Small and medium ecommerce companies that can’t manage their shipping costs won’t be around unless they adopt the right technology and strategy. Amazon has set expectations for many shoppers, with most now expecting free or low-cost shipping in a seamless transaction.
But how can small companies compete in the landscape of unpredictable shipping rates and surcharges?
Indeed, every year, between late December and early February, UPS, FedEx and USPS increase their parcel rates, along with common surcharges (e.g. residential delivery, extended area delivery and other fees) and fuel fees.
With the continuous changes to charges, how do you control your bottom line?
Most SMB shippers are aware of basic strategies to keep total cost of shipping low. For example, it is cost-effective to use packaging that closely fits the items, or using padded envelopes, instead of boxes, when possible.
But there are other, less known tips, businesses can use to help keep costs low.
Here are six advanced tips to consider for keeping shipping costs under control:
1. Use a USB digital postal shipping scale.
The best scale for ecommerce shipping is a USB digital shipping scale. They are accurate and designed for package and parcel shipping. An electronic scale directly connects to industry shipping software to automatically feed the weight into the shipment. This cuts the clicks and results in faster, easier, more accurate weight measurements.
2. Use a cloud-based shipping solution
An online app gives you a central place to compare shipping rates, print shipping labels, send customer confirmations and track shipments. Cloud-based shipping services work like you work: from anywhere, any time. Another benefit of a paid third-party application is that more information is handled automatically.
3. Purchase and print postage online
Printing postage through a shipping app typically gets you better rates. Don’t settle for a shipping service that only gives the best rates to bigger customers: Even small shippers (10 labels a week or more) can get the best rates. A serious shipping app also shows all costs and shipping services on a single screen, so you know with full confidence which options are the fastest, cheapest, or both.
4. Consider setting up business accounts with your carriers
Once you have decided on the carriers to use, consider setting up business accounts with those carriers. The carrier can’t love you if you don’t do business with them directly! Business accounts usually offer discounts, expense tracking and online tools to manage shipments and payment. Business accounts make sense if you typically ship ten or more shipments per week with a given carrier.
5. Compare costs for every shipment
Ecommerce companies can save money by comparing rates and delivery times for every shipment. Do this one order at a time, or in bulk across multiple orders. Use a shipping app that compares the costs across all the services you use, in one screen.
Related: 10 Ways to Trim Shipping Costs
6. Streamline your shipping operations with automation rules
If you ship dozens of packages a week, using a best-in-class shipping service lets you pre-program shipment options in automation rules. This saves you time and ensures the smartest (or cheapest!) shipment every time. An example: "Rate shop these three carriers and ship using the cheapest service that gets the package there within 3 days." Another example: "If SKU starts with WIDGET, set the weight to 4 pounds and box size to 12 x 8 x 10 and print a Priority Mail label."
Consumer expectations are shaped by what the large marketplaces do. You can work to level the playing field by controlling your shipping costs.