Savvy entrepreneurs recognize that the place to trim costs isn’t in their products — it’s in shipping. Between the costs of packaging, shipping and insuring packages, sending your goods on their way isn’t a simple or cheap affair. The process does, however, leave lots of ways to cut spending. Here are six of our favorites:
Use a postage meter
The best way to save money on shipping is knowing exactly how much you’re paying for it in the first place. A postage meter will tell you what it costs to ship your package and will take the guesswork out of adding postage. You’ll never face the dilemma of choosing between adding extra postage or risk having a package returned to you, and all for just a lease of about $16 per month.
Be clear about policies
Always offer a standard and an expedited shipping plan, and let customers know exactly what they can expect from each. Some customers may need an item incredibly quickly, and you’ll want to be able to offer them that service without incurring the additional expenses yourself. However, you also need to be realistic about how long your standard shipping will take. Offer a range of cautious dates, and be prepared to offer discounts or refunds if shipping takes longer. The safer you estimate, the less refunding you’ll need to do.
Package things yourself
If you aren’t a high-volume shipper, package things in-house. You can assign an intern or an entry-level employee to take on the task once a day. It shouldn’t require its own position, and if it’s taking up more than a quarter of someone’s time, you’re probably spending too much on the process. However, if you can just have someone pack up a few things a day, it’s much cheaper to do it in-house.
On the other hand, if you are dedicating most of an employee’s day to packaging up goods, it’s time to outsource. Once you reach a certain volume, outsourcing saves money. Warehouses get packaging materials at much cheaper prices than you’re able to and they’re much more efficient than an intern with masking tape and bubble wrap.
Buy in bulk
If you are processing things yourself, don’t head to your local office supply store. Instead, check online for bulk shipping materials like heat wrap and boxes. It will be much cheaper and more convenient. Supplies can come to you instead of you dragging them back when you forget that you’re almost out of packing peanuts.
You don’t have to always ship using the U.S. Postal Service. You may actually be able to find better rates by working with the small business branches of UPS, FedEx or DHL. Shop around for rates, and always try to negotiate. You’re going to be providing whomever you choose a lot of business, and they’re willing to work for it a bit. Don’t be unreasonable, but also don’t be afraid to ask for a better deal.
Getting the best deals on shipping means you can upgrade your product or pass your savings along to your customers. Remember to always price things out before you commit to a shipping method or partner, and always ask for a better deal. Your customers (and your bank account) will thank you for it.