How to Reduce Your eCommerce Split Shipments
Rebecca Fox

March 12, 2023

Look at why split shipments happen and how to reduce them to cut down on costs, reduce waste, and improve the efficiency of your supply chain.

There are a variety of reasons for split shipments, including having inventory stored in different places or not being able to fit everything into one box. Split shipments cost money, generate environmental waste, and are generally an inefficient way to ship out orders. 

Let’s take a closer look at split shipments and how to reduce them.

What are Split Shipments?

A split shipment is when an order of multiple products is sent in a few separate shipments. The customer receives multiple packages even though they ordered everything together.

Why are Split Shipments Used?

Sending out an order in separate shipments can happen for the following reasons:

Products are Sent From/To Different Locations

Products may need to be shipped from a few different warehouses/fulfillment centers or at different times, and customers may request to receive different parts of their order to separate addresses.

An order of multiple products may need to be fulfilled from two fulfillment centers if one doesn’t have enough stock to fulfill the entire order. This gets the products to the customers more quickly, instead of waiting for one fulfillment center to get more inventory.

Similarly, if the products for the order aren’t all ready at the same time, you can ship them in parts, starting with the items that are ready.

Another reason for split shipments is when customers want to split up their orders to be sent to multiple addresses. While many customers will create separate orders for each location, some customers may want to purchase a few products in a single order. This is particularly frequent during the holiday season when people are buying a lot of gifts.

The Items Won’t Fit into One Package

You might want to split your shipments when dealing with heavy or large products – equipment, furniture, etc.

For example, an order of four watch straps will usually fit into a single package. Conversely, if you order two couches, you wouldn’t expect to receive one huge box containing both. It would make more sense for them to come in two separate boxes because each product is so big and heavy. 

When calculating your packaging size and weight, you also need to make sure to leave space in the box or package for dunnage and protective materials, especially when shipping fragile items.

Another thing to take into account is that different shipping carriers have their own rules and limitations, such as maximum weights and heights for shipments. 

The Downside of Split Shipments

Some of the main reasons you would want to avoid eCommerce split shipments include:

Packaging Waste

Shipping a few boxes instead of one wastes packaging, which can be a big issue for brands who want to be eco-friendly.

Even when using eco-friendly packaging, regularly sending out split shipments isn’t environmentally conscious.

83% of customers consider the environment when making purchase decisions, and shipping multiple packages separately might not sit well with those customers who care about shopping sustainably.

Shipping Costs

Sending out split shipments ends up costing more since you (or the customers) are paying for transportation to the same location twice or more times per order.

Another factor to take into account is that depending on where the separate shipments are sent from, the final cost to the same destination may change based on shipping zones.

How to Reduce Split Shipments

Optimizing your supply chain can help you reduce the need for split shipments.

Here are some steps you can take to reduce eCommerce split shipments:

Have Enough Products in Stock

Making sure not to run out of stock will reduce your split shipments.

In order to make sure you always have enough inventory in stock, you can track:

  • How much inventory you have at each fulfillment center.
  • How much time you have to reorder each product before running out.
  • How your inventory is affected by seasons and sales.
  • How much money you can save on shipping by moving your inventory to a different fulfillment center.

In addition, you can ensure you always have the relevant products on hand by recommending products to your customers that can only be fulfilled from the same location as the main item in their order. By consolidating the order, you can reduce the packaging and shipping costs.

Spreading out your inventory across your different fulfillment centers can improve your shipping costs and times. Avoid running out of stock by planning ahead and tracking your inventory.

Understand Customer Behavior Patterns

Improve your eCommerce logistics process and provide a better customer experience by understanding your customers’ shopping behavior patterns.

Think through the following questions:

  • Where are most of your customers located? 
  • Can you distribute your inventory to multiple fulfillment centers?
  • Which products are often bought together? 
  • How often do customers come back and buy again? 

It’s important to understand how your customers shop in order to adapt your inventory and shipping processes accordingly.

If certain products are often purchased together, you can group them as bundles and increase your average order value. Or if you have repeat customers purchasing the same products frequently, it might be worth offering a subscription plan.

You can also consider giving customers a choice of consolidating all of their ordered products into one shipment. Customers may choose to wait longer to receive everything together instead of getting several separate shipments.

For example, Amazon lets customers choose to receive multiple orders together at a later time rather than automatically getting the fastest shipping method. 

Streamline Your Shipping

From packaging to inventory management, it’s important to understand why split shipments are used and how to reduce them.

Reducing split shipments saves you money, reduces waste, and makes your supply chain more efficient.

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