The Top 10 Shipping Tips for Small Business Owners

published Apr 27, 2022
2 min read

Today’s global economy demands small business owners ship out products to consumers in various locations. Knowing how to ship things so they arrive safely and save as much money as possible on the supplies and process can mean the difference between success and failure.

The pandemic drove many people to open their own e-commerce businesses. Selling second-hand items for a profit or flipping things one finds at garage sales has become even more popular in recent months.

According to IBISWorld, the reseller industry is a $5.8 billion business, with an expected 5.1% increase in 2022. However, straight e-commerce sales of new items – as well as small businesses that own a brick-and-mortar location but also take online sales – grow just as steadily.

Here are some quick tips to improve your small business shipping process.

1. Invest in Good Scales

If you plan to print postage from any of the shipping providers available, you must have a good set of scales. You may even want to take your small scale to your local U.S. Post Office or UPS Store and see if they’ll calibrate alongside yours to ensure your scale matches the weight they get.

2. Know When to Use Poly Mailers

Poly mailers are lightweight and perfect for sending out items that won’t get damaged en route, such as clothing, shoes, some books, and plastic items. You may want to wrap the item in a bit of bubble wrap if you’re worried it might break along the way, but you can save a lot of money on postage and materials, and even lessen your environmental impact,  by using this type of package.

3. Always Round Up

Keep a tape measure handy. Stuffing a box full can cause the sides to bulge and change the sizing. The measurements indicated on the box information may not always be correct. You could be charged extra and incur higher fees if you don’t use the correct measurements.

Your best bet is to always round up. If a box weighs 2 pounds and 14 ounces, round up to 3. However, never round down.

4. Ramp Up Your Warehouse Systems

As businesses scale up, they sometimes find they don’t have the inventory or warehouse system they thought they did. There’s nothing worse than having an order to fill and realizing you have no idea where the item is amidst rows and rows of products.

Start small with a numbering or dated system for placement and utilize current artificial intelligence and sensors to keep track. One day, you might even upgrade to warehouse robots to pick your items for you. Experts believe as many as 50,000 warehouses will use autonomous robots by 2025.

5. Save on Shipping Supplies

If you use the USPS to ship packages and send a lot of items out via Priority Mail, you can use their flat-rate boxes and padded mailers to save a bit on the cost of shipping supplies. You can only use these items for shipping via Priority.

Some small-business owners make the mistake of using the padded mailers for packing material. Be aware the USPS can and sometimes does open boxes. If they catch you using their Priority material to ship at a lower rate, you’ll be charged for the difference. There is also the concern the Post Office will take away the perk of free items if people abuse the privilege.

6. Use Right-Sized Packaging

Anything over 12 inches throws you into higher pricing tiers with the Post Office. Other providers charge at varying rates, based on cubic inches.

If you have too much space in a package, look for ways to cut that space down. Use a smaller box or even take an Exacto knife and score the box, cutting and reshaping until it’s the size you need.

7. Avoid Damage

Retail Dive recently looked at the issue of consumers receiving damaged packages. They found around 21% of oversized online purchases arrive damaged on the consumer’s end. How can you ensure heavy items arrive safely on the other side?

Using enough padding and adequate box strength is part of the equation. Bubble wrap and air pockets are almost a must in most shipping situations. Make sure you wrap the item securely and then add enough padding to withstand the jostling that occurs during shipping. Don’t leave any extra space for the item to bounce around.

8. Double-Box Fragile Items

Perhaps you’re reselling vintage vases or you sell brand-new figurines you designed. Any type of fragile item needs a bit of extra care. Always wrap in bubble wrap, place inside a tight box, and then put that box inside another box with two inches of space around all sides and padding between the outer and inner box.

9. Get a Discount

Shipping costs add up quickly for smaller businesses that might not do a lot of volume. Fortunately, you can get a discount on your shipping costs through sites such as Pirate Ship and Easyship. They get the volume discounts and you get the savings without jumping through hoops.

10. Brand Your Box

Get your company’s name out there by labeling the outside of your packages. Every person who encounters the box along the way sees your logo or website address. It’s like bonus marketing for mere pennies.

Refine the Process

Keep working on your shipping process until you find the right balance. Ideally, you’ll get packages out quickly upon receiving an order. You also want to improve the damage rates so things arrive unscathed on the other end.

Emily Newton

Emily Newton is a manufacturing journalist who regularly covers the industry trends. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized. Subscribe to read more from Emily.