The story of our shippingposted 27 April 2012 by Emma Boulton
Once upon a time at Five Simple Steps we lovingly packed every book order by hand:
- We unloaded each and every box of books from the pallets and unpacked them in our studio.
- We printed out the order from our system and cross-checked with PayPal to ensure the customer had paid, and then printed the Royal Mail address and customs labels from PayPal (and cursed PayPal many times over).
- We made up the box (designed and stress tested by Nick and Mark – the video out-take is priceless!) and then added the shrink-wrapped book and any inserts – promo postcards and suchlike – to the box.
- We sealed the box and added a matching label, then stuck the address and any customs labels in exactly the right position so as not to disappoint Nick.
- We filled in the Royal Mail posting book and took the book to the post office with all the other orders and annoyed the nice ladies.
We sent a LOT of books to a LOT of our customers this way. We even employed my childminder’s 16-year-old daughter in her summer holiday to pack Donna’s books. We were able to control the customer experience to a large degree. We knew we had a good product – a well written and edited, beautifully designed and printed and nicely packaged book (with the labels on straight). As soon as the package was handed over to Royal Mail, we lost some of that control. Thanks to our disparate global postal system, so began the Saga of the Lost Book. Thanks to PayPal, we sent some orders to the wrong addresses and, thanks to human error (hey, we didn’t say we were perfect), we missed a few orders.
After around 18 months of packing books ourselves and with three titles under our belt, we decided to move shipping to a fulfilment company in the north of England, close to our printers. We could no longer fit such a large amount of stock in our studio, and our time was better spent doing other things. Howard and the team at DMC Distribution have been good to us. They’ve worked with us to try and provide the service we want for our customers, despite the problems with Royal Mail and PayPal. They even send us photos of boxed-up orders so we can check the labels are in the right place and aligned straight (no, really, they do). Mark and I visited them when we picked up our stock for our stand for the first New Adventures conference in 2011 and it was great to see our little corner of their huge warehouse. It’s been great working with a company which gives us a very personal service.
Another 18 months on and we now have seven titles in print and our books are shipped all over the world every day. We’ve decided to move our fulfilment to a US company with warehousing all over the world, called Shipwire. It wasn’t an easy decision to make as we have a good working relationship with DMC, but it feels right. Our business is growing and we hope Shipwire will help us scale our operations more effectively. Shipwire integrates seamlessly with Shopify (which we use for our shopping cart) and it has a very easy to use admin interface for stock control and keeping track of orders. Initially, we’ll be using the UK warehouse and one or two of the warehouses in the US. Moving some of our stock closer to our customers like this means we can pass on savings directly to our customers. We’ll also be giving our customers more choice by offering different carriers – either the standard Royal Mail option or an expedited, fully tracked (and more costly) courier service.
So, we’ll stop shipping books from our current warehouse today (Wednesday 2 May 2012), and move our stock and change over our system at the end of this week. We won’t start shipping from the new warehouse until next week. If you were thinking of ordering before the weekend, we’d recommend you wait until next week if you can. So far, things have run very smoothly and Shipwire has been extremely helpful so (fingers crossed) it’ll be fine! We’ll be monitoring things very closely, but if we do have a few teething problems, please be patient and, as always, please contact us via our support site if you need to. We’re excited about the next chapter in the story of our shipping. It’s not bad going for a little company, in a small corner of Wales!