📦Shipping

Shipping: one of the biggest initial headaches in eCommerce that can become fun!

Basics of Shipping

  • Customers in today’s day in age EXPECT quick shipping. As Amazon and other e-commerce companies begin offering 2 hour and same day shipping, independent third party sellers must step up their game.

  • The biggest key to maintaining a strong shipping speed is having a fast handling time. We’ll talk a bit more about that later.

  • You can find basic shipping discounts by using a shipping label service such as Amazon or eBay labels, Stamps.com, Pirate Ship, or ShipStation. All of these services will offer relatively similar rates on USPS services. It is important to note that these rates on these shipping platforms will ALWAYS be cheaper than the retail rate at the Post Office — avoid buying shipping at the Post Office like the plague, it is a time and money suck. When it comes to UPS and FedEx, there is a little more wiggle room — we’ll talk about which platforms are best for each.

  • You can order free shipping supplies from the USPS, UPS, and FedEx depending on what you ship.

  • There are certain rules you must follow depending on the marketplace when it comes to shipping — we will go over those more below.

Handling Times

  • As mentioned above, customers today EXPECT quick shipping. This is where you can get an edge over other third party sellers, as well as sellers overseas or specialized companies who sell exclusively on their own websites.

  • One of the biggest factors in quick shipping is your handling time. This is the amount of time between a customer’s order and the time you drop off the package with the carrier.

    • Some sellers offer same day handling, which means that all orders received before a certain cut-off time will need to be sent out that same day. Same day handling can be challenging for sellers who do not exclusively sell online and have other jobs or responsibilities.

    • One day handling is the next best option. With this, customers who order an item, say at 7 p.m. on a Tuesday will have their order shipped Wednesday. If you’re an eBay seller, same or one day handling will help you earn and keep that Top Rated Seller badge, which discounts final value fees and helps boost your listings in the rankings. Even if you aren’t a top rated seller or an eBay seller in general, quicker shipping times will help you, no matter the platform.

Shipping Services

The next biggest factor in quick shipping is the service itself. There are LOTS of services to choose from and even more situations that would change which service to offer, but this is a general guide to the best values for each situation:

ServicePricingWhen to use

USPS First Class Package

$3-$6 (depending on weight and destination)

ANY TIME what you are shipping is below 16 oz. (up to 15.9 oz.), is not time sensitive, and is not a media item (as described under USPS Media Mail)

USPS Media Mail

$3.50+ (goes up about 50 cents per lb.)

ANY TIME you are shipping media items that are not time sensitive. This includes:

  • Books, textbooks, and magazines

  • Vinyl, CDs, and Cassette Tapes

  • DVDs and VHS tapes

Media mail is SLOW. Be prepared for that. But, it is usually a great value!

USPS Priority Mail

$7+

  • When shipping items to PO Boxes, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or US Territories and the item is over 1 lb. and does not qualify for Media Mail

  • When you have an item that will fit in a Flat Rate Package for a reasonable rate for that weight

  • Orders 1 lb.+ that are cheaper than UPS Ground shipping

UPS Ground

$7+ (with Stamps.com or ShipStation pricing)

  • When shipping items 1 lb and heavier to the mainland U.S. that do not fit in cheaper USPS flat rate packaging.

  • UPS Ground Saver is available for select residental addresses. UPS handles the package until final delivery, when the UPS takes over. Add one day to UPS Ground delivery time.

Supplies

  • First, you should look into ordering FREE USPS shipping supplies. That can be found at this link: store.usps.com/store/results/shipping-supplies-free-shipping-supplies/_/N-17iopsj

  • What to remember about these supplies: They are a great resource, BUT you should avoid using them when there are cheaper alternatives available with your own packages. These are great for items over a pound that fit in a flat rate padded envelope, as well as items over two pounds going outside of the mainland U.S. to places such as Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, etc.

  • The most common useful USPS supplies for most businesses are: the Flat Rate Padded Envelope LINK (shipping is around $8.50), Medium Flat Rate Boxes LINK (shipping is usually around $14), Large Mailing Boxes LINK (shipping varies by weight and destination, can be used with ANY Priority by weight label), and Priority Mail Stickers LINK (these can be applied to any Priority packages, including your own packages to indicate urgency).

  • Once you’ve stocked up on these supplies, you’ll still need plenty of your own supplies for First Class, UPS and FedEx Ground, overnight, media mail, and other unique shipments.

Tools

  • In the last section, we discussed shipping supplies, which are things you need to replenish as you use them. Shipping tools, however, are things that will make your life much easier and are a one-time or far less frequent purchase. If you’re a beginner, you can probably get by without these supplies, however, they will save you time, money, and frustration in the long run.

ToolUseWhere to buy

Tape Gun

Makes taping a box MUCH easier. This will keep you from having to find the start to your tape roll each time or from using small tape rolls with included dispensers. No scissors required, the tape gun itself has a blade.

  • ULINE [LINK] - $11 + shipping (total of at least $20)

  • Scotch Brand on Amazon [LINK] - $14 (with Prime shipping)

Box Cutter

Pretty straightforward — if you are opening lots of boxes, a box cutter will make that much easier.

  • 2 pack on Amazon [LINK] - $13 (with Prime shipping)

Carton Sizer

Reduces boxes to the exact size required. This allows you to stock fewer box sizes, while still saving on supplies by using less void fill (like peanuts or packing paper) and will also better protect the package, cutting down on damage.

In order to use the carton sizer, you will also need a box cutter, as this tool perforates the box, but does not cut it.

This item is only made by ULINE as they hold a patent on it.

  • ULINE [LINK] - $17 + shipping (total usually at least $27)

Package Scale

With the relatively inexpensive costs of packing scales, this is definitely a worthy investment! A package scale will save you time, as you won’t have to guess or research an item's weight, and money, as you won’t over or under pay for shipping.

There are USB scales (that are typically more expensive) which connect to shipping programs, such as Stamps.com and ShipStation, however, you can simply weigh the item once when listing and put that item weight in the listing, and it will automatically populate in these shipping programs.

The ACCUTECK brand on Amazon is a simple, trustworthy scale. While it doesn't have USB connection, it'll get the job done.

  • Amazon [LINK] - $20 (with free Prime shipping)

4 x 6 Label Printer

The easiest way to print labels.

You may be hesitant to buy one at first as well due to the fairly high cost, but, it will so much time, money, and frustration. If you’re shipping a few packages a day or more, spring for this quality of life upgrade!

There’s lots of options here. We’d recommend staying away from DYMO due to their proprietary labels. ROLLO allows you to use your own labels, but we haven’t found it the most reliable. Not a bad option. What we currently use and recommend is a Zebra GX420d.

  • ROLLO Label Printer - Amazon [LINK] $189.99 (with free Prime shipping)

  • Zebra GX420d - Look on eBay for a pre owned or refurbished unit. You can probably find one for around $150-$200. The USB version would work just fine, you don’t need ethernet.

Insurance and Signature Confirmation

  • When starting out, most people imagine that items get lost or damaged more often than they really do. If you’re packing and labeling your items properly, chances are you’ll lose a handful of packages a year — and that’s if you’re shipping a LOT of packages. Many sellers have shipped thousands of packages and, knock on wood, only lost a handful of them.

  • We’d recommend purchasing insurance on the value of an item you can’t afford to lose. Here’s an example: let’s say you’re shipping a $900 piece of technology that you paid $500 for. If you want to ensure you don’t lose money, insure your break even point of $500 (plus or minus some change to cover other expenses).

  • As for signature confirmation, certain marketplaces have requirements on when you MUST use signature confirmation to be covered by their money back guarantees.

    • For Amazon, there is no specific requirement for signature confirmation, HOWEVER, Amazon is much more likely to side with you on items not received claims if you’re able to provide this confirmation. This, very much like insurance, is definitely a personal preference thing. We’d recommend signature confirmation for orders $750 or more.

    • For eBay, signature confirmation is required on orders with a total of $750 or more (including tax and shipping) if you’d like to be covered by eBay's seller protection.

  • Some shipping insurance providers have specific rules as to when their insurance applies on specific items. For example, ShipSurance, provided through a variety of shipping providers, only covers computers and watches if you also have signature confirmation on the item. Often, if you're already paying for shipping confirmation to satisfy the marketplace requirements, it's a good idea to go ahead and purchase the insurance on these high value items as well.

  • There are many ways to purchase shipping insurance, but not all of them are economical or offer an easy claims process. For example, USPS or UPS carrier based insurance is typically MUCH more costly than third party insurance — we’d recommend steering clear of these. Instead, try marketplace based insurance options, such as through Amazon or eBay, or insurance that can be purchased through your shipping label provider. For example, ShipStation partners with ShipSurance for shipping insurance. If none of these options work for you, we’d recommend U-PIC insurance. They are reliable and have fair pricing. It just takes more time to have to manually enter all of the insurance information.

Automation

There are SEVERAL softwares you can use to save time when it comes to your workflow. When figuring out which softwares you should use, here’s some questions you should ask:

  • How much time will the software take for me to set up? Consider how long the software will take you to implement in your set up? Is it worth the time and effort it will cost you?

  • How much time will this software save me? Is it worth what the software costs? Time is money! If you’re just starting out, you may not realize the value of your time quite yet, however, once you have a larger volume of orders, especially across platforms, you will want to save time, effort, and frustration by integrating your shipping processes.

  • Which integrations does the software provide? For example, if you’re an Amazon, eBay, and Shopify seller, you’ll probably need a shipping software that integrates with all three of those marketplaces.

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