Gather round, you e-commerce shopkeepers and Amazon tradespeople, you home business owners and online merchants. I am about to tell you one of the most important secrets to online sales success….
It’s shipping labels.
Now… before you groan and say “But shipping labels are boring!” and click onto something more interesting, hear me out.
A shipping label is simply a label stuck to a package that tells you what’s in it. It identifies addresses and names of the parties sending and receiving the package as well as weight and tracking barcodes, which helps the package get to its destination more quickly.
You see, when it gets down to it, labels are the life of your business, and without a label nothing in your business moves. Shipping labels may seem like just a tiny piece of the process that moves your goods around, ensuring that your products get to your customers. Yet they’re enormously important to your store’s success, not to mention customer satisfaction. Without properly labeled shipping labels, the people shipping your products won’t know where it needs to go, and without them, your customers’ orders can easily be lost or mishandled.
That creates a sad or angry customer, or perhaps even a former customer. And lost sales.
Anatomy of a Shipping Label
Let’s take a look at each part of a UPS label, as an example. Other shipping companies have their own layouts, though basically, they all do the same job.
- The simplest part is the “shipping from” address information and the “ship to” address information.
- A square image called the “smart label” is used to route the package while traveling through the warehouse or shipping facility.
- The section next to the smart label shows the package’s destination, with the first two letters indicating the state, three numbers that correspond to the zip code, with other numbers that indicate the internal UPS region and district.
- Another market states the type of shipping service, which could be “UPS EXPRESS MAIL”, “UPS NEXT DAY AIR”, or “UPS GROUND”.
- The tracking number is usually listed as such and allows both shipper and receiver to track where the package is throughout its journey.
- The largest barcode is scanned when the package is picked, while it’s in transit, and once it gets delivered, to aid with tracking as well.
- Billing options are also listed, using two letters to indicate how the package was paid.
- The shipper can reference information about the package, such as how many items, the item’s name or category, or a variety of other references to the item.
The Important Part
Though addresses of the sender and receiver are on any shipping label, arguably the most important part to this little slip is the barcode and electronic tracking number associated with it. And let me tell you why.
If your online store has multiple shipping options, shipping labels become even more crucial. Perhaps you offer expedited two-day shipping, which is significantly more expensive than your standard shipping option. Your customers want what they pay for, and they won’t be happy if the product arrives later than they expected.
Tracking numbers are given to packages when they’re shipped, and are very important for time-sensitive shipments. You can use them to find out where the package you sent yesterday is, so when your customer, who paid for expedited, two-day shipping, calls to ask where your product is, you can tell them that it’s just reached their post office, or realize that you left it in the trunk of your car and that you now need to rush to the nearest shipper to send it out for next-day delivery.
The Other Parts
The addresses of the sender and receiver are just as important as the address of the receiver, but these are the only parts that the sender can generate. The rest of the information should be generated by the shipper, either through shipping software or by the e-commerce fulfillment provider.
Oh, and why the return address? It’s in case the product needs to be returned.
Shipping labels also show whether or no postage has been paid, or whether the product has already been paid for online.
Creating a Shipping Label
You can actually make your own shipping labels for your orders. Both the USPS and UPS allow you to purchase and print labels from their websites, and shipping automation platforms can also generate labels as well.
Third-party logistics companies will even purchase and generate labels for you, so you don’t have to. Many shipping companies also offer volume discounts. These tend to be with major carriers like USPS, UPS, or DHL, but any reduction in shipping price adds to your bottom line.
So you see, shipping labels are important. The humble label is your key to riches or at least a decent living.