It’s officially 2019, which may mean that it’s time to make good on that commitment you’ve had to become an e-commerce retailer.

Maybe you’re entirely new to retail and you want to learn more about setting up a store. It could also be the case that 2019 is the year you hope to bring your brick-and-mortar retail store into the digital area, or perhaps you have an existing e-commerce store, and you want to scale it up this year.

Regardless of your specific goals, there are logistical considerations to keep in mind. One of the biggest issues a lot of e-commerce retailers face is knowing where to start when it comes to shipping, or how to put in place a shipping process that’s time and cost-efficient and leaves customers satisfied.

The following are some things e-commerce retailer should know about shipping in 2019.

Using a 3PL

If you’re already in existing and you’re experiencing growth, or you could in the very near future, it may be time to think about a third-party logistics provider or a 3PL.

According to a guide to third-party logistics from ShipHero services provided by one of these providers include warehouse storage, inventory management, inventory distribution, and pricing and packing.

Other possible 3PL services can include expedited shipping, freight forwarding, shipment tracking, and tracking and returns.

When an e-commerce business works with a 3PL provider, they can then select customized services, and the providing company can provide end-to-end supply chain logistics.

What If You’re Just Starting Out?

Working with a 3PL might be something to consider if you already have orders coming in and you’re doing some sales volume, but what if you are starting from scratch?

The first question you need to ask yourself is what products you’re going to be shipping and what their weights and size are.

If you’re shipping larger products, you’re going to be limited by a lot of carriers including UPS, which typically only ships items weighing up to 150 pounds.

If you do need to ship items that are considered oversized, it’s going to be expensive.

You may need to either alter what you decide to sell, or you may need to somehow factor the cost of oversized shipping into the cost of the product. If you do need to ship larger items locally, maybe look for local carriers with a good reputation.

You can do something similar if you’re shipping to another location, but you’ll have to take the time to research the best carriers in that area.

Along with the weight of a package, some of the factors that play a role in the cost of shipping include the overall size, the origin country, the destination country, and whether or not the package will have shipping and insurance.

Think About Margins

A lot of e-commerce retailers will spend so much time considering the products they want to sell, but they don’t think about the actual margins with shipping factored into the equation. Shipping can be a big expense for a lot of merchants, and what they find out the hard way is that they end up losing money.

You’ll need to put together a list of every cost associated with getting a product to a customer, and also include not only shipping costs but things like the packaging as well.

Mix It Up

Choosing just one shipping vendor is not necessarily the best option. Instead, what a lot of merchants have found is that having a variety of shipping vendors who can fit different needs is optimal.

As you’re just starting out, going with one of the big companies like UPS may feel best because you aren’t dealing with a lot of volume.

However, as you grow the simplest shipping solutions aren’t often the most efficient in terms of pricing. Take the time to research and find the right mix, because it can significantly impact your margins.

What Else To Keep In Mind?

The following is a breakdown of some of the other things to keep in mind as you’re creating an e-commerce shipping strategy.

First, can you negotiate with carriers? Most carriers and especially smaller, local carriers, will be likely to negotiate with you so don’t overlook this option. Use rate calculators to standardize your shipping costs, and make sure that you’re neither over or under-charging customers. Calculators can help with this.

Finally, ensure that you have set up automatically triggered emails to your customers to keep them up-to-date with what’s happening with their shipping, and you’ll need to plan for returns that may occur. One way to do this is by including a return label with each order.