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Convenient, Affordable Shipping for Your Small Business
If your small business ships products to customers, the costs can cut into your profits. It’s smart to compare pricing among shippers to find one who will provide options that are appropriate for the products you send out, are convenient for you and fit your customers preferences - all at affordable prices. Some variables to consider include:
Volume of packages shipped - The big three shippers, USPS, UPS and FedEx all have small business programs that can make shipping packages more convenient and inexpensive. Program features vary among them, so to identify which company is right for your needs, consult with one of their dedicated shipping experts. These consultants can also advise you if they can offer your business specialized savings, even if your shipping volume is less than their advertised minimum.
Weight and/or dimensions of packages - It is important to know how much your products weigh so their shipping cost can accurately be estimated for pricing comparisons among shippers. It may be worth your while to invest in a scale to weigh your items. While less convenient, you can take them to the post office to be weighed. If your items can fit into a flat-rate box, you may be able to realize some significant savings.
To/From destination - Your location and the destination to which the package is shipped makes a difference in cost. Shippers have different rates based upon delivery zones, so make certain you figure the destination of your items into all price calculations.
Delivery speed - The quicker the delivery, the more costly the delivery service. Customers like their items fast so find a rate that you will be comfortable charging (or absorbing) if you offer free shipping.
Package insurance/tracking/delivery confirmation - Higher levels of delivery offer insurance against loss or damage up to a certain monetary amount. If you can justify the greater cost, these levels also allow you to track packages and receive delivery confirmations.
International shipping - Rates, taxes and tariffs to other countries can significantly raise your shipping costs. Thoroughly research these before shipping so there are no expensive surprises.
Special handling for fragile or perishable items - If your products require an extra level of TLC, like additional padding or hot or cold packaging, find a shipper who can accommodate those needs. Make sure you understand the extra costs associated with these customized handling procedures.
Pickup service - Would you appreciate the convenience of having your packages picked up to avoid the need to bring them to a shipper yourself? Find out if your shipper offers this service. On the other hand, if you prefer the flexibility of taking items to the shipper on your schedule rather than theirs, this may not prove to be a valuable feature for you.
Drop-off location - Will you need the ability to personally drop-off a package for shipment? If so, consider how far the nearest drop-off location is from your place of business or warehouse.
Print your own postage - With many major shippers, you can maintain an online account from which you can print your postage yourself, should that be a feature that would make shipping more convenient for you.
Website compatibility - An external shipping solutions platform integrates directly with your website. It has access to your inventory information and can generate a postage label automatically when an order is received. This capacity adds a great deal of convenience to the shipping process. Before choosing a platform, however, it is crucial to learn about their technology’s compatibility with yours. What should be a seamless process to manage the transaction, pay postage and print labels can prove a nightmarish ordeal if they are not compatible with your website’s platform.
Once you have assessed your shipper options, here are a couple “pro tips” to set yourself up for successful, convenient, affordable shipping:
Remember packaging materials - You can’t ship without packaging - it is the final step to the sale. Packaging options vary wildly - from envelopes and boxes of countless sizes and configurations, to padding and cushioning materials and tape… It is another cost associated with shipping. These supplies are available at shipping locations, office supply stores and a plethora of online sites, from basic to deluxe. These days, customers pay particular attention to how items are packaged. Your packaging may serve as an opportunity to make an environmental statement by choosing eco-friendly packaging or biodegradable packing materials. Alternatively, customized packaging can help cement your business’ brand in your customers’ minds.
Offer multiple shippers - Customers love choice! Consider offering a choice of shippers to your customers. They may have a preference and will appreciate being able to choose between two shippers for the delivery of their items. While this practice may not optimize your pricing by having an exclusive shipping partner, it is another way to increase customer satisfaction. It may, ultimately, serve your bottom line by creating some leverage so you can stir up competition between shippers for your business.
Shipping is an area where you can effectively save time and money for your business while making a favorable impression on your customers.
How do you keep your business’ shipping convenient and affordable?
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