Webster’s Dictionary defines “automation” as …
Talking about automation tends to elicit a ton of different reactions, depending on who you ask. Some are positive; others, not so much. The responses of ecommerce merchants who use automation tools in their shipping workflow will almost assuredly fall into that first category, though.
Because once you’ve added automation to your ecommerce shipping, fulfilling orders will seem just this side of magical. Ready to feel like a sorcerer every time you ship? Then take a look at these three automation tools.
Each of your customers might be unique, but that doesn’t mean their orders are. If you’re consistently sending shipments with nearly identical attributes, it’s silly to manually configure the settings for every order. Instead, use shipping presets.
Shipping presets allow you to apply the same parameters to multiple orders at once. You can create a shipping preset that specifies things like …
- Ship From Location
- Carrier and Service
- Package Type
- Delivery Confirmation
So say for example a decent percentage of your orders are for a product that you always ship in the same package type via the same carrier and that product requires shipping insurance. Rather than selecting those options every time for every order, you can just apply the shipping preset. In just a few clicks, you can update every applicable order currently awaiting shipment as well as any future orders.
Pro Tip: Link your shipping presets to keyboard hotkeys and/or barcodes to speed up your shipping workflow even more.
It’s unlikely you’re using a single carrier to ship orders since it’s not very cost-effective. And it’s also unlikely you offer only one delivery option since that’s a quick way to turn shoppers off. (Author’s note: if you are, in fact, only using one carrier and offering only one delivery option, it’s in your best interest to figure out a way to change that ASAP.)
Service mappings automatically assign a carrier and service to new orders based on which shipping speed the customer selects at checkout. They allow you to accommodate shopper preferences while also choosing the shipment options best suited for your brand.
For instance, you want to use USPS First Class for all orders with free shipping. You’d create a service mapping that ties “Free Shipping” to “USPS First Class”. Now when a customer selects free shipping at checkout, the carrier and service for that order would automatically be USPS First Class when the order is imported from your website or marketplace.
While shipping presets certainly eliminate some of the more repetitive parts of your ecommerce shipping workflow, they still require a warehouse employee to apply them. And although service mapping is 100% automated once it’s set up, it only applies to carrier and service. So if you want the option to choose additional shipment options and also have those settings be applied automatically, you can use automation rules.
Automation rules are customizable, hierarchical sets of criteria and actions that run whenever an order is imported. You can think of automation rules as “If this, then that” statements. Here are some examples:
- If an order is shipping outside the U.S., then insure the order.
- If an order has a total weight of less than 1lb, then set carrier to USPS First Class Mail.
- If an order is shipping to Texas, then ship from the Louisiana warehouse.
IMPORTANT: Automation rules aren’t for every brand. If using an automation rule requires several different criteria to account for every variable, it might make more sense for you to utilize individual shipping presets and/or service mapping instead.
One final thing: don’t use automation tools until you confirm every product in your database has accurate, up-to-date information. The most streamlined ecommerce shipping workflow ever conceived is worthless if the individual product details aren’t properly documented.