A few preliminary notes
- We strongly recommend against using the South African post office as their reliability is subpar and in our experience has been gradually getting worse over time. Even if you ship with a tracking number (a requirement for Hello Pretty sellers) it’s still virtually impossible to resolve issues when parcels get lost. However, while this is consistently true for the post office’s local service, using them for shipping internationally is still a fine solution. They’ve proven a lot more reliable in that department.
- Hello Pretty charges commissions and payment gateway fees on shipping costs. So you will need to account for this when setting your prices. Read this article for more details on why: Why am I being charged commission on my shipping fee?
- If you don’t ship with a tracking number (or you don’t enter one on the order management dashboard) you will be liable for the full amount should the customer claim to not receive the parcel. This goes for SA Post and couriers.
- Unless you’re selling extremely fragile items (plants, baked goods, etc.) that virtually can’t be shipped, we require you to offer shipping country-wide.
Do you want to offer a self collection option for customers? This will let a customer pickup the product directly from you if they live in the same city and save on shipping costs and potential hassles with couriers or the post office.
A few years ago customers were often outraged by having to pay for shipping. With virtually all of the ecommerce stores in South Africa customers have gotten use to paying for shipping, up to a point. If your shipping cost is too high in proportion to the product your selling customers will often not complete the purchase. Consider subsidizing the cost of shipping by increasing your product prices or by hoping to make back the difference when people order multiple products.
Types of shipping services in SA
There are four types of couriers you can use, and you might choose to use different methods for shipping different sales. Make sure to also check out our directory of South African courier companies.
- Door to door. This is the most common, and often most convenient for ecommerce. The courier will pick up the parcel from you and deliver it directly to the customer. You’ll typically need to sign a contract with them beforehand but you’ll also likely get the best rates of any other option on the majority of your shipments (major centre -> major centre). PO Boxes can’t be used and rural / outlaying areas can be prohibitely expensive.
- Store to store. This is how SA Post operates with tracked parcels and letters as well as PostNet. Relatively affordable and no contract necessary. Typically one rate nation-wide.
- Store to door. Aramex’s pick n’ pay store to door service. Relatively affordable and no contract necessary. Typically one rate nation-wide.
- Door to store. An example of a company that offers this is Pargo. They’ll collect the pacel from you and deliver it to a retail store partner convenient to the customer. If a customer doesn’t know when they’ll be at their address this option can be quite convenient for them. You’ll typically need to sign a contract with them beforehand unless you use Hello Pretty’s integrated Pargo.
Signing up with a courier can be a tedious process. After you’ve chosen a courier (or couriers) to work with you’ll need to get in touch with them to sign a contract. While every courier is slightly different, many will require a credit check and that you pay a deposit up front of anywhere between R1000 to R2500 depending on how much volume you’re planning on doing (if you’re already an established business you may not need to pay any upfront deposit). You can typically renegotiate this after a six month period. Some, like Fastway, you’ll pre-pay for your courier bags.
A courier you sign a contract with will typically offer the best rates on most of your parcels. But there are options you can get started with before that.
We’ve been dealing with couriers and shipping since we launched, so we’ve got some experience with this now and can hopefully guide you in the right direction. With that said, all shops have their own unique requirements, but hopefully these “getting started” recommendations can, well, get you started.
- Enable self collection
- If the parcels you ship are under 2kg offer at least one shipping option that’s no more than R60 (ideally R35). In our experience, most online shoppers are comfortable paying between R35-R60.
Of course, if you can configure your shop and products to offer a free shipping, then you should see an even better sale completion rate.
- Signing up with a courier can be tedious and overwhelming when you’re first getting online. Add a store-to-door option such as Aramex or PostNet. We recommend Aramex for this their store-to-door offering is more widespread and the parcels are, on average, delivered quicker. At this time (October 2017) both offerings cost R99.
- Offer international shipping using the South African post office. In our experience most outgoing international packages with SA Post seem to arrive at their destination in a reasonable amount of time (anywhere from 2 – 4 weeks). This is the most cost effective solution as many couriers can charge upwards of R350 for a letter.
- Free shipping over… setup this option to offer customers free shipping over a certain order value (for example, free shipping if they order R500 or more). This can work as an incentive to get a customer to purchase more from your shop than they otherwise would have. Click here to see how to do this.
We haven’t found a great option for shipping larger items. If you have a good or bad experience shipping furniture with any courier send us an email and let us know. One option to get you started would be to sign up with Time Freight, though we’ve had mixed reviews with their service.