Shipping Solutions For Small Business
Shipping is an integral part of many small business operations, and the proper shipping solutions can significantly benefit a company’s bottom line. Suitable shipping options ensure companies can save money on postage, reduce damaged and lost packages, and increase customer retention rates.
According to research by the Baymard Institute, 48% of online cart abandonment was due to extra costs, which included shipping. Furthermore, 22% of people abandoned digital shopping carts due to slow delivery, highlighting the importance of shipping in customer satisfaction.
Ultimately, investing in good shipping practices can help your business build strong customer relationships and improve the overall customer experience. In turn, both factors can influence customer loyalty, which may eventually lead to more significant revenues in the long run.
Common Shipping Services
Finding the best shipping for your small business is essential for success. The proper partner increases efficiency, simplifies order fulfillment, reduces stress, and eliminates time-consuming manual tracking.
At first, a small business can print labels and take packages to a drop-off location. When several orders need fulfillment, a daily pick-up will offer time-saving advantages. All major carriers offer the option of a daily business pick-up with a fee and enough shipping volume.
Here are some of the best options for small businesses:
United States Postal Service (USPS)
The USPS (United States Postal Service) offers many benefits to small businesses, including affordability, reliability, and convenience. Low costs compared to other methods make it ideal for small businesses trying to manage expenses. Transportation timeframes depend on whether you send a package across town or the country. Convenient pick-up locations allow businesses to send packages quickly.
Small businesses can utilize USPS products and services, including:
- Priority Mail: This is often used by small businesses since it comes with free pick-up options and delivers packages within one to three business days domestically. It's an economical and reliable service for those who need to get their products sent quickly. Prices start at $9.35 and include tracking with up to $100 insurance included in most packages.
- First-Class Mail: This USPS product is perfect for small businesses that require cost-effective shipment of light items, such as documents, clothing, and other lightweight objects. It has an average delivery time of one to five business days for mail-in packages, while small packages usually arrive within two to five business days. First-class package service has one price for up to 3.5 ounces.
- Media Mail: Media Mail: Small businesses that send books, sound recordings, printed music, recorded videos, or other media materials can use Media Mail. This is a cost-effective way to transport items and typically takes two to eight business days for delivery. Pricing starts at $3.65 with a maximum of 70 pounds.
These are just some of the many options available through USPS. There may be other services your small business can take advantage of depending on your needs and your location.
United Parcel Service (UPS)
The advantages of UPS shipping for your small business’s shipping needs are vast. With one of the largest global networks in the world, they provide fast and reliable delivery services with guaranteed timeliness.
They offer a range of customizable options tailored to different needs, including the following:
- UPS Ground is the most economical service from UPS and offers guaranteed delivery within one to five business days. It's a reliable option for small businesses that need to send packages promptly to all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
- UPS Next Day Air is the best option if you need to send a package and have it arrive the next day. It services ZIP codes and businesses by 10:30 a.m. or 12 p.m. It's beneficial for companies that need to deliver products quickly and reliably.
- UPS international shipping gives businesses access to global markets, with guaranteed delivery times to more than 220 countries and territories. It provides fast and reliable services for those who need their packages sent the next business day or in two to three business days. The options will vary, and businesses can choose from UPS Worldwide Express Plus, UPS Worldwide Express, UPS Worldwide Saver, UPS Worldwide Expedited, and UPS Standard.
UPS provides small businesses with a wide range of options at competitive prices. They are one of the best companies for small businesses that need reliable transport for their packages.
When starting an account, negotiated prices can be adjusted based on the form of shipping most often used. Prices are also tweaked for the size of the package and common destinations. Having standard package specifics will help when inquiring about a new shipping account. Over time, the account should adjust further as an average quantity and size of parcels is gathered. UPS will supply labels and install a shipping program on the shipping room computer if needed. UPS World Ship is a widely used app for customers shipping with UPS.
FedEx offers reliable and affordable options domestically and internationally. They have a network of more than 220 countries, making them one of the best companies for international deliveries. Their most popular options include the following:
- FedEx Ground is perfect for small businesses that need their packages to arrive within one to five business days in the United States. It's a cost-effective and reliable option offering affordable rates for domestic shipping and shipping to Canada. The maximum package weight is 150 pounds, and FedEx delivers to all 50 states.
- FedEx Express Saver is the best option to send your packages within three business days. It's perfect for businesses that don't need their items delivered on the same day but still require a timely service. Packages can weigh up to 150 pounds, and shipping is available in the U.S., except for Hawaii and Alaska.
- FedEx International Priority is the ideal service for sending packages internationally. It distributes to over 220 countries and territories around the world. FedEx guarantees delivery in one to three business days, making it a perfect option for businesses that need quick, reliable international shipping.
FedEx offers competitive rates and reliable services, making them an ideal choice for businesses looking to expand their global reach. They also provide straightforward tracking and customer support, enabling companies to monitor their packages and resolve any issues quickly.
Like UPS, FedEx offers daily pick-ups and adjusted rates based on the packages being shipped. They have excellent rates on regional parcel shipments up to 50 lbs., and Fed Ex Express can be much cheaper and faster for some products compared to other carriers. Fed Ex will supply shippers with priority envelopes and labels as needed to keep orders going out the door.
DHL (Dalsey Hillblom Lynn)
DHL (Dalsey Hillblom Lynn) is an excellent option for small businesses that need reliable international shipping. The company offers a wide range of services, from overnight delivery to ground transportation options, making it easy to send packages quickly and reliably. Their most popular services include the following:
- DHL International Shipping is ideal for small businesses transporting products to over 220 countries and territories. It guarantees delivery in four to 15 business days, depending on the options such as DHL Packet International, DHL Packet Plus International, and DHL Parcel International Direct. The cost is competitive and a reliable choice for businesses that don't need their packages shipped urgently.
Understanding the difference between USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL can help you choose the best company for your needs. Each offers a range of services tailored to meet the needs of different businesses. By taking the time to research the options available and considering their strengths, you can find the best service provider for your business.
Choosing the Right Shipping Supplies
The right supplies are essential to ensure the items are securely sealed and adequately packaged. Taking care to package items before shipping can help protect the integrity of the products from environmental elements like significant temperature changes, moisture, humidity, and dirt or debris during transit. Different packaging materials can secure items and make them easier to deliver. Here are some necessary items that businesses should consider for their packages:
- Corrugated and Chipboard Boxes for primary and secondary packaging are common throughout the world. Corrugated containers are used for secondary or external packaging to handle the stress of parcel transport. Heavier products may require a double-walled corrugated box for added strength. Chipboard is often used as primary packaging for many products, then placed into an exterior shipping container. Printed chipboard containers with branding and product information can add to the customer's unboxing experience and protect the item during shipping.
- Envelopes for shipping small items and expedited shipments. Bubble mailers are popular shipping envelopes helping to cushion products during transport. FedEx, UPS, and USPS also have expedited envelopes for shipping. Some carriers prefer their own shipping mailer for expedited loads.
- Labels can be used for anything from printing bar codes and addresses to notifying customers what they can find inside the package. For shipping addresses and scan codes, the carrier will often provide labels once an account has been created. Branding or informative labels can be printed at a reasonably low cost. They can help add to the unboxing experience and ensure nothing gets missed.
- Packing tape secures boxes and other containers for delivery. It’s essential to use the appropriate type. The tape must adhere properly and be strong enough to keep your items safe in transit.
Packaging tape comes in various forms, thicknesses, and styles. Acrylic tape is a popular clear packaging tape. Over recent years, kraft-reinforced gum tape has become popular for many mega companies, including Amazon and Walmart.
- *Strapping is often used around boxes to help reinforce during shipping. It can also be used around two small boxes and reduce shipping costs. It is essential to check with the chosen carrier to determine if strapping is an acceptable option for the box exterior. Strapping kits are available to begin, and an auto machine can be used if production levels justify it.
- *Kraft Paper is a sustainable void-fill option. Heavier paperweights retain shape and can provide cushion during transport. Other popular void-fill options are packaging peanuts, foam inserts, and clamshell packaging. For the price and affordability, recycled kraft sheets are hard to pass up.
- Bubble Wrap can be a shipper's best friend when shipping delicate and fragile items. Wrapping and taping bubble wrap around glass, clay, or any other fragile items being shipped can make the difference in a safe or damaged arrival. There are also now many environmentally friendly bubble wrap options on the market.
- Poly Bags made from linear low-density polyethylene are sealable and even reclosable. They contain parts, pieces, and even bottles filled with liquids during shipping. When bottles are sealed within a bag, the bags can catch any possible spillage.
- Shrink Wrap can help protect products from moisture and debris and extend the shelf life of perishable items. Depending on your specific shrink wrap needs, you might find that an L bar sealer is a worthwhile investment.
- Vacuum packing helps preserve food items and extends their shelf life by preventing oxygen from entering the package. This is ideal for businesses that distribute food items or other sensitive products.
- Vacuum bags store and protect food items and other delicate products during transit. Using vacuum bags, businesses can keep their goods safe and secure in transit. The bags are also available in different sizes, making it easy to find one that fits your needs. When you’re shipping vacuum-sealed products, vacuum sealer machines are essential.
Choosing the proper packing and shipping services is critical for any business to ensure that its products reach customers quickly and safely. Companies can be sure their items are securely sealed and arrive safely by considering the type and size of boxes, cushioning materials required, and other protective packaging items.
There are several additional considerations you’ll need to make to ensure shipping goes off without a hitch:
- External packaging: This is the first line of defense against damage. Boxes, crates, bubble envelopes — the type of packaging you use will depend on industry regulations and what you’re shipping. While secondary packaging, such as a single cardboard box, holds items to be shipped individually, tertiary packaging, such as a crate, holds multiple items to be shipped together.
- External support: Tape, glue, staples, and strapping are some options for securing secondary and tertiary packaging for freight.
- Void-fill: Since packages get jostled during shipping, you need material to fill the space between items and exterior packaging. Kraft paper — the most used packaging material — can be excellent for bigger spaces, as can foam peanuts. Bubble wrap is more common for smaller spaces. That said, Kraft paper is preferable as an eco-friendly option and can fill nearly any space besides envelopes.
- Primary packaging and tamper seal: Many products need a tamper-evident seal or adhesive on the primary packaging. Primary packaging is the bottle, box, paper, bag, or other material holding the product in place. The seal doesn’t just show the customer the product is untouched and pure; it also ensures that the product doesn’t get out of the primary packaging during shipping. Businesses often use shrink film, poly bags, and neck banding to seal packages.
Sustainability is also something to keep in mind when shipping products, as 43% of consumers feel the environmental impact of packaging is essential to consider. To mitigate the environmental impacts of your business, think about using recyclable, biodegradable, reusable, and renewable packaging materials. Some options for sustainable packaging include:
- Cardboard boxes and tubing;
- Recyclable plastics made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), or polypropylene (PP);
- Kraft paper and other composite papers made from renewable wood sources;
- Biodegradable plastic bags;
- Bulk containers, bottles, and glass jars that the consumer can reuse;
- Compostable bioplastics.
Beyond these packaging materials, your small business needs other logistical items if you ship products. These include:
- A scale to ensure correct product weight;
- A label printer;
- Stickers to indicate if a product is fragile on its external packaging, such as “THIS SIDE UP” or “FRAGILE”;
- Shipping software from the freight carrier or third-party shipping service to streamline order fulfillment.
When fulfilling customers’ orders, you can use your own warehousing and work directly with freight service or go through a third party such as Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). The benefit of the former is that you have independence, and your branding appears on the box. But if you would rather not have to focus on the logistics of order fulfillment, FBA can take all of that off your hands so you can concentrate on your products.
Either way, goods will need to be appropriately packaged before sending off. If you’re going with a third-party shipping solution such as FBA, you must meet the shipper’s packaging requirements.
Shipping the goods yourself will also require high-quality packaging for your customers’ sake and to meet regulations. Contract packaging can be beneficial since it provides a cost-effective solution. You’ll save money on equipment and will have more time to focus on your products, marketing, and customer service.
How To Calculate Delivery Costs
You need to calculate delivery costs accurately to make informed decisions. Shipping calculators are vital tools your business should use to determine exact costs and other related expenses. You can find them on the shipping company’s website or use an online calculator. Here are the delivery cost calculation tools for each of the major carriers:
- USPS Business Postage Price Calculator: You’ll need to know the shipping date, destination, weight, dimensions, and how quickly it needs to reach its destination to access the shipping rate.
- UPS WorldShip: This software enables you to access pricing and logistics information on high-volume shipments of over ten packages per day. If you’re shipping less than that, use the UPS time and cost calculator.
- FedEx shipping rates calculator: You can also calculate less-than-truckload shipping rates, and FedEx has a suite of logistics tools if you’re using this carrier for all of your shipping needs.
- DHL shipping quote tool: Get an instant quote for domestic and international shipments.
In the case of UPS, the software can display both published and negotiated rates, which are the contract rates established with UPS and your UPS Account Representative. Negotiate rates over time with carriers by establishing a relationship and establishing consistent package sizes and quantities.
Without correctly calculating the costs, you may be unable to efficiently move goods from point A to point B while still making a profit. Access to an accurate and up-to-date calculator lets your company decide which carriers offer the best rates based on the delivery timeline, location, fuel surcharges, and other potential fees.
Also, be sure to stay abreast of current market conditions affecting freight pricing, such as fuel prices or increased demand. This way, you aren’t overpaying for your deliveries or putting your business at a financial disadvantage. It's also important to consider the total cost, including taxes and other fees.
Small Business Shipping Tips
Your business should approach the shipping and fulfillment process with a sense of efficiency and organization. It is essential to have systems that enable you to fulfill orders quickly while minimizing costs. You’ll also want to be able to track your orders and ensure the quality of your supplies and product availability to keep operations running consistently. Here are some tips to help keep your shipping and fulfillment process running smoothly.
- Develop a systematic process: Establish rules and procedures that all employees should follow while preparing for delivery. This can include how orders are packaged, how they will be tracked, how products should be labeled, and which carriers should be used. This will help make the process consistent and efficient every time.
- Use automation: Invest in software that can automate many tasks associated with shipping and fulfillment, such as ordering supplies, calculating transport costs, processing orders, and printing labels. Automating these processes will save time and help reduce errors.
- Invest in quality supplies: Choose quality materials for packing goods, such as sturdy boxes, bubble wrap, and durable tape, to ensure the safe delivery of your products. These materials should withstand the rigors of transport without compromising their contents.
- Stay informed and up-to-date: Monitor current events that may affect shipping costs, such as fuel prices and regulations, so adjustments can be made accordingly. This will ensure your business is not overpaying or putting you at a financial disadvantage.
- Utilize third-party logistics providers: Working with a third-party logistics provider can help simplify the process and provide cost savings. They can also provide tracking services, which help guarantee that packages arrive at their destination on time.
By taking the time to implement and follow the best shipping and fulfillment practices, your business can ensure items arrive safely at their destination while also saving time and money. With some planning and preparation, you can be confident you’re making informed decisions regarding delivery options.
Call 1-800-441-5090 for assistance with small business packaging options, machines, and materials; we are here to help.