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Six Tips to Cut Shipping Costs and Boost Efficiency

Six Tips to Cut Shipping Costs and Boost Efficiency
Closeup of a worker hands packing a box

Online selling costs keep rising, making it imperative to periodically review your operations to find ways to save money and boost efficiency. ShipStation General Manager John Kinny shared some tips on where merchants can look when it comes to shipping.

Many of the options to save money aren’t as obvious as you might think, he told us. Sometimes it’s because sellers have gotten into a routine – such as using the same equipment they’ve always used, or overlooking ways to boost their brand in order to increase repeat business.

Kinny joined ShipStation in 2016, which offers shipping software to help small- and medium-sized sellers be efficient at processing, fulfilling, and shipping their orders from marketplaces and shopping carts using multiple shipping carriers.

Here are six tips he shared on cutting costs and boosting efficiency in ecommerce shipping operations, knowledge he’s acquired in the course of helping his company’s customers streamline their operations:

1) Buy Shipping Supplies in Bulk
For ecommerce SMBs (small- and medium-sized businesses), shipping costs can add up. However, there are significant ways to save some money. For example, buy in bulk. Supply vendors such as Uline have bulk rates for various products you can take advantage of.

2) Use Shipping Software to Save on Shipping Costs
Additionally, make sure you conduct a thorough search for the shipping software platform with the best price and benefits. Oftentimes, shipping software – as well as incentive programs and carrier negotiations – can score you discounts with major carriers like USPS, FedEx, and UPS.

3) Brand Your Shipping Labels and Tracking to Increase Repeat Business
Beyond discounts, shipping software can also help SMBs streamline complex shipping processes from end-to-end while branding the experience – from shipping labels and tracking pages to self-service returns portals – helping increase repeat customers and brand loyalty.

4) Invest in Shipping Equipment to Save Time and Money
People are creatures of habit, and because of this, we may become accustomed to subpar equipment simply because it “gets the job done.” However, there is always room for improvement, and upgrading to a quicker, more reliable printer can save you money and certainly time.

A desktop printer may print labels that are scannable and can be taped to a box – no problem. But, thermal label printers are specifically designed to address this business need.

Similarly, barcode scanners can also increase productivity in areas where copy/pasting may seem to work just fine. Creating a scan-based workflow through an order management system allows you to scan a barcode to bring up an order, verify the SKUs/UPCs for an order, and create the order’s label. When processing a large quantity of orders, this workflow can cut fulfillment time by at least half. (SmithCorona has an article for those who wish to learn more.)

Initial higher-cost investments like these may seem high, but can pay off in time as order volume and workloads increase.

5) Promote Expedited Shipping Around Key Holidays
Amazon Prime Day is coming up. Just as with the holiday season, ecommerce SMBs should ensure they can stay afloat during such an increase in sales. To accomplish this, start by providing and promoting expedited shipping options. Combine these with clearly-defined cutoff deadlines in order to set customer expectations.

You should prepare for a shipping overload by setting up an effective operation to allow you to ship hundreds of orders a day. This might mean making new hires and renting a new facility to accommodate the expected influx of orders.

6) Use Pre-set Automated Workflows
Additionally, leverage a shipping software that allows you to pre-set automated workflows and integrates with multiple carriers. This will help expedite the process, ensuring that you’re getting the best possible rates for your shipments and that labels can be produced for hundreds or thousands of orders in mere seconds.

Pre-set automated workflows help retailers streamline the fulfillment process. It also gives them the ability to set how much manual control they want over the details of each order. These are especially important for brands handling larger volumes of shipments.

With preset parameters within the system, orders that come in and fit that profile can be automatically assigned to the correct carrier and shipping service = ensuring faster delivery and the best possible price. For example, a retailer could create a workflow to automatically assign FedEx 2Day for any order under a certain weight and with “rush shipping” as a selected service.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.

One thought on “Six Tips to Cut Shipping Costs and Boost Efficiency”

  1. After seeing at the PO several times people using plastic opaque bags to mail things back to businesses, I put my thinking cap on. I had been buying bubble envelopes in bulk and could get them in less than 24 hours from U-line, but that meant storing all of them somewhere in my house. Big boxes for every 100 envelopes. So I tried out plastic envelopes in various sizes for the items I ship (not everyone can do this). In a year and a half now, I have had no complaints, but several compliments. One item got destroyed by the PO and I replaces it. Other than that no problems. I can store a lot of packages of those envelopes in the ottoman under my desk. I have saved hundreds of dollars in shipping supplies, and in some cases have saved on shipping as well as the kraft bubble envelopes weigh several ounces and can make the weight of a package go into the next ounce and next price range. The plastic envelopes are incredibly lightweight. I can get them in a color I like and that sets us apart from the manilla yellow/kraft look. They come in lots of colors and designs as well. Certainly worth it to look into if it is something that might help. For a small business like ours, saving hundreds on packaging supplies in a year is awesome.

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