CALCURATES BLOG

A Guide to Shipping Solutions for Small e-Commerce Businesses

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If you are operating a small e-Commerce business, cheap and timely shipping of your products can be a challenge, especially if you are trying to save. So how do you bring your shipping costs and delivery time to the minimum while raising your customer satisfaction to the maximum? As a small e-Commerce business, you can implement several shipping solutions that will help optimize your shipping strategy.

Factors to consider when choosing a shipping service for your small business

Your shipping options will depend on a number of factors including order volume your company gets (how many orders your small business ships monthly), type of packaging, dimensions, weight, destination, and delivery speed.

What is your order volume?

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If you get less than 100 orders monthly, outsourcing fulfillment and delivery may not be the best route. If your order volume is low, the easiest and cheapest shipping solution is to handle all operations in-house – you can buy and print labels online and then take your packages to the post office. As a small e-Commerce business, you can connect to e-Commerce shipping software to generate and print shipping labels automatically. Shipping software allows you to effectively manage your processes while reducing shipping costs. If you don't want to use shipping software, you can simply go to a carrier's website (USPS, UPS, or FedEx) and manually input weight, dimensions, and delivery address to print labels. It may not be as convenient as shipping software, but you still save a lot of time on post offices. As you keep getting more orders, you might not be able to keep up with the growing demands of your small e-Commerce business. As you start allocating more and more time to fulfilment and needing more inventory storage, the best option for you is a 3PL service (a third-party logistics partner). A 3PL handles all shipping on behalf of small e-Commerce businesses – providing inventory storage, packaging your products, and getting them ready to be picked up by a shipping carrier. A 3PL saves you a lot of time and money – no need to pack boxes or wait in line at the post office. You can dedicate all your time to whatever brings you the most profit.

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What type of packaging will you use?

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When it comes to packaging solutions, you can kill three birds with one stone – ensure the safety of your products, advertise your brand, and save money. Keep in mind that shipping rates vary depending on the package size or shape. The rule of thumb is – the larger the package, the higher the cost of shipping. Naturally, if you need to ship T-shirts, you won't need the same packaging you would use for shipping glass.

What are your average package dimensions?

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The next factor to consider is the dimensional weight (DIM). Dimensional weight is how much space your item will occupy in transit relative to its actual weight. When considering how to package your products, keep dimensional weight in mind – the smaller the box, the less you pay. Secure it with a lot of bubble wrap to ensure that your shipments arrive safely.

What is your package weight?

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With flat-rate shipping, you won't need to worry about weight – just fit your item safely and snugly into the envelope or box. The famous USPS logo says, "If it fits, it ships!" For other options, the rule is – the heavier your envelope or box, the more you pay for shipping. Consider getting scales to help you accurately weigh your products. That way you will see how much you will pay ahead of time. Again, if your product is light and not fragile, an envelope might be the best option. If your product is heavy and bulky, consider a box. Keep in mind that the smaller the box, the more you will save. When planning your budget, don't forget to include the cost of packaging materials.

What is your shipping destination?

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Does your company provide domestic or international shipping? The cost of shipping will be different depending on how far your item is traveling. If you often ship long distances, consider hiring a 3PL to reduce shipping costs. 3PLs usually have multiple warehouse locations to have products closer to consumers. So, the number of shipping zones your package goes through is reduced.

Small business shipping solutions by carrier

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Which postal carrier is the most economical for you and offers the best shipping services for your small e-Commerce business? Whether it's USPS, UPS, or FedEx, each company offers unique advantages.

USPS benefits

One advantage of USPS is its nationwide presence. It is ubiquitous. With flat-rate shipping rates, USPS is the most cost-effective shipping solution for small e-Commerce businesses dealing with heavy and small products. On top of that, USPS is one of the most competitively priced carriers for packages under 20 lbs. Another clear advantage of USPS is their free pickup – just go to the USPS website and select Click-N-Ship where you can print your labels and schedule a free pickup.

USPS benefits:
  • Saves time and effort;
  • Offers free shipping boxes;
  • Offers free pickups;
  • You can fill in customs forms and print labels on their website;
  • Offers affordable shipping rates;
  • Allows to quickly reship to previous address by using shipping history.
USPS shipping insurance depends on the type of delivery service. With standard shipping, only the value of the package contents is covered. But you can buy up to $5,000 of additional insurance to minimize the threat of damage.

FedEx benefits

In general, FedEx is best for:
  • Businesses that need express and overnight delivery (for example, when shipping perishables);
  • Businesses that ship large items like furniture or appliances;
  • Companies that ship alcoholic beverages.
FedEx works best for larger businesses that ship internationally and can negotiate volume discounts. FedEx ships packages seven days a week, Sundays included. If you are shipping a large and heavy item under 150 lbs. to a residential address, you can save a lot of money using FedEx Home Delivery. If you need to reduce the time of delivery, FedEx First Overnight boasts the fastest delivery speed. Your shipments will arrive by 8 a.m. the next business day. FedEx is the top shipping solution for specialty items, like food products or temperature-controlled goods. As for shipping insurance, you get the so-called FedEx Office Packing Pledge – $100 per package liability for items shipped via FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, or FedEx Home Delivery.

Small e-Commerce businesses can earn and save money with FedEx Small Business Center.

UPS benefits

In general, UPS offers more competitive rates for heavier packages and international shipping than USPS or FedEx. With UPS, you can order pickup for a small fee. UPS offers more attractive commercial discounts compared to USPS. UPS has a unique range of services unavailable with USPS or FedEx. For example:
  • Warehousing
  • Fulfilment
  • Easy international shipping
  • Large or bulky shipments
  • Scheduled pickups
  • Online tracking
There are four convenient delivery speeds:
  • UPS Next Day Air, which arrives the following day;
  • UPS 2nd Day Air, which arrives on the second day;
  • UPS 3 Day Select, which arrives in three business days;
  • Ground shipping, which typically takes one to five business days.
As for shipping insurance, UPS provides free liability for lost or damaged domestic packages, international shipments, and UPS Worldwide Express Freight pallet shipping up to $100.

How can small businesses calculate shipping costs with Calcurates?

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Calcurates is a shipping software that allows you to take 100% control of your shipping rates at checkout! Calcurates will help you accurately calculate your shipping rates at checkout so you will never overspend on shipping, and your clients will never overpay. Calcurates is the ultimate multi-carrier shipping software for small e-Commerce businesses that:
  1. helps you set up, manage and display shipping options and rates to your clients (they will see shipping methods and rates at checkout and on Product Pages);
  2. makes your shipping cost-effective;
  3. drives sales by reducing the gap between shipping costs and displayed rates and improving customer experience
E-Commerce stores often use split checkout so customers can set individual shipping rates for every origin, vendor, or supplier (used when products within the same order are stored in different locations).

FAQ

  • Best overall – USPS;
  • Best for sending large products – UPS or FedEx Home Delivery;
  • Best for international shipments – DHL Express;
  • Best for express shipping and perishables – FedEx.
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