Small and medium sized businesses have long been under-served by shipping and fulfilment industry with solutions. Unless you’re shipping 10s of 1000s of parcels a week there has been no practicable solution available. Carriers have also adopted similar strategies and not offered discounts except for shippers with scale. Now ShipStation have launched in the UK to offer is a discounted rate with no commitment or contract from the day you sign up to a free trial. With ShipStation you can buy from one label a month and if you’ve already got your own courier contracts you can use them too.
We spoke to ShipStation’s Stephan Millies, Director Product and Operations, to find out more:
What is ShipStation?
ShipStation is a cloud-based software for everyone who sells online. We help to dispatch orders faster, save time, money and provide a consistent, branded delivery experience for the shopper. The fact that all orders can be fulfilled in one place empowers merchants to sell at every channel they want to in order to maximize their audience. Running 5 stores does not have to be 5 times more effort.
We started in 2009 as a dispatch plug-in for eBay. Over time, we added all relevant carts and couriers and now we are an all-in-one solution for anyone selling online in the UK, US, Canada and Australia.
What does ShipStation do?
We make every SMB extremely efficient, wherever they sell, however they deliver: we save typically 50% or more of their dispatching time. Through automation, address verification etc. we can prevent many costly errors. And we now offer discountás on postage in the UK, up to 78% off retail prices. SMBs face already enough disadvantages when they compete against the giants. We do our part on fulfillment, branded experience and discounted postage to level the playing field.
How can ShipStation help small and medium sized businesses?
SMBs are actually our focus. Most fulfilment software solutions are too complex, too expensive for SMBs. High implementation costs, long term commitments, weeks or months to even get started etc. ShipStation serves everyone else. We work for everyone who needs an affordable, plug-and-play solution that prints labels within minutes. Nothing to install, sign, code. Any printer will do. What Stripe does for payments, we do for dispatching and labels.
Wherever merchants sell – we integrate with over 75 marketplaces and cart systems – they simply connect their store and import all their orders.
And however they deliver, they now have it all in one place. Branding, inventory, tracking, returns, packing slips, labels. With the leading seven UK couriers plus Amazon FBA. No single courier or delivery method is the best for all orders. Merchants need choices. Shoppers ask for choices. That often complicates things – and we make sure it doesn’t.
I believe that every single business owner in the UK who sells online needs a ShipStation account. It pays for itself.
What makes you unique compared to competitors?
It’s our empathy for SMBs and our expertise in serving them: everything we do is optimized to be accessible, easy, valuable for them from the first moment. We don’t punish anyone for being small, even the GBP 7.00 plan user has a dedicated Account Manager and gets a rich set of features.
Merchants can add their logo to packing slips, notification emails, we provide a branded tracking page that even matches their color scheme, a branded returns portal because we see that merchants who provide a professional, consistent post-purchase experience simply sell more.
Sellers who have their own courier accounts can plug those in and keep their rates and contracts. Others can use the rates we negotiated with Hermes, DPD and Parcelforce without any commitments. It’s all about choices and we make them available to merchants and their customers without the hassle of switching between the couriers’ tools they may have used in the past.
We also understand that not all online sellers have the staff to monitor incoming orders 24×7, so we created a mobile app where they can print labels wherever they are. If they want, they can run their entire online business from a smartphone. They can get even alerts on their Apple watch. We help them work smarter, not harder.
I don’t see any solution that does all that for SMBs, particularly not at our price point starting at GBP 7 / month.
We get a lot of feedback from our users how we helped them grow based on branding features, our global selling channels integrations etc. We make this combined knowhow available through blogs, our UserVoice community etc. I think this massive experience from a huge number of businesses globally is also a strong differentiator.
Which carriers and marketplaces do you support?
We import orders from the most relevant marketplaces and carts, such as Amazon, ebay, Woo, Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, Squarespace and many, many more. We also allow custom integrations or take a csv file. Merchants can use their Royal Mail, DPD, Hermes, Parcelforce, DHL Express, UPS and FedEx accounts to create labels. Or let Amazon FBA do the work.
Can I use my own carrier account?
Yes, it’s easy to connect existing accounts. In that case, a merchant keeps his rates and billing stays the same.
What if a merchant doesn’t have or can’t get a courier account?
We can help: the minute a merchant signs up for our free trial – by the way: we mean really free, all features included, no credit card needed – he gets an account through us. We are now a reseller for Parcelforce, Hermes and DPD and we offer discounts to every business owner. Especially merchants who dispatch under 800 parcels/ month were underserved in the past. Most couriers would not open an account and the couriers’ portals lock them into one courier. It takes a lot of effort to hand-sort orders and then upload them into separate courier portals just to pick the best courier for each. And even if they qualified for discounts, it came with minimum volume commitments.
We eliminate all these compromises and bad trade-offs they had to make.
Shoppers want choices for convenience. Merchants need them to compete. With ShipStation, merchants can pick the best service for each order or automate everything based on rules they set.
Can you help me globally?
Absolutely: One of the big advantages of ShipStation is: we offer unlimited selling channels for every user. Even the GBP 7 user can sell globally on as many channels as they like. We want every SMB to reach the full potential. Selling globally is a key part of that. We are the #1 in North America in what we do and UK merchants can benefit from our experience there. A big advantage is that we also import from every other Amazon marketplace globally, so UK merchants can really use us to expand their footprint. If they want to sell on eBay Australia or Amazon Mexico, great. We already delivered millions of parcels there.
SMBs Grow Online Sales by 16% Using ShipStation’s Branded Returns Portal
Most shoppers check an e-tailer’s returns policy (*), value free return labels (**), and an easy, accessible returns process. But does it make sense for small-to-medium-sized businesses to mimic all the generous policies big retailers have?
ShipStation looked at hundreds of merchants who sell online and in third-party marketplaces. The leading ecommerce fulfillment platform investigated how the adoption of a self-service returns feature for consumers affected the success of these retailers.
The test design
Merchants ranged from low volume (under 50 orders per month) to mid-size businesses (6,000+ orders/month). The comparison looked at overall sales volume before stores launched ShipStation’s Branded Returns Portal feature vs. the months after.
In addition, ShipStation researched how likely shoppers were to buy again from a store that offered a returns experience which involved the Branded Returns Portal.
The average store saw 16% more orders after feature adoption. In many cases, not only the order volume but average order value also increased.
It was 28.8% more likely that a shopper who returned an item through the Branded Returns Portal would come back to the same store than consumers who returned items through another method.
The results clearly showed that online SMB merchants should adopt best practices on returns, including providing an easy process and a clear, prominently marketed policy to build trust.
Sellers showing more confidence in their products and professionalism in handling returns will “in return” encourage more shoppers to have the confidence to open their wallet.
What does ShipStation cost?
Our plans are mainly based on parcel volume. We want to level the playing field between SMBs and big box retailers and that’s why we start at GBP 7 for up to 50 parcels. A popular plan covers up to 1,500 parcels for GBP 38. Every user has a dedicated Ecommerce Success Manager to make sure everyone gets optimal guidance and value.
Typically, we cut their dispatching efforts in half and eliminate many errors. That and the postage discounts outweigh the plan costs from the start.
We are so confident that we don’t trick anyone into a paid plan: our trial does not require a credit card. It’s only needed to pay for postage. If the user brings courier accounts, we don’t need one at all. The 30 day trial ends automatically. If the user does not actively decide to stay and add a credit card, it’s over by default. I can’t think of a more honest and fair way of doing business. All subscriptions are month to month. We don’t even sell any long-term plans.
How do I sign up?
It’s really easy: every merchant can create labels within minute. Sign up on shipstation.com, have your store or Amazon / eBay credentials ready, see the orders flowing in and start printing labels.
I highly recommend adding the Branded Tracking Page and Returns Portal, both features help create a bold, branded experience and help sell more (see case study above).
You seem very passionate about this mission for SMBs, what’s the story behind that?
I talked a lot about how much choices matter for merchants and shoppers. What motivates us is that we don’t want a retail world that only has a few giants left, we want small businesses to thrive, compete and succeed. It’s about our ability to choose as consumers. We have grown a large team at ShipStation and everyone comes to work knowing that we help fighting a good fight, every day. We see ourselves as a part of all these businesses and families that rely on our features, performance, advice and support.
We can’t eliminate all challenges SMBs face but it’s rewarding to see how much more time they can spend on marketing and product sourcing and everything else that matters once “we” take care of their dispatching process.