Small businesses comprise 99.9% of all business in the United States. Many of these small businesses rely on shipments to distribute their products.

When it comes to shipping products, the process can be time consuming and expensive. In order to alleviate the stress of shipping, follow these six tips.

1. Determine Accurate Shipping Costs

When determining shipping costs on your own it’s easy to make mistakes. While these mistakes are commonplace they can end up causing you frustration and money loss.

Shipping costs are determined based on these four factors:

  • Weight
  • Dimension
  • Destination
  • Speed

In order to determine an accurate shipping costs you should analyze all of the above factors.

Weight

Often times small business sellers only consider the weight of the product being shipped, neglecting added weight from packaging materials. To avoid picking the wrong weight for shipping, weigh the entire package ahead of time. This includes the box, padding, and product.

Dimension

Nowadays shipping carriers employ a dimensional charge. This means that, even though you might be shipping a light object, if it is in a large box it may end up costing more than a heavier item.

Dimensional weight shipping costs are determined either by the actual weight or the average weight of a package of the same size. Examine a specific carrier’s dimensional weight prices to determine the best place to ship from when working with a large but light package.

Destination

The farther the destination the more expensive shipping will be. It’s best to know where the package is going ahead of time in order to provide an accurate shipping quote for the customer.

While physical distance is important to know, you’ll also want to be aware of whether it is being delivered to a residential or commercial address. This is vital to know as some carriers don’t ship residentially or have added residential costs.

Speed

Although two-day shipping is near impossible for standard shipping practices, quick shipping is ideal for many businesses. Having your packages arrive quickly and safely keeps customers happy and ready to purchase from you again.

While picking a shipping carrier you’ll want to compare the standard time for shipping. This will help you find the quickest and cheapest delivery option available.

2. Using Insurance and/or Tracking

Whether to provide shipping insurance and tracking options is something you might have debated. Depending on the products being shipped it might be beneficial to keep you from losing money on expensive items.

Insurance gives leeway for accidents while shipping. It protects shippers from lost, stolen, or damaged packages. In the case of shipping issues occurring, the shipper is reimbursed.

While tracking doesn’t insure packages arrive, it does allow you and the customer to view where it is on its journey. With the possibility of losing packages, tracking items is ideal to verify that an item was shipped. Tracking is also ideal for customers who want to know the ETA of their package.

Prices for both services vary based on carrier and the package. Nevertheless, both might be worthwhile depending on the product being shipped.

3. Choose the Cheapest Carrier

The three main carrier options are UPS, USPS, and FedEx. Differences in these carriers include residential fees and size limits, as well as overall costs.

UPS and FedEx is ideal for those shipping relatively small packages. Meanwhile, envelopes and flat items are best shipped via the USPS.

USPS postal carriers usually deliver in smaller trucks, therefore it is difficult for them to easily transport large items and will cost you more money. UPS and FedEx are better at delivering large shipments, but, since they don’t stop at every residential area daily, shipment takes longer and often costs more.

There are also “hybrid” services like UPS Surepost and Fedex SmartPost. With these services, your package will be picked up, zone skipped to the destination post office, and completed by the postal carrier.

4. Pack Products the Right Way

Along with the cost of postage, shipping supplies should also factor into your estimated shipping cost. For some online businesses, shipping supplies might just be a padded envelope, but for others, it’ll require a box along with padding.

When choosing the shipping supplies to use, it all comes down to the product being shipped. More fragile items require more padding, and larger items require a bigger shipment container.

Limit yourself to two types of packing material. One will be for wrapping products and the other will be for filling the void around the product.

Along with this, you’ll also want to try to package your products in the smallest dimensions possible. This means refraining from using an excessive amount of packing material, only using as much needed to keep the product safe.

For buying boxes, it’s best to buy boxes wholesale. This is especially helpful if most products being shipped are similar in size or dimension. To improve packaging, click here for packaging tips.

5. One Shipping Price

Major shipping carriers like UPS, USPS, and FedEx all offer some sort of standardized or flat rate shipping options. Using this option, you’ll pay the same price regardless of weight and destination.

USPS and UPS flat rate boxes allow around up to 70 lbs. FedEx One Rate boxes are only up to 50 lbs.

Alternatively, you can create your own flat rate shipping price. This works best if you have a standard range of items that are similar in size and weight. When going for this option, be careful not to drastically undercharge or overcharge your customers.

6. Tips for Shipping Products Internationally

Growth of a small business will often lead to customers wanting products shipped internationally. This is great because it allows you to further your company and reach new territory, but it can be a hassle if you’re not familiar with foreign shipping procedures.

When planning to ship internationally, keep these things in mind:

  • Confirm a product’s shippability. In certain areas, different items are forbidden from entering. Check based on where the shipment is going, as well as what is allowed to leave the country.
  • Additional tax fees and documentation might be required. On top of carrier fees, you might be required to pay additional tax fees and provide proper customs declarations or other documentations.
  • Clarify your shipping policy and pricing. Shipping internationally is more expensive, so make sure that the shipping price for international customers is accurately priced.

Ship It Right the First Time

Following these six tips for shipping products, you’ll be well prepared to ship products right the first time. After all, there’s nothing worse than losing money while shipping or ending up with an unhappy customer.

For more small business tips, read the articles listed on our site.

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