How to Reduce Shipping Costs for Your Small Business

Woman looking down at large cardboard box while placing a shipping label on it.

As a small business owner, finding ways to cut back on operating costs wherever possible is essential, and one way this is possible is with shipping. If you ship products to customers, it may seem like there’s no way around the costs associated with it. And while there are some static costs involved, there are several ways you can ensure that you are not paying more than what is required.

Below we have outlined some key tips to reduce the overall cost of shipping. For other saving opportunities and helpful services for your small business, be sure to check out our Small Business Solutions and visit a location near you.

1. Choose right sized shipping container

Finding a shipping container that appropriately fits the item(s) inside is crucial. If it is too large, it not only increases the risk for damage, since the contents inside may shift during transit, but the extra space can add up in both dimensional weight and additional cost. As a result, you will pay more for space not being taken up by your item(s).

The dimensions of your shipping container are also considered when determining shipping costs. Using the smallest container possible that still fits your item(s), and any protective shipping material, is key. Shipping containers can include a corrugated box, a shipment bag, or a padded mailer, to name a few, and finding the balance between fitting your item(s) within one with the least amount of excess room should be considered.

Finding the right shipping container can be as simple as measuring your items and purchasing the appropriate boxes or mailer. If you sell t-shirts, for example, using a large corrugated box may not be a great choice since it doesn’t need all of that room and protection. Meanwhile, a poly bag that fits the dimensions of the t-shirt can help minimize shipping costs.

While considering the size of the shipping container, it is also important that you are not skimping on the proper cushioning materials needed to protect your items. To avoid having your item(s) break during transit, which could lead to you needing to ship out a replacement and cause you to spend even more money, purchasing packaging from the shipping carrier can be a great way to avoid any complications. You can rest assured that the material available for purchase from the carrier has the right durability for shipping, which is one less thing to worry about.

2. Reduce overall weight with lightweight packaging material

Not only is the dimension of a shipping container measured, but so is the weight. When you find a shipping container that appropriately fits the item(s) you are shipping, there is less need to use an exuberant amount of packaging material to fill up the space. In turn, this means the packaging material won’t add more weight than required, which can help you reduce your overall shipping costs.

Nonetheless, you still need to use packaging material in many cases to avoid damaging your item(s) during transit. There are several pros and cons to packaging material and choosing the right one that will protect the items without adding unnecessary weight is key. For instance, a lightweight option can be material made out of foam. However, if the items you ship do require extra packaging material, splitting them into multiple packages rather than adding them all to one container may help to keep costs low. This is where comparing costs (shipping in one container vs. multiple) can come in handy.

To prepare ahead of time, you can use a shipping cost calculator. It can give you a better idea of how much it will cost to ship your item(s). Weight and dimensions  will be taken into consideration, so be sure you have accurate measurements for both.

3. Limit the shipping distance

The less distance a package needs to go, the less expensive it will be for you to ship it. For some small business owners, making the decision not to ship to farther geographic areas is necessary, especially if shipping costs more than the profit. If you do choose to limit the places you will ship to, be sure to make it clear on your website (if applicable) where you ship to avoid any confusion. You could also make it an option for customers to order online and have them visit in-store to pick their item(s) up. This avoids shipping altogether.

On the flip side, if you have inventory stored in fulfillment centres or warehouses around the country, organizing what needs to be where can help you avoid paying more to ship from a location that is farther from the customer.

4. Ship Items Early

It is almost always the case that fast delivery = more expensive delivery. While most customers want their item(s) as soon as possible, longer delivery times can assist with reducing the cost on your end. During peak seasons, such as the holidays, give yourself enough time to ship items out early, as it can help you avoid express methods that can result in higher shipping costs.

Be sure to look into the various shipping methods your carrier provides and shipment deadlines. Shipping by ground is more cost-effective than shipping by air. A carrier will typically provide a date of when you need to ship items by to have them delivered on time, which allows you to choose the least expensive method in your desired timeframe. You can also communicate this with your customers, which can help ensure they place their orders well before the deadline.

There is also always the option to add shipping costs to the customer’s order if they want faster delivery. This allows them to make that choice – they will be the one spending more money to get the item quicker.

Shipping with The UPS Store

If you are a small business owner looking to ship products to customers, be sure to check out our packaging and shipping services or contact The UPS Store at a location near you. From express to standard and everything in between, we provide shipping options to suit your business’s needs. Be sure to download our free Get More app to get 10% off shipping services.

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