How Rate Shopping Software Streamlines Order Fulfillment

September 14,2018
by Matt Lurie

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Congratulations—your e-commerce business just made a sale! Now, how should you ship the order out? You have a bunch of carriers to choose from: there’s FedEx, the US Postal Service, UPS, and DHL, just to name a few. Which provides you with the best value, and your customer with the fastest delivery time? 

While you were considering the question, another order came in. Fantastic! But now you have two orders to determine shipping for. Then there’s the question of which of the carrier’s services to use—and remember: your listings guarantee fast delivery. Would USPS Express be the right choice? Maybe you could save a few bucks with Priority instead. But wait—is UPS 2nd Day Air actually a better deal? Don’t look now, but you just made your third sale. And your fourth, from a customer who wants next-day delivery. 

If only there was some kind of rate shopping software to help you figure this out…

Most e-commerce businesses have their shipping carriers and services worked out, or at least have some sense of their approach, before making a sale. Still, uncertainty over shipping rates is a real issue for sellers, and anyone who’s managed an online store knows that success can be a double-edged sword: the more sales that occur, the more packages you have to get out the door, and fulfilling each order takes time and money. Plus, with consumers demanding faster and cheaper deliveries, and fierce competition from businesses offering next- or even same-day turnaround, sellers need to provide shoppers with a multitude of delivery options.

This is why shipping software, particularly rate shopping software, is so important for any e-commerce operation. Rate shopping software ensures efficient and cost-effective order fulfillment. It removes the guesswork from choosing the fastest, cheapest carrier and service every time. It also gives you the power to accurately price shipping and offer your customers greater flexibility during checkout.

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What Is Rate Shopping Software?

Rate shopping software is exactly what it sounds like: technology that allows you to compare different carriers’ shipping prices, so you can make the optimal choice for order fulfillment every time. Rate shopping software can save your e-commerce business money—not only by minimizing your upfront shipping costs, but by giving you the ability to centralize your orders, process them in batches, and automate various time-consuming aspects of fulfillment. 

Shipping software with rate shopping functionality typically works like this: you set up an account, connect the software to your order management system (or upload your outstanding orders via spreadsheet), see various carriers’ current rates, and then choose a shipping option and buy and print label(s) from within the app. Many software solutions allow you to create multiple shipments at once.

SellerActive users can seamlessly sync their accounts with various third-party shipping solutions, including Desktop Shipper, ShipStation, ShipWorks, and SparkShipping. Our platform allows you to consolidate all online orders in a single dashboard and then shop carrier rates, print labels, and notify customers when a shipment has been created and sent out.

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Why Is Rate Shopping Important?

Rate shopping is essential for e-commerce operations for three reasons:

  1. Carrier rates differ, and change frequently. Many carriers increase their rates on an annual or semiannual basis. Additionally, rates may change at different times of the year, when carriers are experiencing higher or lower demand than usual, or in response to other economic factors. The best rate today may not be the same one tomorrow. 
  2. Business needs differ and change. The most cost-effective choice of carrier for your company depends on the size, quantity, and frequency of the orders you receive. For instance, a small e-commerce company processing fewer than 100 orders per month may find USPS to be the ideal option, while a larger online retailer that needs to send out thousands or tens of thousands of packages per month may save money by using FedEx or UPS. Carriers generally offer discounts to e-commerce companies that ship large quantities—with a USPS business account, for example, an e-commerce company can save up to 49% off Priority Mail, and up to 56% off Priority Mail Express.
  3. The right shipping approach can earn you more sales. When deciding between two sellers offering products at the same price point, customers usually pick the one who can offer faster, cheaper delivery. Keep in mind that most customers don’t care which carrier delivers their packages; what matters in order fulfillment is speed, cost, and seller accountability and communication—not the name on the truck.

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What Advantages Does Rate Shopping Software Present to an E-commerce Business?

There are numerous benefits to using rate shopping software. For one, you’ll save time. Think back to the infomercial-esque introduction to this article: You have seven orders that need to get out the door, and more coming in every minute. Can you afford to take the time to contact each carrier for a shipping quote, compare prices, and manually create a shipment—for every order?

Moreover, you’ll save money. Shipping software provider ProShip estimates that businesses that shop around for the best rate save an average of 5% on carrier costs annually. In our experience, many sellers enjoy even greater savings. Why? Rate shopping forces carriers to compete for your business, incentivizing them to continually lower their prices, offer greater discounts, and negotiate more amenably with your company. And all this isn’t even accounting for all the money you’ll save by reducing time and automating shipping labor.

Rate shopping and shipping automation also mean fewer errors, which in turn means greater customer satisfaction. Software minimizes the chances that a customer won’t receive notifications on time, or that their package will go missing or get delayed.

What Features Should You Look for in a Rate Shopping Software Solution?

Sellers have plenty of choices when it comes to shipping software provider. Almost makes you wish there was an easy way to comparison-shop between platforms that allow you to comparison-shop, huh? 

Fortunately, we have lots of experience assessing and using this kind of software and know which features are most worthwhile for e-commerce. The following list is by no means exhaustive, but here are some of the features we think shipping software with rate shopping functionality should provide:

  • A broad range of carrier and service options
  • Real-time carrier rate comparisons
  • Smart, automatic postage and label printing
  • A centralized shipment dashboard
  • Batch shipment creation
  • The ability to handle international shipping
  • Carrier discounts
  • Carrier pickup options
  • Packing slip customization
  • Integrations with major e-commerce sales channels and shopping carts (e.g. Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Jet.com, Shopify, BigCommerce, etc.)
  • Integrations with multichannel e-commerce management platforms, such as SellerActive

As I mentioned above, SellerActive works seamlessly alongside third-party providers like ShipStation, Desktop Shipper, ShipWorks, and SparkShipping. For more information about SellerActive’s rate shopping software integrations, make sure to visit our Integrations page.

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