How Your Small Business Can Mitigate Shipping Costs

Among the greatest expenses for businesses, especially small businesses, is shipping. Shipping rates vary and climb, and the way those rates are assigned by carriers can swing wildly from one provider to another and from one shipment type to another. Competition from online retail outlets constantly striving to ship faster and cheaper by incentivizing the use of their in-house shipping services is a significant factor as well.

Many small businesses are shipping from nascent operations, from converted garages, or from their homes. But the most resourceful among today’s small businesses are finding ways to mitigate the costs of shipping. How do these small and often new businesses trim some of the significant cost from their fulfillment and shipping demands? Read on for some resourceful and thoughtful tips on how to reduce the cost of shipping for your small business.

Trim Weight Where You Can

The larger the shipment the greater the cost – and difficulty – of shipping. Oversized items, unconventionally shaped or packaged items, and, especially, heavy items can often cost so much to ship that they’re prohibitive for customers to buy and small businesses to sell. While the best course for shipping heavy items is to shop aggressively for carriers with the most compatible and reasonable rates and shipping times. Many carriers specialize in bulky, heavy, oversized items, or in shipping the kinds of products and materials your business will routinely ship. And many independent carriers are competing just as hard as the big online retailers, as well as small businesses like yours. But failing a favorable shipping contract, there are some ways to cut down on the cost of shipping large and heavy items. Consider the primary materials you’re shipping: four of the most common metals, for example, are stainless steel, carbon steel, copper, and aluminum. If your small business is shipping these metals or goods made with one or more of them, consider reducing costs by preparing multiple, smaller shipments. Another way to reduce the weight of heavy shipments like these is by experimenting with different packaging methods.

Research Your Providers Carefully

With hundreds of carriers competing for their share of the world’s shipping business, it’s unlikely that you’ve explored more than a large handful of them if that. Of course, the major carriers will be well known and researched by you – you may even have tried or contracted with more than a few of them already. But it’s worth reaching out further and looking more closely at the many experienced and reputable carriers, large and small, that are enthusiastic to earn your business. Research them carefully, though: mishaps can happen with any carrier, large or small, old or new. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records over 50,000 accidents each year just related to towage. These kinds of accidents are generally brief blips on the productivity radar for major carriers, but with smaller, independent carriers you might be considering for your small business, they can be significant and extended interruptions. Be sure that your research on potential carriers includes answers to the following: Is the company insured? What are their safety ratings? What are their driver training, certification, and retraining protocols? How closely do they work with their drivers and other staff: are they regional or national, or even international? These factors can be vitally important when researching and choosing a cost-effective and efficient shipping company. Your time spent researching one, two, or even dozens of potential carriers will not be wasted. Finding not only the best contract but the best carrier and best, most secure arrangement for your shipping needs can end up saving untold amounts of money in the long run. Research carefully and find their reviews.

Ask Other Small Business Owners for Recommendations

Business owners are generally proud of their successes, great and minor. You might expect a direct competitor to be disinclined to recommend a cost-effective and reliable carrier. You may be surprised. Finding the needle-in-a-haystack shipping contractor is something even your competitors will be emboldened to boast about, so why not ask? Consider the medical device industry, which employs 356,000 in nearly 6,000 large and small businesses. That’s a lot of professionals, CEOs, CFOs, and shipping departments making a lot of decisions about a lot of life-saving products: there’s no doubt they share shippers and carriers. Seek out your industry contemporaries for tips and advice and even sharing comparable logistics. Remember that a rising industry benefits all the businesses in it. Reach out, especially to comparable businesses with a little bit more time in the industry than yours.

Consider Using Recycled Shipping Materials

More goods, especially in the shipping industry, are being made with recycled materials than ever before. And there’s no reason to expect that trend to change. The global steel industry sees roughly 40% of its production originate with recycled material. Not all shipping materials, especially boxes, need to be brand new or made from fresh materials. Consider using recycled shipping materials as much as possible for your shipments – they are less expensive in general and in some cases even free, if your small business is able to reuse packaging from incoming or returned goods. And as the global trend toward reusing, reducing, and recycling gains a stronger hold every day, it should be expected that your customers will appreciate the recycled packaging as well. There are a number of improved and more cost-effective methods available to small businesses, from biodegradable cardboards and corn-based plastics to simply reuse. Save your small business money by researching recycled materials for your shipping needs, as well as carriers that offer eco-friendly shipping and packaging solutions.

Packaging, shipping, and carrier costs represent a significant share of many organizational expenses. But there are more ways than ever to mitigate those costs without sacrificing reliability and expedience. With careful and considerate research, mindfulness, and a little bit of thinking outside the box, your small business can easily manage even the most unwieldy shipping needs.

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