A Guide to Small Business Shipping
Small businesses face a lot of challenges during product shipment. The process of shipping is accompanied by various risks such as damages, delayed delivery, and high shipping rates. The desire of every shopper is to ship at effectively affordable prices while developing a solid and good relationship with the customer at the same time.
It would seem that the presence of several shipping companies would make it easier for small businesses to ship their products. However, this has brought a great challenge of choosing which carrier to hire. This article seeks to highlight some of the carriers in the United States that small businesses frequently use.
Carriers for Small Businesses
Are you a small business struggling to choose the best shipping methods? You could choose to use the major carriers in the United States; each of these carriers has different shipping solutions for your shipping business. In this section, we’ll discuss some of the services offered by these carriers.
United States Postal Services (USPS)
United States Postal Services is a shipping carrier that offers small businesses a free Priority Mail Starter Kit. The Priority Mail Starter Kit enables you to create a PO BOX. Primarily, the United States Postal Services would allow you to purchase print shipping and postage labels online. However, if you are not in a position to make frequent travels to the post office, this program provides you with a home delivery option.
Similarly, if you are a low-volume shipper, various programs are open for you to choose from what will make it easier for you to fulfill orders in-house. Such programs include Click-N-Ship.
The USPS also have another shipping perk known as last-mile delivery. Last-mile delivery enables you to transport a package to your desired final destination at a lower price and quickly. Finally, the United States Postal Services offers a certificate of mailing to most of their shipping clients.
UPS consists of a Small Business Program, which provides various resources to the owners of small businesses. UPS will allow you to participate in virtual brainstorming meetings with their business solutions staff. It also enables you to schedule a pick-up and manage customer returns. Additionally, UPS stands to help you fine-tune and map your business supply chain, improve your productivity, and identify new opportunities for significant agility and growth.
Similarly, suppose you choose to use UPS, it will provide you with a comprehensive description of the other tools and services necessary for accelerating the progress of your business.
There are some small businesses that take part in overseas shipments. Is your business one of these? Or maybe you plan to shift to shipping overseas. Should that be the case, then DHL would be your best choice. DHL offers effective international express deliveries and worldwide freight services. Their services are through the sea, air, road, and rail. Moreover, DHL has options that allow small businesses to ship various items; therefore, this carrier will help you make the right choice on the most appropriate service for you. They will also guarantee and take care of all your customs.
Additionally, DHL offers complete visibility on the condition of your shipment at every stage of the shipping process.
Are you a small business that ships perishable products? Or maybe you are planning to shift to shipping perishable goods; FedEx would be the ideal program for you. It provides temperature-controlled shipping. This would facilitate your perishable products' efficient and safe transportation to their final destination.
FedEx offers several benefits to small businesses, such as the Packaging Help Hub and Rewards program. It also provides you with a resource that will enable you to calculate the package's dimensional weight.
Should You Use Single-Carrier Shipping or Multi-Carrier Shipping?
The abovementioned carriers are the primary carriers for small businesses in the United States. Since all of them are effective and efficient in one way or another, most people may find it challenging to choose which carrier to use. In many scenarios, busy small businesses have settled on a single carrier shipping and negotiated their way to reasonable rates. This has always seemed like the most effective and quick decision since one does not have to research rates and quotes online.
This kind of decision may save you a lot of time; however, sometimes, you may just want to settle on a multi-carrier Shipping option. Why would one choose multi-carrier shipping? What are some of the advantages of multi-carrier shipping?
Below are some of the benefits of using multi-carrier shipping:
Choose the Right Carrier for the Right Service
Remember, all carriers are not equal. While choosing single-carrier shipping saves you a lot of time since you know who offers what services, some carriers are not as effective as others.
If you decide to use multi-carrier shipping, you stand to gain a more significant advantage since you will have a particular carrier for a specific shipment. For instance, with multi-carrier shipping, you can have international, domestic, low-volume, and high-volume shipments. Even though this may seem time-consuming, the results are often worth it.
Allows You to Develop More Negotiating Power
It is a basic understanding that the cost of shipping is a significant factor that affects the ability to ship goods from one place to another. Now, as a small business owner who opts for better shipping methods, choosing multi-carrier shipping enables you to gain greater negotiating power than a person who chooses single-carrier shipping. Most shippers do not consider the types of services offered by other carriers, especially if the current carrier they negotiate with satisfies their expectations. This has a danger of exposing you to the mercy of your current carrier, thus making you a little complacent.
Consequently, you may not be able to receive the most competitive services or rates from your carrier as offered by other shipping companies. This may leave you in a state where a new shipper can easily come in and get a better flat rate than you. Similarly, suppose you decide to shift to a new carrier, you will have to conduct research on rates, negotiate for a new agreement and sign new agreement documents. Eventually, all these processes will consume much of your time than using multi-carrier shipping.
If you choose to use multi-carrier shipping, each carrier will strive to earn your business during every shipment; this enables you to develop more negotiating power. Similarly, all the carriers are highly likely to keep you informed about the routes, types of services, new rates, and service levels. Thus, you stand to enjoy the best services in the market.
Enables You to Reduce Risks
We believe you are familiar with the saying about putting all your eggs in one basket. It is similar to entrusting a single carrier with all your goods. You stand a lower chance of saving your items if something goes wrong. Shipping involves various risks; for instance, your carrier may decide to change routes or vary the service levels, thus forcing you to look for another carrier. Similarly, your carrier may encounter accidents subjecting you to severe losses for your shipments. Such factors, among others, are likely to bring you to your knees, forcing you to look for an alternative. However, if you choose to use a multi-carrier strategy, such risks are minimized since you will always have readily available alternatives.
Sheltering Customer Requests
According to research, 86% of abandoned carts are attributed to shipping. Sometimes shippers may decide to abandon their carts when their preferred carriers are not available. People prefer various carriers for various reasons, such as a carrier offering pick-up or drop-off services. Sometimes, a B2B customer may ask that you transport their packages to them on their own account. Suppose you have an exclusive agreement with a single carrier; you may not be able to shelter such customer requests. However, suppose you decide to have another carrier do the job. In that case, you will be breaking your exclusive agreement with your previous carrier, and such a breach may lead to dire consequences such as losing your shipper status or high shipping rates in the future.
In contrast, if you decide to use the multi-carrier strategy, you can easily accommodate all your customer requests without such risks as those mentioned above.
Access to Greater Flexibility With Returns
Research indicates that customers reject 30% of all the commodities ordered online in comparison to less than 8% of the goods bought at brick-and-mortar shops. Such factors make return management very vital for small businesses. Even though you can easily compare carriers depending on their ability to ship outbound packages, some carriers are better than others in reverse logistics. In most scenarios, the carriers who do well in reverse logistics are highly likely to offer higher shipping rates.
A small business that decides to use the multi-carrier strategy is open to competitive-priced carriers who hardly have to deal with reverse logistics for commodities that are returned or completely non-returnable. Similarly, such small businesses are able to choose carriers who excel in reverse logistics but offer high shipping rates for products that can be returned. However, this requires extensive historical analysis.
Reducing Shipping Costs
As a small business, it is essential to note that choosing shipping options is different from reducing shipping costs. However, finding ways to reduce shipping costs is critical for selecting the best shipping methods. It is the dream of every shipper to make fast deliveries at affordable prices. So what are some of the ways to reduce the shipping costs after you choose your carrier? Below are some of the shipping considerations that would help you cut the shipping cost.
Pick-ups and Drop-offs
While other carriers have the option of taking your package to the post office or to their premises, most offer their clients the option of scheduling a pick-up at their own premises. For instance, the United States Post Services provides this kind of service for free. On the other hand, FedEx and UPS charge a small fee for the same service. In such a situation, it depends on you to decide whether you would like to save such expenses and choose the best provider for you.
The Volume of the Order
Not only does the volume of your order determine the method of shipment to use, but it also determines the final cost of shipment that you will incur. If you are a small business that focuses on shipping low-volume products, then it would be best to consider the Do-It-Yourself approach. This would mean that you print your own labels, buy the packages and make trips to the post office. However, if your order is substantial, then using an eCommerce fulfillment would be the ideal option for you.
Choosing Affordable Packing Materials
The sum of money you spend in purchasing bubble wrap, boxes, styrofoam peanuts, air-fill cushions, etc., add up to the total cost of shipping. Therefore, you need to be more cautious with your expenses at this stage. Reducing the amount of money spent on these would help to reuse boxes. However, before you decide to reuse a box, it is essential to know that reused boxes lose close to 60% of their strength; the slightest damage may lead you to lose valued products easily. Further, it is best to buy goods in bulk if branding is not your concern. Or, if you so desire, you could hire a fulfillment warehouse that specializes in such services at affordable prices.
If you want to spend as low as possible on shipping, it is best to hone your negotiation skills. Primarily, if you ship more, you stand to save more. Similarly, if you are moving a large number of goods, say on a monthly basis, your carrier will be more willing to negotiate reasonable shipping rates to keep you to themselves. Choosing an exclusive agreement may also encourage your carrier to arrange better shipping prices. However, such an agreement prohibits you from hiring another carrier before the expiration of the agreed time. As discussed earlier, it could also bar you from using the multi-carrier strategy, which is open to several advantages.
It is best that before you hire a carrier, you contact them to enquire about the quantities of goods that would earn you lower shipping rates and whether an exclusive agreement is mandatory.
Outsourcing Versus In-House Fulfillment
If you are a small business that is in the growing stage, it will help if you choose a third-party logistics or 3PL. Such centers help store your inventories, ensure proper packing of your orders, and prepare the carriers' pick-up orders. Most 3PLs, such as The Fulfillment Lab, offer other services such as returns management. Moreover, they provide shipping arrangements discounts for carriers, which facilitates your savings.
Be Aware of the Shipping Zones
Your package passes through several shipping zones as it is transported from one place to another. Now, when your package passes through a significant number of shipping zones, you are highly likely to pay a lot of money. Therefore, the knowledge of all the shipping zones is vital for your negotiations with the carrier about the shipping rates. It would help to check the shipping zones for most service providers that are highly likely to affect the fulfillment before you hire a particular carrier.
Apart from knowing all the shipping zones, you must be well informed of every stage of your product's journey. There are several carriers that offer free online package tracking. Some carriers also provide their shippers with automatic updates through text messages or email.
It is also best that you update your customer about the package tracking to enable them to follow through with the product’s transportation. This would help ease their tension, especially for long deliveries.
As a small business, you must insure your shipments. However, it may be costly to insure with your carrier; therefore, it is best that you use third-party insurance. While most carriers charge about $1 per $100 of insurance, third-party insurance companies charge almost half that price.
The shipment of perishable products has a significant effect on the final shipment costs. While such shipment had been initially restricted to regional and local customers, currently, perishable goods can be shipped worldwide through expedited delivery. In the United States, the shipped perishables must be able to last for a minimum of 24 hours transit time greater than the delivery commitment.
It would help to use a refrigerant that would keep your perishables within the necessary temperature. Or, you may simply use FedEx’s shipping program that uses gel coolants to refrigerate products at a temperature of between 0 degrees Celsius and 16 degrees Celsius and dry ice for the frozen goods.
You may want to prevent any kind of loss or damage during shipment as these may make you spend a lot of money on shipment. The shipment of fragile commodities is associated with various types of risks and thus requires special attention. If you are shipping an item that is fragile, like glass, it will help to use sturdy boxes able to support the weight of the items. Similarly, to prevent the items from shaking or moving, which can cause breakage, it is best that you use a cushioning material. Finally, it is crucial to keep in mind that you should always pack fragile items separately and the boxes sealed tightly.
Package Dimensions and Weight
The DIM or dimensional weight considers the size of your total shipment in calculating the shipment costs. A large item would probably require a large box, thus a greater DIM if you have a large object. A bigger DIM translates to high shipping costs. Now, if you add the space covered by the bubble wrap, styrofoam peanuts, and the air-fill cushions, you will have to part with lots of money from your wallet. Therefore, this is a primary consideration when deciding on the best shipping method for you as a small business.
Another factor that affects shipping costs is the weight of the items. The heavier the items, the higher the shipping costs unless the carrier uses the option of flat-rate shipping. What about a small business that carries out self-shipping? Suppose you are such a business, it would help to buy a postage scale that facilitates straightforward and more accurate prediction of the shipping costs.
Do Your Research Before Shipping
The secret behind effective shipping is comprehensive research and adequate due diligence. Learn more about each carrier and research their discounts for their services before you hire one. Then, after choosing your carrier, you can now research the best ways to cut the shipping costs. However, do not settle for a cheap carrier who would take ages to deliver your products to the customer. Most customers are impatient and become restless when delivery takes too long.
Proper packaging is a vital consideration for a shipper as it dramatically affects the shipping costs. Some shippers prefer trendy packaging options that catch the eye. Such packaging options enable them to display their logos and personalize all their orders. This is a great way to build a business brand. On the other hand, others opt for the most economical packaging options that are less attractive but cost-effective.
Moreover, while using a single carrier saves you a lot of time, it helps to use a multi-carrier under some circumstances, even though that approach takes a lot of time. We have discussed most of the perks of multi-carriers in this article. For instance, using a hybrid carrier system is effective when using either UPS or FedEx. UPS has SurePost services, while FedEx has SmartPost. These two services will ensure that your packages are deposited at the USPS distribution center that is nearest to your customer. After that, USPS will take care of the final delivery.
Finally, several calculators online would help you compare the shipping costs between various carriers. Therefore, with the proper research, rest assured of an effective and cost-effective shipment method. If you prefer to skip the research process, you can contact a professional to help you find the best shipping method for you whenever you need to deliver items by post. Alternatively, you can reach out to an experienced mail forwarding company to undertake all the hassle for you.