It's official: e-commerce sales for Cyber Monday 2012 were up 30 percent over last year, according to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark (which tracks transactions from more than 500 online retailers).
Which begs the question – as the role of online transactions becomes more important, how can small businesses stand out?
Aside from optimizing their mobile sites and apps to accommodate the "showrooming" habits of consumers, forward-thinking retailers are also differentiating their online offerings via the way they are shipped to customers.
Consider the fact that more than more than half the products shipped during the 2011 holiday season were delivered via free shipping options. The numbers for this year aren't in yet, but I'd be willing to bet they will be higher.
While big retailers might be able to negotiate lower rates directly with key delivery companies because of the volume of
products they ship, smaller retailers could benefit from the emergence of services that could help. One company that is catering specifically to small businesses is ShipStation, which integrates with many of the online marketplace platforms such as eBay, Amazon or Shopify, as well as many of the most widely used shopping cart applications.
The service supports more than 30 different sales channels, said Curtis Mitchell, director of business development for the company.
Retailers can set different rules for different products. For example, the default shipping method might vary depending on the weight of an item or where it is being sent in relationship to the distribution center.
The entry level service costs $25 per month and covers shipping for up to 500 packages per month via the US Postal Service, UPS or FedEx.
ShipStation's big pitch is that it is an organizational tool and dashboard that can save small companies a lot of time in processing shipments and deliveries. Instead of going to different sites to print labels and arrange for pick ups, everything can be done from within the ShipStation service.
So, it won't necessarily give your company a break on shipping costs, but it should help result in expedited service.
And, it can let you better control what you're paying for certain items. You can set rules for products that keep the costs as low as possible. Alternatively, you can offer priority delivery in order to help close a deal.
For more about the ShipStation service, watch the video below.