also important to consider the time it takes before an order is even shipped. On AliExpress, the processing time is listed for each product and you’ll ideally want to go with a supplier that can process within 1-2 days.
- Warehouse location: Some suppliers, although located in places like China, may still have warehouses in locations closer to you. This is ideal because it’ll mean faster shipping for your customers.
- Ask the supplier directly: How does the supplier respond when asked directly about shipping times? If they’re cagey or unresponsive, this is definitely a red flag!
- White labeling/ blind dropshipping: Does the supplier offer sending products under your name (white labeling) or without mention of their own company (blind dropshipping)? This can improve trust and reputation with customers.
- Order test products: Finally, it’s always a good idea to order the product in question to your own house as a test. Not only will this give you quality assurance but also valuable insights into the future customer experience.
2. Use ePacket shipping
Originally initiated in 2011, ePacket was the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) solution to speeding up shipping from China and Hong Kong to the US. This meant packages were now able to receive first class mail service and delivery confirmation – as opposed to the previous (and much slower) sea mail service operated by China post (EMS).
Since then the service has grown to include over 40 other countries, known as ePacket countries, which include Canada, Mexico, most of Europe and Australia.
As the name implies, ePacket is a service designed for eCommerce and as such there are some restrictions to the size and weight packages are allowed to have. The maximum length of a package is 60 cm, and its combined length, height, and thickness mustn’t exceed a total of 90 cm. On top of that, it can’t weigh more than 2 kg or be worth more than $400 in value. As long as these requirements are met and the destination is in an ePacket country, this method is usually the most cost-effective way to get your orders delivered in a timely manner.
3. Consider offering free shipping
Although perhaps counter-intuitive, offering free shipping can actually be a really smart marketing technique. Firstly, it’ll attract customers to your product (who doesn’t love a freebie!) and secondly, people are less likely to feel disgruntled because they had to pay for shipping that then takes longer than expected.
A smart way to do this is by reabsorbing some or even all of the shipping cost into the price of the product. This way the outcome for you is the same and the customers are happy too.
4. Target countries with the best shipping options
Depending on the location of your supplier and their warehouse(s), there may be faster places/ countries to ship to. Take advantage of geography and target your Facebook and Google ads at customers from these places to ensure speedy shipping. Or at the very least, make sure you’re focusing on ePacket countries.
5. Consider local suppliers
Again, it’s all about location, location, location! Before you restrict yourself to AliExpress and its plethora of Chinese super-suppliers, why not check out what your local market has to offer? With supply chain disruptions driving prices up globally, you may well find local suppliers can compete on price where they didn’t used to be able to.
6. Emphasize Customer care
This is perhaps the most important point of all. Even when you’ve done all your due diligence, you have a great supplier with the most advantageous warehouse location and you’ve offered free shipping in easily accessible countries. In the end it still comes down to great communication with your customers – whether you expect to deliver within 3 days or 3 weeks. Customers want to feel looked after and they like to be in the know.
So set expectations from the start and be transparent with delivery times and how present conditions may be affecting them. We might finally be seeing the back of the pandemic, but supply chain disruptions are likely to stick around for at least another couple of years.
Great communication starts at having clear information on your website (on a dedicated Shipping Page, as well as on individual Product pages), continues in regular email updates to your customers and is rounded off by timely customer support via live chat or contact forms.
7. Have fun with slowness
And finally, if you know shipping may be slow, have fun with it. How can you create excitement for the upcoming delivery or make waiting part of the fun? The more human, on-brand character you can insert into your email communications, the less you’ll be having to deal with complaints and refund requests in the long run.
The 5 Worst Shipping Mistakes
1 .Not focusing on the customer experience first
If you’re not putting the customer experience first, you may think it’s ok to lie on your website about estimated processing and shipping times. You may think it doesn’t matter that the customer will be waiting in vain when their expected delivery date comes around. The truth is, dishonesty always comes back to bite you in the butt. Initially it may seem easier to just pretend your shop delivers just like Amazon, but in the end you’re going to have some very grumpy customers on hand and a bucket load of complaints. Not only does that make your life harder, but it’s also not a sustainable way to build your business. You need to be thinking of customer satisfaction first, as this will create a base of contented, loyal customers that will recommend you to their friends. Which is exactly how you build and scale a long-lasting brand.
2. Not communicating (regularly) with your customers
Not communicating properly may lose you a customer for future purchases, which will cost your business! Acquiring customers can be up to 5x more costly than retaining existing ones.. Good communication is an extension of putting the customer experience first. It means you’re being honest with them pre-sale, but you’re also continuing that relationship after you’ve achieved your conversion (i.e. they’ve paid for their item in your store).
3. Not doing your research on shipping logistics
It may sound obvious, but you need to do your research on product quality and how long delivery will take, or else how can you supply accurate information to your customers? And as you’ve seen from the previous 2 points, inaccuracy is just as disastrous as dishonesty.
4. Picking an unreliable supplier
We talked about suppliers earlier and we’ll say it again: Your supplier is your main business partner. They have A LOT of control over the customer experience, so picking an unreliable or untrustworthy business to work with jeopardizes the whole customer experience.
5. Not having a clearly defined Returns and Exchange policy
Things unfortunately do go wrong from time to time. When they do, you want to make sure you’ve got your Returns & Exchange process working efficiently – or risk your and the customer’s frustration. This means having this conversation with your supplier too, as some Chinese suppliers don’t accept returns at all.
ePacket is a delivery service that gets parcels from China and HongKong to most western countries in a time-efficient manner without breaking the bank. It’s the most popular delivery method for dropshipping today.
There are often numerous shipping options available, including local ones such as China Post or SunYou, as well as international options like DHL and FedEx. Western services generally offer much faster shipping, but they usually come at a premium that sometimes even outstrips the product cost. Obviously there are always outliers, but it does tend to be the case that ePacket provides the fastest average shipping time for the lowest cost, which is why it continues to be so popular.
DDP stands for delivery and duty paid, which is a method of delivery where the seller is responsible for covering all costs related to the delivery of the product. This means that products won’t be held up at customs but can be cleared straight away. This is a useful service to offer to your customers if you’re selling higher value items..
Blind dropshipping refers to the practice of having your supplier send items without any logos or invoices mentioning their own company name – i.e. the fact that the product was dropshipped is hidden from the customer.
Surprisingly, most customers are happy to wait for much longer than you’d think, as long as they know what’s going on. You can never 100% prevent customer complaints, but if your communication is clear and on-point you can always refer back to what you’ve already told the customer. Plus, if you have good systems in place for handling complaints and returns, you might still save the relationship.
We hope our little deep-dive into dropshipping logistics has shown you that shipping doesn’t need to be a nightmare or an impediment to your success. Quite the contrary! You can build strong and loyal customer relationships when you prove yourself to be a transparent and trustworthy business. You’d be surprised how lenient customers are if things are handled in a professional manner.