Fresh ideas make it easy to sell, ship and save.

eBay supports 1 billion live listings, and 165 million active buyers across 190 markets. More than 1.7 million sellers and 27.1 million buyers rely on Etsy, the online marketplace for creative entrepreneurs. These are just two of the outlets for independent and small-volume sellers.

It all adds up to a lot of sending and shipping of packages, postage bills and potential headaches. Both eBay and Etsy provide shipping tips for their sellers. Pitney Bowes, the expert in all things related to shipping and mailing, provides practical tips on how to get the most value when you ship. We asked Tom Ryan, Pitney Bowes Director for Product Marketing, to share insights on cutting costs when shipping with the USPS®.

Several key themes emerged: Packaging matters, and the right boxes can help you cut costs and streamline operations. Likewise, new technologies make it easier to ship smarter and increase visibility. Together, these practices can make a significant difference in the ease and savings of sending packages.

Ways to optimize your packaging

With dimensional pricing, the size and shape of your box are just as important as the weight. Dimensions include height, width and length of the package, no matter what the contents are. Ryan notes that a bit of pre-planning can help, and advises you to ask yourself:

  • How many different types of boxes do you use for shipping?
  • Can you reduce the number of boxes kept in inventory?
  • Can you consolidate the box sizes, minimizing the need to measure each box?
  • Are you shipping boxes with empty space and extra filler material?
  • Can you use Flat Rate boxes provided by USPS and other carriers?

“USPS and other carriers not only charge based on weight and distance but also box size, known as Dimensional Rating (DIM).”

-Tom Ryan, Pitney Bowes Director for Product Marketing

Saving money starts with the right box.

The right box needs to fit snugly around your merchandise. Yet you don’t want to stock different size boxes for every product you sell. The solution? Multi-depth boxes. These innovative brown, corrugated shipping boxes are designed to be customized. You simply choose the right depth for your item, cut down the side, and fold to your desired size. “Multi-depth boxes offer several advantages,” Ryan notes. “Your items will fit more securely in the smaller space, and you’ll eliminate wasted box space and unnecessary fillers. More important, you’ll minimize dimensional pricing from national carriers.”

Pitney Bowes can supply these multi-depth boxes in a variety of sizes, which are designed to withstand high stacking and bursting weights:

  • 12” x 9” x 6”
  • 11-1/4 x 8-3/4
  • 12” x 12” x 12”
  • 17-1/4” x 11-1/4” x 12”

These multi-depth boxes allow you to save inventory space by reducing the number of sizes needed in stock. Pitney Bowes multi-depth boxes provide size flexibility in a quality container, so you can reduce shipping costs knowing your items will arrive undamaged.

With Priority Mail®, you can also consider USPS Flat Rate Boxes, which offer a fixed postage rate for all items under 70 pounds. When to use First-Class Mail vs. Priority Mail. “As long as the contents fit, the items ship at a flat rate no matter what Zone (Postal Code) they are being sent to,” Ryan explains. “Although this option is ideal for certain shipping needs, it is not always the most cost-effective, so make sure you calculate if this saves you any money.”

USPS also offers discounts for Regional Rate Flat Rate Boxes. This option can provide savings over standard Flat Rate Boxes and is available for Priority Mail parcels and Merchandise Return Service (MRS) where parcels are returned at Priority Mail prices.

Choose the right service for small packages.

Ryan recommends First-Class Package Service® as an alternative to shipping smaller packages under 16 ounces through the USPS. “This is non-personal correspondence that qualifies for the discounted Commercial Base Pricing (CBP) using a full shipping label, and is considered a more typical option for commercial shipping of goods,” Ryan explains. Don’t confuse this with First-Class Mail® Retail Parcel rates, which do not qualify for the CBP rate discounts.

Ship smart with Intelligent Mail®.

As part of the Intelligent Mail® package barcode (IM®pb) service, the USPS has introduced discounted pricing for its most common shipping services. The IMpb is a barcode format that includes information about your specific shipment, enabling the USPS to track packages from pick-up to delivery, including up to 11 interim scans. The USPS uses this data to expedite package delivery and reduce costs.

“The IMpb service helps you to qualify for CBP,” Ryan adds, “which could mean significant savings on postage. It also provides free insurance ($50 on Priority Mail or $100 on Priority Mail Express), all without going to the Post Office™. And you can access reliable, end-to-end tracking information for you and your customers.” Intelligent Mail offers the best commercial prices and includes features such as piece-level tracking at no additional charge for most products.

Simplify life with online services

Online shipping and sending software isn’t just for the big guys anymore. And it can make a significant difference in reducing both cost and complexity, as well as enhancing your professional image. The online software not only helps produce USPS-compliant shipping labels, it also provides benefits in the following areas:

Real-time tracking: “When you add a tracking label from qualifying software, each package can be tracked from sending to delivery,” Ryan notes. “USPS now tracks interim delivery and provides estimated delivery schedules. Also, online software can give you the complete tracking history and cost information in a single place.”

More professional image: Online software enables you to print a full address label that includes your recipient address, sender address (customized to your preference) and a tracking barcode. “This all conveys the message to the recipient that you are a professional,” says Ryan. “It makes it clear that you ship efficiently, consciously track your packages and care about the recipient. All of which can create good ratings.”

Address validation: Hand-written shipping labels are a thing of the past. Typed is better, but it doesn’t go far enough. You get the greatest savings and delivery efficiency when your address is validated by the carrier. With online software, your address lists can be stored, and new addresses validated instantly before shipping. Ryan notes that “Savings can be significant. Delayed deliveries are costly, and carriers may charge as much as $13.00 per package for address corrections.”

Return labels produced: With online software, you can produce a return label that can be emailed to your recipient to expedite a return. “And this,” emphasizes Ryan, “again helps you to get good ratings and retain your customers.”

Learn more about Pitney Bowes packaging options and online sending software designed for small-volume senders.

Related Technology

Postage Meters

Save time and money on mailing and shipping with accurate, digitally connected postage meters from Pitney Bowes. Just follow the touchscreen prompts.