Shipping Service for Small Business
These days, eCommerce is a crucial aspect of small business success. Shipping products is an important part of the customer experience, and it allows you to increase your reach in market. Large retailers like Amazon have set customer expectations high when it comes to fast, affordable deliveries, so small businesses can’t afford to get the mix of cost and time wrong.
Some small businesses should work with third-party shipping vendors, especially if they have high volume orders, international deliveries, and more complex inventory management and order fulfilment logistics. Others will be best suited to work directly with shipping carriers like USPS, FedEx, UPS, and DHL.
- Order volume. A large order volume for your products means you can negotiate for inexpensive small business shipping rates from third-party couriers, which will also help scale order fulfillment. If you have low or inconsistent order volume, it’s easier and more cost effective to DIY most of the process, from printing labels at home to dropping packages off at the carrier.
- Packaging. The right packaging not only protects your goods, but it can also advertise your brand, save on shipping costs, and help the planet. The safest packaging will depend on the weight, size, and fragility of your products—small, light items can be shipped in envelopes while large or heavy products require boxes. The outer packaging as well as the inside paper or smaller container are chances to incorporate your logo, colors, and imagery for top-notch branding. Other materials for cushioning like foam, bubble wrap, crinkle paper, and others should be chosen for effectiveness, best value, and least effect on the environment. Consider green options like fully compostable or recycled packaging.
- Dimensions and weight. You will need to know the dimensional weight (DIM) of what you ship to accurately predict shipping costs to you. This considers the height and width of a package, not just its weight. Larger packages cost more to ship than smaller, and heavier costs more than lighter, so your aim should always be to have the smallest, yet still secure, DIM per package. Don’t put small items in large boxes—even if it weighs the same in a smaller box, it will cost you more because of its DIM.
- Tracking. Customers expect the transparency of being able to track their packages. Luckily, every carrier offers some level of tracking for businesses and their customers, you’ll just need to make sure you outline and share this with customers.
- Insurance. Your shipping policy will need to outline the insurance options to cover lost or damaged goods. This may simply be giving customers the option of purchasing insurance through the couriers or third-party vendors at checkout.
If you’re deciding between major carriers USPS, FedEx, or UPS, they offer flat-rate boxes that are good value for smaller, heavier items. If you have lighter items, then it’s better to order small boxes or envelopes from a company like Uline and then choose the most cost-competitive carrier from there. Always do thorough research on each carrier’s track record to avoid a poor shipping and customer experience. Beware of shipping surcharges that might not be immediately apparent. They can apply to specific destinations, building types (commercial or residential), and delivery dates and times.
Another option is to let your customers choose the courier and method (and associated price) at checkout.
Whichever carrier you choose, keep in mind that offering shipping should bring you more business. If you find that conducting eCommerce with its online ordering and shipping logistics is costing you too much in time, effort, and cost, then it’s time to step back and re-evaluate if your business is ready for this step.