How to Ship More Auto Parts with Less Staff
We understand the struggle. When you’ve only got a handful of guys in your parts department, how do you deal with all the details of eCommerce—namely, shipping?
But shipping doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out process, and you definitely don’t have to hire new staff to deal with it. Once your eCommerce parts store takes off, then you might need another set of hands, but you might be surprised how efficient you can be with the people you already have.
Figure out a system
Scientists have proved it—we’re less efficient when we try to multitask. If you’re running back to your computer for 5 minutes every time there’s a break in customers, you’ll only end up feeling overwhelmed. Not to mention you won’t be getting as much done as if you focus on one task at a time.
When you make a sale online, you have to follow a series of tasks. There’s a lot of individual steps, from fulfilling an order, to grabbing it off the shelf, to packaging and labeling it. There’s an additional step if a customer’s order looks like it has a high risk of fraud, since you’ll want to call them before moving forward.
READ MORE: Top 5 Red Flags of Fraud
So break it up and delegate tasks when you can. This will all depend on how many employees you have available and how many orders you fulfill on a daily or weekly basis.
You know your brick and mortar parts store better than anyone. Ask yourself a few things: When is my parts store busiest? When is it slowest? How many online orders come in each day?
Setting a Schedule
To sum up this entire section in three words: Try Different Things.
Test a bunch of methods for at least a week at a time. As you explore your options, you’ll find a more efficient method of accomplishing something.
Here are some things you can try:
If you find that first thing in the morning, there aren’t many customers, that’s a good time to set aside for online orders. Assign one employee to sit in the back and dedicate himself to processing, fulfilling, and packaging all pending orders. With one focused task to deal with, that employee will finish quickly and can return to the parts counter before long.
If you find that this works, make it a morning ritual. This is your dedicated once-a-day time to get everything done in a single sitting. Even when orders come in later in the day, save them for the next morning during that time slot you’ve allotted for it.
With that same idea, you could make it an evening ritual instead of a morning one. You can break it up however you want. Perhaps you get through steps 1-4 in the evening, while steps 5 and 6 are taken care of first thing in the morning.
On a similar note, you should have a set time to pick up shipping materials. It’s not time efficient to buy a box and packing material each time you get an order. See if you can arrange to buy in bulk every other week or once a month, so you don’t have to make the trip more often than necessary.
If you’re a skeptic about something like this, we understand. But give it an honest try—a trial period of a week or two. We’re confident you’ll feel a difference, but in the end, what’s best for a business changes for everyone.
Do you need a dedicated eCommerce employee?
Larger dealerships might benefit from having a dedicated employee for dealing with the entire parts site, but most dealerships won’t need more than one.
A well-organized employee could easily handle all the order processing and fulfillment without outside help. Even on slow weeks, that worker can stay busy with all the necessary marketing and SEO that your parts store needs to stand out.
Sort out Shipping Carrier Logistics
We all know about USPS, UPS, and FedEx, but there are SO many smaller shipping carriers available to you. They all have different rates for different sizes and weights and distances, and honestly, it can get a bit complicated.
So give yourself a load off.
Pick TWO carriers to work with, and stick with that.
Juggling all the shipping carriers available might save you a couple dollars from time to time, but added complications will only make your job harder.
Typically, we recommend USPS + one other carrier. Comparison shopping two carriers (instead of a thousand) will still give you some flexibility with options, but also save you a lot of time. It also reduces your chances of getting mixed up about which packages are going through which carriers.
Focusing on 1 or 2 carriers might even be able to land you volume discounts. Even if you don’t think your website makes enough sales to make that happen, you won’t know until you try. Call the carrier’s 800 number to see what you can get.
Here’s a rundown of the three main carriers (USPS, FedEx, UPS):
Most sellers agree that USPS offers the best price, but they also have more hiccups when it comes to speed and lost packages. Overall it’s a great go-to shipping carrier—especially since you can grab some of their flat rate boxes free of charge. Keep a couple dozen empty boxes at your dealership so you’re readily on hand when you need them.
UPS integrates with PayPal, which can save you a lot of time and organization effort if that’s your main payment gateway.
Drop off or Pick up?
Taking the time to drive all those packages to the post office can take valuable time out of your day. That’s why most shipping carriers offer some type of pickup service.
USPS offers Package Pickup free of charge, as long as your packages meet certain requirements. You can even schedule pickups on a regular basis rather than request a pick up for individual times.
UPS offers on-call pickups (starting at 5.95) along with scheduled ones. Scheduled pickups can go as low as $11.50 per week. Other scheduled pickup options are listed on page 8 of UPS’s Value-Added Services pricing page. The charge for FedEx is similar, at $12.50 per week.
In each case, these fees can be waived for regular customers who meet certain requirements.
A lot of eCommerce business owners struggle to manage shipping, just like you. As a result, countless tools have been created to make things easier. Apps, software, plug-ins, equipment—you name it. You might have to invest a little money, but you’ll get every penny back in saved time.
ANY dealership selling over 10k a month in auto parts should be using a shipping manager.
It’s one of the most powerful and effective shipping tips out there for busy dealerships. Yes, there’s a cost involved, but the shipping manager will pay for itself in the first month. And it will make your life so much easier.
In general, shipping managers deal with all the little details and micromanaging that cost you valuable time. They’ll organize and automate the majority of the process, saving you both time and money.
Here are a few of the benefits shipping managers can offer your parts department:
- Ship through any major postal carrier
- Compare carrier prices and qualify for discounts
- Print labels, packing slips, and invoices
- Fulfill shipping orders
- Customize shipping rules and materials
- Add a logo/brand to shipping labels and packaging
- Email customers about their order
- Track and organize order history
- Integrate with other marketplaces like eBay or Amazon
- Help process return shipping
- Provide online support
Of course, not all shipping managers are the same. Simple, low-priced options will provide the basics, but some of the more powerful choices will truly optimize your experience. Something like ShipRush offers a simple, no-frills software for dealers just getting started, while ShipStation provides more detailed and complex services to help dealers get the most out of their shipping manager.
The more your system automates, the less work you have to do yourself. When you first sign on with a shipping manager, some of them will let you set certain rules to make everything flow smoother (here are only a few of the rules you can automate through ShipStation).
As an added bonus, you can run reports through your shipping manager and use the information you find to optimize the process in the future.
RevolutionParts integrates with ShipStation and ShipWorks. Make sure when you choose an eCommerce solution, it integrates with your shipping manager of choice before paying anything!
Apps and software
There’s an app for everything, isn’t there? For a low cost, you could have apps on your smart phone to make shipping easier.
Of course, FedEx and UPS have their own apps, but there are also a few 3rd party options available for less than $5.
Entrepreneur put together a list of 4 great options on the market, so check out their article to get some great app recommendations.
Printing labels isn’t too difficult or time-consuming (especially when the label printer is built into your parts eCommerce platform!), but when you’re going through a lot of them, small changes can make a big difference.
Unless you have a special printer, most of your labels are printed onto plain old paper, which you have to tape onto your packages. Investing in a label printer might be a quick way to speed up that process, since a sticker is much easier to attach.
Whether you go for a hand-held printer or invest in a full-size one, it’s a great way to save time.
Make sure your entire team can help
If only one member of your parts department knows how to navigate the back end your website, then you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
That doesn’t mean everyone has to be 100% expert. But everyone should be familiar with the basics or able to take part in a step of the process. You might find that a certain employee is faster at a task than the others.
It makes sense to keep order fulfillment and payment processing in the hands of certain people, but everyone in your department should be capable of packaging the order or getting it in the hands of your shipping carrier.
Imagine setting up a 2-person assembly line: Employee #1 boxes the part with its invoice, and Employee #2 tapes it closed and attaches the shipping label. Instead of juggling with tape, scissors, parts, and labels, you could easily package a dozen orders in just as many minutes. A team effort can make the entire process more efficient.
Overall, the trick is to test, test, test! The more you explore your options, the better you’ll get at figuring out the steps.