by Erin Steiner
As a startup entrepreneur, you are probably working really hard to keep your business as streamlined and cost efficient as possible. It’s really hard to imagine, when you’re just opening your doors, that there will ever come a time when you won’t be able to manage every detail of every transaction all on your own.
When you first start up, you might be able to track and manage your inventory and shipping with just an Excel spreadsheet (or an Outlook database) and a USPS account. As your company expands, though, you’re going to need some help. Sometimes that help comes in human form. Other times that help comes in bits and bytes (a.k.a. software). Shipping software is one of those things that you can’t imagine needing but that can really save your life once you’ve got it set up and your systems in place.
The biggest reason to use software for your shipping responsibilities is the amount of time that using the software will save you. With shipping software, you can fulfill orders in a fraction of the time it would take you to get them set up and sent out manually.
You will also be able to track your supplies and sales much quicker. The days of having to pore over spreadsheets and crunch data numbers to get an idea of your order fulfillment details are gone. Now, with the right software, you can see how you’re doing with just a few clicks of your mouse.
Obviously you’ll be able to track your order fulfillment and keep records of who is buying what. With the right shipping software, you’ll also be able to see if some customers have habits of refusing orders or returning them. You’ll be able to keep track of which distributors and deliverers are best and which have problems… and pretty much anything else you want to know.
Faster and More Accurate Delivery (and Returns)
When you do everything yourself, you leave the door open for massive amounts of human error. Software will reduce those errors exponentially. So how do you figure out which shipping software is best for your business?
You already know how important it is for your inventory tracking software to be compatible with your bookkeeping software. It’s also very important that your shipping software is compatible. Intuit’s QuickBooks shipping manager is a good place to start if you are one of the many small business owners who has set up his business bookkeeping with QuickBooks.
Shipping software isn’t cheap. That said, in this situation, more expensive does not automatically mean worth more. It’s important to figure out the cost versus the benefits offered by the software you’re thinking of purchasing. This is sound advice that even big wigs like Gary Crittenden can endorse. After all, why pay more money than you absolutely have to?
What Does it Do?
If you simply need something that will print shipping labels, you can get that at a great rate from USPS, Fed EX, UPS, DHL–whichever delivery agent you choose. Most of these agencies have software that will integrate and is available for a great rate. Even better, the major delivery agencies will allow you to set up regular pick up and drop off days to streamline the organization of your business even further.
There is no rule, however, that says you have to use a delivery agency’s software when you want to send your products out on their trucks. If you plan on setting up your own deliveries (very cost effective for local businesses), you’ll want shipping software that can track the delivery of a product. Remember: When and how it arrives is just as important as when and how it is sent out.
For now, you might be set up perfectly with a simple USPS account and some QuickBooks software. Down the line, however, you might need a system that is more robust. Make sure, when you’re shopping for your software, that you keep these criteria in mind!
Erin Steiner runs her own freelance writing business in Portland, Oregon.