If you made a New Year's resolution to improve your company's supply chain, now comes the hard part — making it happen. 

Why is it so hard to live up to the expectations we set for ourselves every year? Resolutions often fail not because of a lack of ambition, but because goals are set without developing the right strategies to reach them.

It's not too late to set some realistic goals for 2010 and to consider some strategies to help put your business on the path to reaching your goals and ensuring long-term success. With that in mind, here are 10 simple shipping tips for 2010.

1.    Consult the Experts
By consulting an experienced third-party logistics provider (3PL), your business can gain valuable expert guidance and access to world-class tools and services that might otherwise be beyond the reach of most small- and medium-sized businesses. Research your options, and identify a partner with the experience and solutions to serve as your virtual logistics department. 

2.    Automate Tasks
You can save valuable time by automating as much of your shipping process as possible. Shipping technologies exist to help businesses of all sizes automate shipping functions, such as simplifying down to a few key strokes the traditionally complex task of generating commercial invoices on international shipments. Some shippers and 3PLs offer applications that can be integrated into your company's business system and customer-facing website to improve efficiency and customer service.

3.    Cut WISMO Inquires
Providing a superior customer experience throughout the shipping process can lead to valuable repeat business, so provide customers with as much information about their shipments as possible. Implementing technology that enables you to provide tracking information and proactive status updates on your customers' in-transit orders will help cut down on "where is my order" (WISMO) inquiries, and free up your customer service department to handle more important tasks.

4.    Extend Your Focus to the Return Trip
Gone are the days of limited "source to shelf" thinking; now, with more and more shoppers buying online and via mobile devices, offering an efficient, Web-based returns option to your customer can provide a competitive advantage. A recent Forrester Consulting study commissioned by UPS found that retailers who make it convenient and inexpensive for their customers to return products are likely to see increases in sales, customer loyalty, and incremental revenue. So ensure your strategy includes a round trip ticket when necessary! 

5.    Get a Grip on Inventory
Whether you're managing your shipping in-house or with a 3PL, ensure that you're agile enough to ramp your shipping up and down as necessary. Visibility is vital to smart inventory management, allowing you to more accurately plan in-store staffing requirements, minimize inventory carrying costs, and improve cash flow by more quickly confirming delivery. 

6.    Compete on an International Level
Doing business in new, emerging markets can be very beneficial to growing your business — but it can also be complicated. To help extend your business into international markets, work with a partner with a strong global network and integrated customers clearance technology. 

7.    Ship to the Right Address
You could be losing shipping dollars and negatively impacting your customer service if your company's database includes incorrect addresses, causing packages to be shipped to bad addresses and returned for reshipment. Use available technology that can validate addresses and even suggest alternatives when bad addresses are discovered.

8.    Integrate Your Shipping Processes
Look for opportunities to streamline and integrate your shipping with other business processes to increase efficiency. For example, you can reduce data entry duplication and human error by integrating your shipping processes with your internal order-entry systems. 

9.    Pick the Right Mode of Transportation
The Internet and mobile commerce make it possible for your customers and suppliers to be down the road, across the country, or on the other side of the world. A carrier should offer multiple shipping options, including air, ground, rail, and ocean. Work with your carrier to determine the optimal mode(s) for your budget and shipping needs.

10.    Stay Connected 
Time is money, and delays in accessing vital shipping information can cost you. Consider utilizing mobile technology to gain quick access to tracking information and to calculate costs and transit times on the fly. And, adding mobile access to your shipping process can increase your responsiveness to help bolster relationships with your customers. 

Considering the economic instability of recent years, it's difficult to forecast what 2010 holds for your business. So, take some time to review your shipping processes to ensure you have the tools and technology in place to withstand whatever the year may bring.

Jordan Colletta, Vice President of e-Commerce Marketing, is responsible for the marketing activities of UPS' customer facing technology and ups.com. Jordan is refining UPS's e-Commerce strategy, as well as delivering new solutions through the development of Internet-based technologies, applications and wireless access.