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eCommerce Shipping Solutions: Finding the Best – Part II

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This is the continuation of the Choosing an eCommerce Shipping Solution: Part I and expands the selection criteria to analytics and reporting from integrations and data flow.

Shipping Software: Analytics and Reporting

Your shipping data holds enormous power for your overall business, so the ability to analyze it and report against it is a critical capability of any shipping platform.

Here are the critical data elements you will want your shipping solution to be able to report on:

  • Ship Date: Date the shipment enters the mail stream (should match the date on the shipping label)
  • User: Which user created the shipping label
  • Order Date: Date the customer placed the order on your website
  • Order Total: The total amount your customer paid to you including item cost, shipping charge and taxes (should match the Order Total on your website)
  • Store: The website that the order was placed from
  • Order Number: Unique order identifier (should match the order number on your website for quick recognition)
  • Ship From Name: The Return Company/Name on the shipping label
  • Ship From Address: The Return Address on the shipping label
  • Recipient: The Ship To name on the shipping label
  • Purchase Billing Address: The Billing Address associated with the payment method for the order
  • Recipient Shipping Address: The Ship To Address on the shipping label
  • Email Address: The email address is typically associated with the recipient to receive the shipment confirmation email
  • Carrier: The mail carrier who is transporting and delivering the package
  • Rate Provider: Which postage account or carrier account the label postage was charged to
  • Service Type: The carrier service of the package (typically determines how quickly the shipment will be delivered)
  • Package Type: The package option selected for the shipping label (should match the actual package of the shipment)
  • Confirmation Option: If you pay an additional fee for extra delivery confirmation (e.g., Signature Confirmation), will list the add-on
  • Quantity: Number of items shipped in the order
  • Weight (oz): The weight (in ounces) of the shipment (helpful for accurate postage cost, but also for future reference to understand the items in the package)
  • Zone: Relates to the distance between the origin and delivery address (in general, the smaller the zone number, the closer the delivery; the larger the number, the farther away)
  • Destination Country: Helps to distinguish between domestic and international shipments (can be useful to determine the percentage of shipments you send out of the country)
  • Tracking Number: Unique reference number to determine delivery status of a particular shipment
  • Shipping Paid (By Customer): How much your customer paid to you for shipping
  • Postage Cost: How much you actually paid for the shipping label
  • Insurance Cost: If you added insurance,  will list the amount you paid (directly relates to the declared value for coverage)
  • Total Shipping Cost: The cost of the shipping label plus any insurance and additional confirmations
  • Shipping Margin: The difference between how much your customer paid you for shipping and the amount you paid for the shipping label: Did you make or lose money? (This helps to determine how much you should charge on your website)
  • SKU: Unique identifier of your items (helps to determine your most popular items and can be used to manage inventory)

What do you do with all of these data elements?

A good shipping platform allows you to aggregate or segment shipping data by customer, geography, carrier, service level, product type, distribution center or other shipping parameter. This is especially powerful if you sell on multiple stores—as a shipping platform can help you aggregate and segment data across all of them—but even with a single store, a shipping platform can provide unique views by aggregating shipping and sales data.

Here are some of the most common analyses you should expect your shipping solution’s reporting to enable:

Operational Analysis

  • Shipping costs/margins: Analyze these attributes to understand how your chosen shipping pricing model is performing. Refer to the “Shipping Pricing Options” section in this guide for a full discussion of this topic.
  • Geography/Service level/Carrier: Free shipping is popular; fast shipping is impressive. Analyze these attributes to determine which service gets the order to its destination fastest and most cost-effectively. For example, USPS Priority Mail Regional Rate may be the fastest and least expensive for zones 1-4; but USPS PM Flat Rate may be the fastest and least expensive for zones 5-9.
  • Inventory Management: Report on oldest unshipped orders so you can see how long your customers have been waiting and how much earned revenue you’re missing out on by not getting these orders out—not to mention the potential customer backlash if the oldest order is simply too old. Keep in mind, most customers expect to see shipments go out within two to three business days of purchase (unless otherwise specified). The report should include Store, Order Number, Order Date, SKU, Item Description, Total Quantity, and Order Total so you can determine the next shipments to go out and calculate potential delayed revenue.
  • Employee-related reports: Evaluate the efficiency/workload of individual shippers (by login). Find out which shipper is generating the most labels. This information can help you to adjust each shipping station so they’re all as efficient as the best shipper. Also, if you’re getting reports of inaccurate deliveries (undelivered, postage due on delivery, etc.), you can check to see which user shipped the package and retrain the specific employee accordingly
  • Store reports: If you sell on multiple stores/websites, having aggregate shipping data in a shipping platform allows you to report on each store’s relative performance (versus downloading data from each store, consolidating it, and analyzing it in a spreadsheet); this report allows you to:
    • Compare your sites to see which one is the most popular/profitable
    • Identify the characteristics of successful sites that may be implemented to improve performance of less successful sites
    • Compare which customers are purchasing from which sites so that you can target them with promotions from your other properties

Customer Analysis

  • Order value or products bought versus geography: Analyze these attributes to determine your most profitable areas of the country and consider targeting promotions in those areas.
  • Order value or products bought versus season (or other temporal construct): Analyze these attributes to determine your most popular products at various points in the year. You can use this information to run promotions during those times.

Inventory Analysis

  • Daily shipped orders report: use this to update inventory and tweak production or replenishment processes on a daily basis.
  • Daily unshipped orders report: use this report to build or replenish inventory based on demand. You’ll want to be able to select all orders you’re going to ship the next day. The report will include SKU, item description and total quantity to allow you to ensure that you have enough product in stock to ship out all orders.
  • Shipped orders report: export a CSV of all of the items you’ve shipped in a given time frame. The report should include SKU, item description and total quantity so you can manage your inventory (for example, by deducting the number of items shipped) and look at longer-term inventory trends.

These analyses represent some of the more common ways to use a shipping platform to deliver valuable business insight. If you’re not currently leveraging the reporting ability of a shipping platform, we recommend you start with the most interesting reports from the above list and begin working with them; you will soon find opportunities to customize them to be more specific to your business, and come up with new analysis/reporting ideas you’ll want to test out. The key is having a shipping platform with robust data collection, analytics, and reporting capabilities.

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This article is from The Definitive Guide to eCommerce Shipping

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