How to integrate a shipping platform with your e-commerce

If your team has been spending even one minute of time manually entering addresses into your shipping carrier’s clunky interface to get your customers’ shipments out, your mind is about to get blown to smithereens (full disclosure: I had to google the spelling of “smithereens”).

What follows is a practical guide to integrate ShipStation, a shipping platform I’ve used for many years, with your existing e-commerce platform, such as Shopify. I’ll also go over some of the awesome features you can use to improve your customer’s experience as well as your team’s efficiency in getting orders out the door.

Once ShipStation integrates with your e-commerce, it links up with your shipping carrier (Canada Post, USPS, UPS, FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, DHL, Purolator and more), prints the shipping label, provides your e-commerce with the tracking number and e-mails the customer when their order has been shipped and even delivered. Here’s how…

Step 1 – Sign up for ShipStation

ShipStation has a 30-day free trial with no credit card required. After the trial period, plans are very affordable, starting at just USD $9/month for up to 50 shipments/month.

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Creating a ShipStation account is a breeze.

Step 2 – Integrate with your e-commerce

Once in ShipStation, go to the Settings (gear icon at top-right) > Selling Channels > Store Setup. You can choose from tons of e-commerce platforms:

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ShipStation integrates with all popular e-commerce platforms.

Once you choose your e-commerce platform (eg. Shopify), you’ll be asked some additional information to finalize the integration:

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Integrating ShipStation with your e-commerce platform is simple & quick.

Orders will start coming in as of this instant. Now we need to integrate your shipping carrier.

Step 3 – Link up with your shipping carrier

Once in ShipStation, go to the Settings (gear icon at top-right) > Shipping > Carriers & Fullfillment. You’ll find your shipping carrier here:

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ShipStation integrates with most shipping carriers.

Once you’ve chosen your shipping carrier, we’ll ask you for some additional information:

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Linking up your Purolator account with ShipStation is a walk in the park.

Step 4 – Add e-mail templates

ShipStation is now importing orders from your e-commerce and informing it when an order has been shipped out. Let’s get the customer in the loop with an e-mail notification when their order has been shipped and delivered.

Once in ShipStation, go to the Settings (gear icon at top-right) > Automation > Automation Rules > Create a Rule and create a rule similar to the one below:

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This automation rule sends an e-mail notification to the customer when their order has been shipped and delivered.

Your customer will now have a better overall experience since they’ll now be automatically informed when their order has been shipped and delivered, with with no data entry whatsoever on your side and less phone calls and e-mails requesting an order status update. How’s that for a great experience?

Step 5 – Personalization

ShipStation allows you to modify the e-mail & packing slip templates, add your company’s logo, specify the language, create shipping presets based on your product weights and dimensions and even have a branded tracking page. These steps are not part of this guide’s scope, but you can find plenty of ressources in ShipStation’s help center, or feel free to contact me.

Step 6 – Get a thermal label printer

If you’re shipping even 3 packages per day and do not have a thermal label printer, you’ll save a few hours per month by switching to one. No more paper folding, taping or transparent shipping pouches. You’ll be able to quickly print and stick the shipping label to your packages. I switched to the Zebra GK420T years ago and never looked back. Often times, if your shipping volume is big enough, your shipping carrier may provide you with a thermal label printer free of charge.

The Zebra GK420T prints labels like a charm.

 

Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment or write in!


I design and integrate systems using best practices so you can get back to working on your business. Learn more

How to manage data storage at your small business

If you are reading this, odds are you don’t have enough hours in the day to manage a complicated set of systems to serve your team’s data needs. The simplicity and reliability of the system are key so you can get back to doing what you do best: running your business.

The two scenarios that follow are not for every setup, though they cover most small business environments I’ve seen over the years. If they do not fit your needs, feel free to use parts of them as a basis for your own setup.

Lighter Data Usage: The Cloud

If your team’s typical day is working with light files (PDFs, documents, spreadsheets, light databases, images, etc.), Dropbox may be for you.

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Dropbox is a cloud-based file hosting service for lighter data usage

Dropbox is a service allowing you to store, retrieve and share files in the cloud, meaning you and your team can access your files even when not physically at work. As files are modified, these changes are synchronized with the rest of the team. This takes away much of the stress that you may currently be going through when you have multiple versions of files across computers.

Dropbox’s Business plan is affordable and comes with as much storage as your team needs, advanced encryption, and unlimited file recovery and version history. Should you get the misfortune of being exposed to ransomware or hard drive failure, your data will be safe and can be backed up in no time.

You can control access to files as you see fit. A typical Dropbox folder structure at a small business would be:

  • Finance folder, shared with your accounting team
  • Support folder, shared with your support team
  • Development folder, shared with your development team
  • …and so forth

The one major drawback to Dropbox is when you are working with large files but do not have a fiber-optic Internet connection to synchronize them in a timely manner. Read on…

Heavier Data Usage: Network-attached Storage (NAS)

If you work with heavier files or with a large team, a local NAS may better suit your needs. This is a physical server that is purchased and connected to your network (hence the “network” part of the name).

Much like Dropbox, files and permissions can be set to your liking, but the files are on your local network. This means that file transfer speeds are much faster than over an Internet connection with a file hosting service such as Dropbox.

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The Synology DS1515+ NAS is budget-friendly, easy to setup and requires little to no maintenance.

I have had enormous success with the Synology DS1515+ NAS. It’s a breeze to set up and their user interface is simple. It accepts up to 5 drives to create one large virtual drive, and supports many types of RAID. This means that if one of the 5 drives fails, your data is still completely safe due to data redundancy. I strongly recommend installing enterprise-grade hard drives (HDD) to lower as much as possible the risk of hard drive failure. Do not cheap out on drives for your server.

If your budget allows it, most servers accept solid-state drives (SSD), which read/write multiple times faster than traditional hard disk drives and do not have any moving parts. The same recommendation of opting for enterprise-grade drives remains. Again, do not cheap out on drives for your server.

The Synology server has tons of useful features such as time-backup (version control of files), external backup and automatic system updates to keep you far away from constantly having to manage the server and keeping overall maintenance costs very low.

Even if the server is local, it can synchronize certain folders of your choice with cloud-based file hosting services such as Dropbox, giving your team the flexibility to work remotely.

 

Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment or write in!


I design and integrate systems using best practices so you can get back to working on your business. Learn more.

How your small business can go completely paperless

If you had to literally move some sheets around on your desk to find the mouse to click on this article, listen up: It doesn’t have to be this way.

You heard me. Now, close your eyes and imagine a workplace without paper. On top of saving the environment, tasks that used to be dreadful & tedious will now be a walk in the park:

  • Finding that invoice from 3 months ago that a customer is requesting
  • Providing purchase invoices to the auditors when they test for cutoff
  • Printing & mailing cheques to suppliers
  • Going to the bank for your deposits

You get the idea.

The good news is that nowadays, technology and good habits have made it possible to make paper a thing of the past. Let’s dive right in!

1. Switch to electronic payments

Switch to Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT), get rid of having to print cheques and save on stamps (and dealing with potential postal strikes or lockouts) and banking fees by paying suppliers weekly or monthly in batches. A side-effect of this is better cash flow management since cheques are no longer in circulation.

As an alternative to EFT, many of your suppliers may accept payment by credit card. Save time normally spent on the phone with accounts receivable and collect tax-free frequent flyer points while going paperless.

2. Switch to paperless invoicing

Most suppliers offer sending invoices by e-mail, saving them a stamp and saving you paper to sort through. Simply save the document in the supplier’s folder (see 5).

On top of this, most accounting systems (including Intuit Quickbooks and Sage 50) allow you to e-mail invoices instead of printing them out and spending money on a stamp. This saves paper and time, and ensures that invoices don’t get lost somewhere in between your shipping department and the customer’s receiving department.

3. Invest in a desktop scanner

The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 scanner is robust and has tons of features built-in

We’re not talking about that scanner from 2003 which scanned old photos at low quality with questionable contrast levels. We’re talking about a big-league scanner. You’ll finally be able to scan stacks of paper without much trouble.

I highly recommend the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 scanner which is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS X. I’ve been using this model for over 2 years and have nothing but amazing things to say about it. It’ll scan receipts, invoices (for those pesky suppliers without paperless invoicing) and anything else you throw at it, and never jam. Then, you can conveniently save the scanned document in PDF format. It’s a steep investment, but it pays itself off quickly with the time saved.

4. Invest in a cheque scanner

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The Digital Check CS30 cheque scanner will save you countless hours at the bank

You may be asking yourself if I have a scanner obsession. To that, I say “so what?”. All Canadian banks offer remote cheque deposits. I’ve been using the Digital Check CX30 cheque scanner with my bank for over a year, meaning it’s saved me over 200 trips to the bank. The time and gas saved by getting a cheque scanner are incredibly high.

Make sure the model you are looking to purchase is supported by your bank. You’ll also save yourself more than 200 bank deposit slips per year, and the trees (and me!) are ecstatic about this.

Side-note: With the trend toward electronic payments, cheques are (slowly) becoming a thing of the past, though you are still likely to receive enough cheques to justify a cheque scanner.

5. Implement a system

Just getting a scanner will not make you paperless. Make sure to implement a good system to manage your files. I tend to create a folder for each customer/supplier and add their documents to the folder in a neatly organized fashion (eg. 2016-09-01 – Agreement.pdf). It takes some time to get into the habit but you will thank yourself once you get it right.

6. Scan away & sort

You won’t want to hear it, but those old invoices from last year are still sitting in that old dusty filing cabinet. It will take a lot of work, time, perseverance and cursing, but you will get through it. And once you do, you can name yourself the Paperless King/Queen.

Congratulations on going paperless!

Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment or write in!


I design and integrate systems using best practices so you can get back to working on your business. Learn more.