In modern-day commerce, your closest rivals could be located anywhere in the world, and they could be anything from a small home-based business all the way up to a high-volume operation. As a small business, are you really ever going to get the same shipping rates, savings, and discounts as your larger, higher-volume competition?
Maybe not. However…
There are many different types of shipping software, and lots of new ways you can optimize your small business shipping arrangements. In this post, we’re offering you a few key tips on the topic of small business shipping. With this, we hope to inspire some new practices to help you on the path to lower shipping rates, better customer experience, and ultimately, higher profits for your business.
1. Avoid Using a Single Carrier
One of the most limiting things you can potentially do for your business is a failure to accumulate many shipping options. Be prepared, as there’s a little leg work to do, and you need to have a solid understanding of your key parcel data. Not just with regards to your volume, but also your product weights, sizes, packaging, and any service-level agreement (SLA) requirements.
The more data you have, the more clearly you will be able to articulate your needs to any potential shipping partners. You should try to obtain quotes, SLAs, and contracts for multiple carriers, and this should include regional, national, and specialty shipping providers.
Don’t completely rely on any single carrier like UPS or FedEx. There are scenarios where each carrier makes the most sense, and it’s important for you to understand how they can work together.
Yes, it will take time, but, in the long run, you will see a real benefit to these efforts.
While this may not be the most appealing of tasks, it could be exceptionally fruitful in terms of the ROI. If you don’t already have a process in place to check your shipping invoices, then it’s time to get one! When you ship with guaranteed delivery options like overnight or 2-day, you’re entitled to a refund when they’re late. But the carriers aren’t going to do this for you.
A regular audit, such as monthly or quarterly at most, might not just reduce your shipping costs, but it can also give you an indication of the service levels from a specific carrier too. Either way, it’s a win-win.
Earlier in this post, we mentioned the importance of using shipping technology for your small business. Manual auditing could be time-consuming, but there are also many automated options that can save you time and money! LateShipment.com is just one of many options to consider.
3. Harness Small Business Shipping Technology
It’s safe to say we all use technology in business. However, not everybody will be maximizing their use of technology in small business shipping. The best type of shipping software will help you manage your orders, check against multiple carriers for the cheapest shipping option, print labels, track packages, arrange pickups, and more!
Nowadays, all the top small business shipping software companies will offer seamless integrations with most of the popular ecommerce platforms, such as BigCommerce, Shopify, Amazon, Woo-Commerce, and many others.
With intelligent automation working for your business, you will be able to realize a more streamlined, cost-effective, and less time-consuming approach to your small business shipping.
At a time when consumers and companies alike are looking at ways to reduce their costs, reviewing your packaging is another essential task, and it’s something that’s firmly within your control.
According to a recent ecommerce survey, over 70% of consumers aged between 18-30, and over 60% of all shoppers state they are more likely to buy products from brands who use sustainable materials. Furthermore, another survey of a similar nature demonstrates that consumers tend to have a higher opinion of companies that use paper-packaging, instead of plastic or other unsustainable materials. The best thing is that eco-friendly packaging doesn’t always equal more expensive packaging, so it’s worth looking into.
Did you know that many carriers now give away free packaging?
Earlier in this post, we mentioned the importance of getting a handle on your data in order to rate shop across multiple carriers. You can go further by understanding how close your existing packaging is to cheaper rates if you were to make things ½” smaller or ½ lbs lighter.
5. Free Shipping Alternatives
Regardless of the type or size of the products you sell, you might not always be able to afford to offer free shipping across your store. However, there are a few alternatives that you can still consider.
- Minimum Order Thresholds
One way of incentivizing customers who want free shipping is by setting a minimum order value. This tactic will often encourage people to order more and push up average order values while giving the customer a feeling of value in the process.
- Offer a loyalty program with free shipping
This is something that lots of major brands are doing, but it’s also highly applicable to smaller businesses too. For your loyal customers who order from you on a regular basis, give them the option to pay a small annual or monthly fee in exchange for free delivery.
- Consider a flat-rate cost of shipping
The applicability of this depends on the size and type of products you sell. However, a flat-rate shipping charge provides customers with complete transparency with their shipping costs, and it makes it easier for them to see the exact cost of their order. In many cases, this also acts as an incentive for customers to place larger orders as they try to take advantage of the fixed shipping cost.
- Include the shipping cost in your price
By including your shipping costs into your prices, this gives you a way to promote ‘free delivery’ as part of your offering. If you’ve put some of the earlier shipping tips for small businesses into place, and optimized your company’s shipping operation, then you can still offer value to your customers, without having to cover the cost of shipping out of your own margins.
Bonus Tip – Reviews
People trust online reviews. One of the ways smaller shippers can compete with their larger counterparts is by building up a quality online profile, with lots of positive reviews. So, if you haven’t already optimized your shipping to include an insert or incentive for leaving a review, then doing so is a great idea!
With poor or no planning, shipping can end up being complicated, costly, and it can heavily impact your reputation and the overall customer experience. For smaller businesses that don’t have the demand for volume shipping, getting the right partners, processing, and pricing in place is essential.
Online shipping is so much more than an operational process. It’s also an opportunity to build loyalty, improve your customer experience, and it can also be crucial to your profit margins. In some cases, the flexibility and strength of your online shopping options could also help you make a sale in the first place.
We hope you’ve been able to find at least a couple of shipping tips for your small business.