Is your e-tail business growing and managing your own warehouse and fulfillment is draining your resources? Do you want to buy inventory from overseas, but you can't confidently navigate the import process yourself? Maybe you simply want discounted shipping rates and don't want to pick-and-pack product? Shipwire.com , a relatively new company, claims it can help you by cutting costs with its storage and delivery service that integrates with your inventory and payment processing.
With a few clicks on Shipwires Web site, the company says that e-tailers can arrange to have inventory sent to Shipwire warehouses, integrate Shipwire with their Web shop and start fulfilling customer orders in real-time.
Damon Schechter, CEO of Shipwire, said that although shipping and storage for small businesses has exploded, with 5,000 containers for small businesses alone coming into Los Angeles ports from Asia each day, the process is still very much being managed in-house by e-tailers without the resources to do so.
"We looked to how Fortune 500 companies are running this part of their business, but figured out a way that's easy and affordable for small businesses," said Schechter, "so they can save money and spend more time focusing on their business, doing marketing and sales instead of packing product."He used the example of a New York-based client who sells windmills for individual use as energy sources. Initially, she was operating her own warehouse in New York, which took up a considerable amount of her resources. She was having them imported through Los Angeles from Asia, and then paying to have them shipped to her New York warehouse. So, when an order came in from the West Coast, she'd have to pay to ship the windmill all the way back across the country. "So she has this 70-pound windmill and she's paying for all this extra shipping," he said. "We have warehouses in the U.K., Chicago, Toronto as well as a few others, so with our service, some of the product stays in L.A., some go to New York, and the cost is actually lower than running one warehouse in New York City." Shopping Cart Integration Made Easy
The service works with eBay ProStores, NetSuite, Zen Cart, PayPal and other selling and payment services. You start by having your products shipped to Shipwire's warehouses. Inbound shipping for a parcel or pallet are both welcome, and you can send you products with your own shipping account, let the vendor take care of it or let Shipwire handle the booking, pickup and delivery. When a customer buys from your Web shop, the inventory and shipping are handled automatically by Shipwire, which packs and delivers the order and synchronizes your inventory. Your customers will get tracking numbers and confirmations sent automatically from Shipwire, but the company lets you personalize everything, even the boxes, so customers won't even know you're using Shipwire, said Schechter. Shipwire also includes tools designed to let you manage your inventory, sending the appropriate amount to each warehouse, and ensuring that deliveries are made from warehouses closest to the customer. Help with Imports, Group Shipping Discounts
Additionally, Shipwire helps small businesses with import and customs brokerage, shuttle services between warehouses and full and less than truckload (LTL) shipments to buyers. They will handle container unloads, at no extra charge. The company does not require you to deliver product on pallets, which allows you to pack import containers with an estimated quarter more product, according to the company. Insurance is also included. Another potential advantage to using Shipwire is that the company groups thousands of small businesses into a buying pool, which allows it to obtain discounts from FedEx, UPS, DHL and other carriers. Schechter said the company also provides resources for evaluating shipping businesses that are less well known than the big names that Web shop owners are often unaware of and that often cost less. Holiday Prep Starts Now
For those wanting to go international, Shipwire provides freight capabilities so small businesses can ship heavy items to and from more than 80 countries and helps to navigate the customs process. Through its affiliation with LOC Global, Shipwire.com has a global service network of more than 170 freight management, warehousing and distribution offices on six continents, according to the company. If you are planning on importing goods for the holiday season, Schechter said the time to start the process is now. You should be placing orders and confirming ship dates for July and August. Free Trial Doesn't Need Credit Card
If you want to try Shipwire, there is a free trial that Schechter said doesn't even require a credit card just an e-mail address. When you log in, you add your payment system, such as Google Checkout or PayPal, and you will be able to integrate the account with Shipwire and test orders by sending them up to six items so you can evaluate the physical fulfillment, shipping rates, product packaging and so on. Pricing plans vary depending on what plan you want and how much you ship, and begin at $29.95 a month, going up to $159.95; custom plans are also available. Michelle Megna is managing editor of ECommerce-Guide.com.
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