5 Tips for Saving Money on Shipping Costs
by Caron_Beesley, Community Moderator
- Created: August 16, 2011, 2:28 pm
- Updated: March 2, 2014, 11:14 pm
If you sell anything online or regularly ship goods and services to customers – how can you be sure you are getting the best shipping deal for you and your customers?
Unless you’ve explored the full range of options, the shipping can become an operational nightmare and have a direct impact on your bottom line. Costly errors include not checking shipments before they leave, or even knowing which shipping method to use. On the regulatory side, international shipping and custom laws can also present challenges to the uninformed business owner.
Fortunately there are many resources available to help the small business owner understand their options, conserve cash, and navigate international shipping regulations.
Below are five tips to help your business implement cost-effective shipping.
Remove the Guesswork
From sellers on eBay to more complex supply chain management, one of the biggest issues business owners face is guessing the size, weight and shipping costs of their goods. This is especially true when you are not actually doing the shipping yourself, but are relying on your manufacturer or distributor to get a last-minute order into the hands of the customer. The result is that businesses often over-pay the cost of shipping just to ensure it gets there on time.
The only real way to remove the guesswork is to research all possible shipping methods and costs appropriate to your business needs. Which leads to our next point.
Do your Research
All the major shipping organizations in the U.S, including UPS, FedEx, DHL and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) provide easy-to-use web tools to help business owners assess their shipping options based on business size, industry, and whether your transactions are domestic or international, or both. You can also consult a small business specialist from each of these organizations to help match the carrier’s services and fees to your most common (and unexpected) business requirements.
If you regularly ship in bulk, explore the options associated with freight transportation. If you can’t fill a truckload, consider LTL (Less-Than-Truckload). With LTL freight carriers will transport shipments ranging from 100 lbs to 20,000 lbs. If the costs are too high, enquire about consolidating your freight with shiploads from other businesses to cut costs.
Take Advantage of Shipping Tools
To help frequent shippers asses their shipment options, USPS and other carriers offer a range of online tools to help business owners manage the shipment process end-to-end. The USPS Shipping Assistant, for example, is a downloadable tool that lets you calculate shipping costs (domestic and international), print forms, standardize addresses and track shipments.
Another essential tool is the postage meter – never guess the weight of your package or overspend on postage ever again.
Avoid the Hidden Fees involved in Shipping Internationally
Custom charges, export compliance, proof of delivery are just a few of the considerations and complexities that come into play with international shipping. Custom duties and taxes alone can represent as much as 30 percent of the total shipping fees, so it’s important to understand the terms and hidden fees involved with any international shipping option that you have on the table. Likewise, who is responsible for these fees? For example, if your supplier is shipping overseas on your behalf are you responsible for custom duties, etc. or is the supplier? It’s an important distinction that can have an effect on your bottom line. So talk to your carrier about the terms of international shipping, the customs process, and how their service options can help you save costs.
Set Up and Communicate your Shipping Policies
A critical step to ensuring the ongoing cost efficiency of your shipping operations is to set up and communicate shipping policies internally. This way everyone in the organization is clear on which shipping method to use and when.
Likewise, be sure to let your customers know what your standard shipping policies are so that you are prepared to handle the unexpected. For example, if your standard service is four-day ground but the customer needs a shipment overnight, establish a policy beforehand that passes on the additional cost for expedited shipping to the customer.
Caron Beesley has over 15 years of experience working in marketing, with a particular focus on the government sector. Caron is also a small business owner and works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
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