If you're not shipping hundreds of packages a day, you probably fall into the category of "small business shipper." That means you may be someone who sells a few items on eBay out of your home, or you may own a more formal business with an office or commercial location that employs several employees. No matter what form your small business takes, implementing a few shipping best practices can help save you time and money.
Small Business Shipping Considerations
To minimize your costs, you should find a shipping service that will offer you the lowest cost overall. Shipping costs are determined by the following factors:
- Delivery time (2-day, overnight, parcel post, etc.)
- Ship from/to addresses
- Weight of product and packing material
- Dimensions of your box/container
- Package tracking and delivery confirmation
- Handling and special fees
Rates Are Negotiable
Depending upon the volume that you ship every month, small business shipping rates can be negotiated. The more you ship, the more leverage you will have when negotiating for a lower rate. But don't assume you're too small to qualify for special rates or discounts.
Discounts can be negotiated with as few as 100 packages per month. Contact shipping services, open accounts with them and talk with a representative about your business—they may have rates you can take advantage of that may not be listed on their website or general customers.
Pick-Up and Delivery
Running to the post office or the carrier's storefront location is not only time-consuming but costly, too. If the carrier will make pick-ups and deliveries free of charge, this can save you some money. The only disadvantage is that you will be at the mercy of the carrier's pick-up schedule.
In-House Postage Printing
Postage for packages and thick envelopes will vary depending upon the carrier's rules and restrictions. Once you understand these, you can save time and money by printing the postage directly from your computer. Shipping services may even offer special software that can integrate with business software you use, such as Quickbooks, that make the process even simpler. Visit your chosen carrier's website to learn how.
If you ship items that are extremely fragile or perishable, you will incur additional handling charges to ensure the safe delivery of your package.
International Shipping Costs
You will want to do research on shipping and taxes if you plan to ship internationally. Tariffs and other taxes vary by country and can vary by the product being shipped. These can significantly increase the cost of shipping a product to these locations.
Shipping Supplies and Materials
In addition to postage, shipping supplies such as business envelopes, padded envelopes, boxes, cushioning material and tape need to be taken into consideration. Comparison shopping can help you save money on office supplies.
For critical orders that must be shipped overnight, you must take into account the nearest drop off location for the shipper of your choosing.
Multiple Shipping Partners
Even though you may be able to negotiate a lower cost by dealing with one shipping carrier exclusively, you can increase customer satisfaction by offering several choices so that your customers can choose who they would like you to use. Also, this can create some competition between the carriers for your business.