In the world of small business, finding ways to keep costs down can be vital to your success. While there are many ways you can maximize your savings, one area that should require particular attention is shipping.
Exploring your small business shipping options can make a huge difference to your bottom line. But since there are so many choices, the process can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t understand the different options. If you’re just starting your business, you might not even know where to begin.
Lucky for you, we created this guide to help you understand the vast landscape of shipping options that are available to small businesses. This can both help you save a lot of money, and make your shipping process more efficient, leading to happier customers.
Small business shipping 101
You might think right away that shipping is just shipping, no matter what your business is, but this would be an incorrect assumption. Large corporations will ship product on a massive scale, while others may ship less. If you aren’t shipping thousands or even hundreds of packages per day, chances are that you fall under the category of a “small business shipper.”
Whether you sell online as an e-commerce retailer, out of your home, or through a more traditional storefront, there are most likely to be times when you will need to ship packages to locations out of your range. In these instances, using some tact can save you a lot of time and money.
But before you can even dig into your shipping options, it can be helpful to you and your shipping carrier to understand what it is you need to ship.
Things to consider with small business shipping
In order to help you minimize your small business shipping costs, you should take several details about your shipment into consideration.
First off is your delivery time. When do you need your shipment to reach its destination? This will have a large influence over the end price of the shipping. For example, a shipment that needs overnight delivery will be more expensive than a shipment that has no rush delivery.
The pick up and delivery locations will also be heavily influential on your final price. Distance is a major factor in determining shipping costs, as the miles don’t come for free. Also, picking up or dropping off at residential locations versus commercial can come at an additional cost.
You should also factor in the weight of your product, and how it is packaged, including the packing material. Add in the dimensions of your shipment, and you can give your carrier a better idea of how much space will be needed to transport your freight.
There are some other factors that will be associated with your shipping cost as well, including insurance, tracking your package and delivery confirmation, handling fees, and other special fees that may come with high-risk packages. With that all in mind, you can begin to look into your options.
Small business shipping options
Let’s break down several of the different shipping options you should evaluate to help maximize your small business’s savings and shipping efficiency.
Pick-up & Delivery
You may not need to run your product over to your post office or carrier storefront anymore. Cut out this time-consuming process by working with a carrier that will pick-up and deliver your packages at no additional charge, saving you both time and money. The only downfall here is that you may be at the mercy of your carrier’s pick-up schedule, but this is something you should be able to manage.
Save time & money by printing your postage in-house
Another way for you to save some time and money is to print your postage on your own computer. Some services may offer special software that you can use to integrate into your business software, making the process both cheaper and quicker. Your carrier should provide instructions how on their website.
Another thing for your small business to consider is the fact that shipping highly-sensitive, fragile, or perishable items will come with additional handling charges to ensure that your package safely reaches its destination. These handling charges could be substantial depending on the individual situation, so be sure to keep this in mind so you don’t get a surprising charge.
Locate your drop-off locations for overnight deliveries
Sometimes, you may not be able to have a package, or packages, picked-up in time to meet your deadlines. If you have a customer who needs overnight delivery, you may need to get it to your carrier’s drop-off location to make sure the package reaches its destination on time. This can be huge for a small business because you need to remain trustworthy to keep your customers happy. Making a promise like overnight shipping should not be taken lightly and you will need to get your package there on time.
Provide your customers with options
When it comes to options you can provide for your customers, the more, the better. Customers will often choose free over fast, but with large companies like Amazon now combining the two, it can make things difficult for smaller businesses to keep up. So what can you do?
We mentioned this above, but your customers may actually enjoy being able to choose what carrier ships their package, in addition to when it will arrive. You can allow them to pick their shipping speed and service in your checkout process, giving your customers full control over their preferred shipping method. Whichever method they choose, your customers will also want to be able to track the progress of their purchase along the way to final delivery.
For your most expensive products, it may be nice to provide your customers with free or fast shipping to further entice them to buy. The ultimate goal is to provide consistent, cost-effective delivery to all of your customers, and having more options makes this goal easier to meet.
LTL versus FTL shipping
You will even have options when it comes to how to ship your products. By that, we mean will it travel by air, land, rail, or sea? Most often, small businesses will choose to deliver their products by truck, as it is typically the most economical and flexible option, but depending on your needs, you may need to choose between LTL and FTL shipping.
These acronyms stand for less-than truckload and full truckload shipping, respectively. As their names suggest, LTL refers to shipments that take up less than a full truckload, while full truckload shipments will fill the entire truck. It can get more technical than that, but in a nutshell, those are the differences.
Where it can make a difference for you is in the savings. Less-than truckload shipping can be a great option for small businesses because with LTL shipping, you only pay for the space in the truck you use, rather than the entire truck. Shipments from other companies will take up the remaining space in the truck, and you will all combine to share the cost of the truck.
Plus, with the Flock Freight® Hubless LTL Shipping model, your goods will never be taken out of the truck until they reach their final destination. This increases efficiency and decreases the chance that your goods will be damaged or lost.
This should help give you a better idea of the many small business shipping options available to you. There are many strategies you can use to optimize your savings, which may involve any combination of the tactics listed above. Working with a third-party logistics partner can help to get the most possible savings, especially if you don’t have any idea what you are doing, but keep in mind that you will have to pay them, too.