Although a few cents may not seem like a lot at the time, over time, it adds up to a lot of cash for your handmade business.
Shipping is an essential function of any ecommerce business. But it can be complicated and costly if you don’t know the most effective shipping and packaging methods. If you don’t include enough packaging, your items might get damaged in the shipping process. But if you use too much, you’re likely to pay more than necessary for shipping.
1. Get A Shipping Scale
Don’t use the bath room scales, they are not even close. A postage meter is a portable machine equipped with a scale that weighs packages, assesses exact postage charges and prints shipping labels. Systems like these can help eliminate the need for mailers to guess the weight of a package and purchase additional postage “just to be safe.”
2. Shipping Company’s Pricing Method
Different shipping companies offer different pricing structures for shipping packages. Some offer flat-rate options for boxes of a certain size. Others are more concerned with the weight.
Based on the type of items you have to ship, you’ll likely want to look for whatever type of pricing structure can save you the most money. For example, if you have relatively compact but heavy items, you might benefit from using flat-rate boxes. But you likely won’t get much benefit from going that route if you have larger products that aren’t super heavy.
However, if it’s rock-bottom shipping prices you need, here are your best options:
The US Postal Service
USPS has more locations in more places than most private shipping companies, and more cost-effective options for people who don’t have accounts or regular shipping needs.
USPS Standard Post
USPS Standard Post is the US Postal Service’s lowest-cost shipping tier. If you’re shipping one or two items, or a few items infrequently, this is probably your most cost-effective shipping method. Packages shipped domestically take two to eight days to get to their destination. There are no bells and whistles here, although Standard Post is applicable for insurance, shipping confirmation, return receipt, and other optional services you may be interested in, at an additional per-package cost.
USPS First Class
USPS First Class is the USPS standard shipping method for envelopes and letters but you can ship packages first class, too. If your item qualifies for it, it’s probably the cheapest and fastest (between one to three days) shipping method available. The problem is that First Class packages have to be quite small to qualify (less than 13 ounces). If it is, it’s by far the most cost effective solution.
Priority Mail is an attractive option if you need to ship quickly and on the cheap, or if you ship regularly. Priority packages take two to three days to get to their destination (there’s even a map to help you find out when your item will arrive), and Priority Flat Rate is one cost, no matter what you stuff into the box (although, if your item is light, it may not be worth the price of the flat rate box, so don’t assume flat rate is always cheaper).
Create an account with the USPS online and you can have shipping materials sent to your house, print your own mailing labels, and hand off to your mail carrier when they come to your door. It’s probably the most efficient and cost effective method if you need to ship items regularly, and you don’t even have to leave the house. Combine Priority (or First Class) with optional services if you need proof it was received, proof you shipped it, or insurance.
If you’re shipping internationally, Priority Mail International, First Class Mail International, and First Class Package International are comparable options to the ones mentioned above. They’re by far the slowest (six to ten days minimum), but they’re definitely cheap.
3. Box Size
If you’ve ever gotten a box that included one small product completely surrounded by tiny packing peanuts or other shipping materials, then you’re familiar with loose fill packaging. And chances are, you’re not too big of a fan. But this type of packaging can also be a big waste of resources for small businesses, particularly those that don’t have a lot of space.
You’ll likely want to use the smallest possible box that will fit your product and the packaging that is actually necessary.
4. Establishing Packaging System
You don’t need to buy a huge variety of boxes in different sizes. Having too many different sizes can make managing inventory difficult and also over-complicate the actual process of shipping. But if you pick just two or three different box sizes that will work with most of your products, you can save time and potentially even take advantage of bulk discounts.
It can also be a good idea to have a set system for packaging certain items, especially those that you ship regularly. If you designate a specific amount of materials to use with each type of product, then you won’t have to spend a lot of time trying to figure out the packaging each time around. And you’ll also already know that if you use that exact amount of packaging, your item is likely to get to its destination safely without causing you to spend too much on shipping.
5. Check For Shipping Discounts And Memberships
As a small business, you likely don’t have the same negotiating power as large companies when it comes to getting the best possible shipping prices. However, you can still shop around with different providers and see which ones offer the best prices for the specific items you need to ship. And if you do ship items fairly regularly, you might be able to try negotiating small discounts based on the volume of items you ship regularly.
6. Test Shipping Companies
One way is to have your carrier keep a “scorecard,” which usually tracks service and cost. Service factors can include pickup, delivery, response to customer service inquiries by shipper, access to online status data, accuracy of that data, meeting pickup or delivery appointment times and meeting agreed-upon in-transit times (from time of pick up to time of delivery).
Finally, if you have some shipping solutions that work for your business today, please share it in the comment box below.