Multiple suppliers.

An array of shipping options to choose from.

Demanding customer expectations.

The bottom line?

If you don’t do your homework the cost of shipping can be expensive, and you could even lose customers.

To help you become a quick study, we’ve put together a list of shipping tips for small businesses. Follow this small business packaging and shipping advice and it will have a positive impact on the balance sheet and success of your small business.

Tip #1: Know the basics behind shipping costs

Before you can decide on the shipping option that is the most cost-efficient for your needs, start by checking the basics in the small business shipping guide, and be aware of the 5 factors that have the greatest influence on the cost of shipping.

  • Weight and Dimension: The heavier and larger your package, the more it will cost to ship. To accurately weigh your packages, invest in a postage meter or bring your packages to your local Staples or OfficeMax and ask them to weigh them for you.
  • Destination: The further away the destination, the more your package will cost to ship. And if you’re shipping to a commercial address vs. a residential address, it will cost more to ship too.
  • Speed: The faster your customer wants their purchase delivered, the more expensive the cost of shipping will be.
  • Additional Services: If you want to add services such as insurance, packaging, tracking, or a signature to confirm receipt, they can cost you extra based on the type of shipping option you’ve chosen.
  • Shipping Volume: Depending on the volume of shipping you do, you may qualify for a discounted rate.

Want a simple way to compare shipping costs between carriers? The first step to creating a solid small business shipping strategy is to use this multi-carrier rate calculator.

Tip #2: Consider flat-rate shipping

It’s possible you might be able to really simplify your small business packaging and shipping strategy by using standardized, flat-rate shipping.

With flat-rate shipping, you pay one flat rate, no matter what the weight or where your package is shipping to, as long as the item fits into the flat-rate box supplied by the carrier.

If most of your packages are a similar size and shipping rate, this option could be the most cost-efficient and convenient way for your business to send out its items.

You can stock up on flat-rate boxes for free by popping into your local USPS post office, UPS or FedEx.

Tip #3: Shop around

If you assume that one carrier will be the best option for all your shipping needs, you would be wrong. Experienced small business owners know that the most cost-efficient and convenient way to address all your shipping needs is to work with multiple carriers. Why? Because, in most cases, no two carriers offer identical shipping services.

To see if this small business packaging and shipping advice rings true, shop around and compare. You can do this by calling and speaking with a small business packaging and shipping consultant at each carrier. If you want to save time, you can quickly compare shipping rates right from your desktop with an online shipping solution.

Tip #4: Ask for a discount

...Want the best shipping rates on your monthly packaging and shipping? Here’s some simple advice: just ask your carriers for better rates.

If you’re shipping a consistent volume of packages each month, speak to your carrier(s) about a better rate. Getting a volume-based, negotiated rate from your carrier is a common practice that any small business can take advantage of if they are shipping at a consistent volume.

If your current volume is low, you can try to negotiate a discount based on your projected volume.

Another approach for encouraging your current carrier to provide you with a discount is to let them know you have spoken with sales representatives from competing carriers.

Tip #5: Offer free shipping

This next piece of small business shipping advice may seem like an oxymoron in a blog post that’s about how to save on shipping costs, but here’s why offering free shipping can save you money.

Numerous consumer surveys have indicated that upon reaching the payment step of the online purchasing process, many will abandon their cart altogether due to the additional cost of shipping that is tacked on. For example, in a survey conducted by Usabilla, 58% of the respondents said the top reason why they have abandoned an online shopping cart is the high shipping costs.

The way to get around this is by offering free shipping. How can you do this? By building the cost of the shipping into the price of the item you are selling.

Another tactic is to offer free shipping on orders that are over a certain amount. This provides a way for your customers to get “free shipping” and it allows you to generate additional sales.

Tip #6: Optimize your shipping packages

The cost of packaging can really add up. Here are a few steps you can take to reduce the cost of your packaging and fine-tune your small business shipping strategy.

Use the right size package for your item: Using a box that is larger than you need means your package will be heavier and bigger than it needs to be, which will translate into a higher shipping cost. Follow this small business shipping advice: put your item in the smallest box possible, or even a polybag, and save money.

box size graphic

Buy boxes in bulk: If you’ve got the space, take advantage of a bulk discount and stock up on the boxes you need.

Reuse boxes: If your company receives packages, save these boxes and when possible, re-use them when you ship items to customers.

Send on a pallet: If you have a large order of packages being shipped to the same address, rather than ship them individually, send them on a pallet as freight and save money.

Tip #7: Use shipping software

A great way to streamline the process of sourcing the best options and shipping your packages is to use an online shipping platform such as Neoship.

No matter which online shipping platform you go with, you’ll inevitably enhance your small business packaging and shipping strategy by saving time and money.

Typical things you can do with shipping software include:

  • Set shipping rules to automatically pick the lowest rate, fastest delivery time, etc.
  • See real-time shipping rates across carriers based on product/package specifications
  • Customize, buy and print shipping labels and packing slips
  • See a summary of your shipments so you can analyze costs and other factors

Tip #8: Use third-party insurance

All carriers offer insurance to protect your package in the event it is lost or damaged during shipping.

In some cases, depending on the service option you’ve selected, there is no additional cost for the insurance. In other cases, there is an additional cost.

If you find yourself in this scenario, a more cost-effective solution may be third-party shipping insurance. In many cases, third-party shipping insurance is half the price of what you would have to pay a carrier.

A couple of names of third-party shipping insurance companies are Cabrella and Shipsurance. To shop for rates online, conduct a Google search using the term “third-party shipping insurance.”

Optimizing your shipping will allow you to deliver on customer satisfaction

One of the keys to running a profitable, successful small business is operating it as cost-efficiently as possible while not compromising on the overall customer experience. Taking the time to investigate, consider and implement some, or all, of the packaging and shipping tips for small businesses discussed in this article is a great way to ensure you’re saving as much as you can on packaging and shipping while meeting the expectation today’s customers have for expedient delivery.

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