EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2070 - June 30, 2009     3 of 4

Small-Biz Tips: Shipping Advice from the USPS

By Greg Holden

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Sometimes, the best way to save money is not to cut costs. It's knowing all the options available to you and taking full advantage of them. When it comes to shipping, costs are going up all the time. Personally, I'm amazed at how much more it costs to ship across the country and overseas than it did a few years ago.

It might seem like there's nothing you can do about U.S. Postal Service shipping costs. But while the rates seem to go up on a regular basis, you do have an amount of control if you plan beforehand and pack wisely.

That's the word from USPS spokesperson Michael Woods, who says that the Post Office frequently sees packages that could have cost less to ship than they actually did. Small-businesses that don't have shipping departments are particularly susceptible to using a more expensive service than they need or packing merchandise in containers that are bigger than necessary.

"eBay shippers, like all businesses, have been affected by the economic recession," says Woods. Woods offers the following tips for sellers on eBay and other marketplaces who are looking to streamline their shipping procedures as well as ship more economically:

Don't get stuck on one service. Once you choose a service, such as Priority Mail or Media Mail, you tend not to look at other options. It's understandable, because you're a busy seller. According to Woods, the four Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes are "the best value on the marketplace," and the option most frequently overlooked by small online shippers.

Don't use packaging that's too large. "Customers use larger packaging than necessary when shipping lightweight items," says Woods. The larger the package, the more you pay. For instance, many people mail an item in a box First-Class and pay the parcel price when it could have been packaged and mailed in a cushioned large envelope. Or if you ship Priority Mail, use the smallest box possible or you'll pay too more than you needed to for dimensional weight pricing or balloon pricing.

Consider First-Class large envelopes. Use First-Class large envelopes rather than boxes if the envelope does not exceed a maximum size of 12 inches high by 15 inches long by inches thick. If your packages exceed these dimensions you'll be charged parcel prices.

Use Priority Mail for Heavy Packages. For heavy packages, consider Priority Mail. When shipping heavier weights, it can be cheaper than Media Mail.

Use First Class for Light Packages. For lighter packages, consider First Class. First-Class Mail is a good option for lightweight items weighing 13 oz or less and when a delivery guarantee and tracking are not necessary.

International shipments are often a source of concern to sellers. "Small businesses are most concerned about customs requirements and documentation as well as the price - which is considerably higher than what they are used to paying for domestic shipments." Woods suggests ordering supplies online, which gives sellers an automatic postage discount and combines your customs declaration with an address level. For bulk package shipments, contact the USPS for other solutions.

Perhaps the number one tip Woods has to offer for sellers: "Many small businesses do not realize they do not need to come to the physical Post Office. Customers can print shipping labels and pay for postage from the convenience of their home or office and "skip the trip.""

Link to USPS website

About the author: Greg Holden, who lives in Chicago, is the author of several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes a blog related to his book "Internet Babylon: Secrets, Scandals and Shocks on the Information Superhighway," published by Apress.

About the author:

Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.

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