Let’s hear it for the humble garage and the millions of home-based companies across the U.S. putting theirs to good use. If you’re dreaming of joining the ranks of successful online sellers, we have some small-business shipping solutions and tips just for you.
The internet has made it possible for anyone to become an entrepreneur by selling their wares on their own website or through an online marketplace or auction site. The only thing standing between you and world [your product here] dominance is the quality of that product—and your business shipping process.
Shipping for your online business involves pleasing your customers, making the best use of your time, and most important of all, minimizing your costs. Here are our top five tips for doing just that.
Tip 1: Take stock of your business’ shipping needs
You’ve spent countless hours thinking about your products and calculating how much they might be worth to existing and potential customers. But if your plans don’t include business shipping processes and costs, you’ve overlooked an important part of your online selling strategy.
Pre-planning is key for managing your business shipping and saving money. Shipping out fragile pottery? High-end jewelry? Iron door stops? Giant unicorn pinatas? What you ship should determine how you ship it.
The best shipping option for your business depends on the size, shape and weight of your product. You want your product to get into your customer’s hands quickly and in one piece. But you don’t want to pay for more shipping services than you need.
How often you ship that item matters, too. A lot of your shipping options are impacted by your business’ shipping volume. For example, is it worth your time to handwrite your mailing labels or do you ship often enough to make investing in a thermal label printer worth the upfront cost?
Tip 2: Take inventory of your shipping supplies
Let’s start with the basics. If you have an assortment of boxes, packing tape, a standard printer and paper and an internet connection, you have everything you need to create your own small-business shipping station.
From there, it’s a question of whether to invest more in your shipping station.
You can recycle old boxes if they’re sound and you’ve removed any old shipping labels and bar codes. But your best bet might be to take advantage of the free boxes and shipping envelopes/bags offered by UPS®, FedEx® and USPS®.
If you don’t have one, invest in a tape gun stat! This inexpensive little item will save you loads of frustration when taping up large boxes for shipment. Make sure to use clear packing tape if you’re using it to affix your shipping labels.
Any standard inkjet or laser printer will do. If your shipping volumes are high, however, investing upfront in a thermal label printer can save you money over time. With a thermal printer, you can create loads of professional-looking labels quickly without the need for expensive ink or toner.
You can print a shipping label on an ordinary piece of office paper. Or for a more professional look, you can buy a package of half-sheet label stickers that are compatible with your printer. For the most professional look of all, you can purchase rolls of 4x6 inch labels for your new thermal printer.
Paying for postage online and creating your own shipping labels is absolutely the best way to save money on business shipping. You can buy postage and shipping labels online through any of the major carriers’ websites or through an online shipping service (more on this below).
Scale or postage meter
You can skip this item if you ship by Flat Rate where you are charged by how much you can squeeze into that pre-priced box or envelop. But consider this: Postage meters can save small-business owners as much as 20 percent annually on postage.
Tip 3: Ship it like a multi-channel tycoon
Multi-channel merchants do it. Small home businesses do it. Even up and coming startups do it. Do what, you ask? Subscribe to an online shipping service.
An online shipping service can help you manage orders, compare carrier services and rates, finance postage, verify addresses, print shipping labels, schedule package pickups, track packages and much more.
Sound too good or too expensive to be true? PitneyShip subscriptions start at only $4.99 a month. You’ll spend more than that bribing the neighbor’s kid to haul your packages to the post office.
Tip 4: Embrace your service options
There’s no excuse for letting shipping costs chip away at your profit margins. Not when you can choose the best and least expensive service and carrier for each order.
For most business shipping USPS Priority Mail® is a relatively inexpensive option that will get your order to its destination in two to three days. Then again, UPS or FedEx might be faster or even less expensive depending on what you’re shipping.
There are more variables involved than we can list here (though we do list them here). But suffice it to say, you want to comparison shop. This is where an online shipping service like PitneyShip can make all the difference by letting you see all your options in one place.
Tip 5: Think like a customer, sell like a pro
Maybe you dream about your product starring in a series of unboxing videos. Or maybe all you care about is that five-star review. Whatever your goal, shipping is a vital part of a customers’ experience with your brand.
An unboxing experience is nothing to scoff at. The act of opening a box, peeling back layers of logo-imprinted tissue, reading the maker’s witty handcrafted note—that’s the stuff some brands are built on. But the thing most customers really care about is free shipping.
How much do they care? A Pitney Bowes report shows that 75-percent of consumers will choose free shipping over fast shipping. Free shipping is great for business, but not always great for bottom lines. Consider some of these options for keeping customers happy and business shipping expenses low:
- Set limits for free shipping by placing a minimum order amount.
- Limit free shipping to products that are inexpensive to ship.
- Build the cost of shipping into the price of your products.
- Offer a choice of free standard shipping or fee-based expedited shipping.