You’ve finally started your small business and have a product ready to be sold, your website should be up and running, your budget and finances should be in order, and you have those customers prepared to buy. Now that you have a start-up, let’s discuss getting your product to the customer!
Logistics is how you move materials, components, and products between your suppliers, storage locations, and customers. There are three things you should keep in mind as a seller: speed of delivery, stock of a product, and logistics cost. So let’s dive into your business and review how you create your products and how you’re getting them to the customer.
Lead Times and You
When your business begins to grow in sales, you might be reconstructing your process on where you buy supplies. Buying supplies at your local craft store for a business can be pricey, and when your sales reach a larger scale, it’s not cost-effective anymore.
When you begin to set up your logistics, consider critical lead times. For example, how long will it take for a customer to review your product, how long will it take to process an order and ship it, and how long will it take for you to receive the supplies you need for your product? Asking yourself these questions can help you plan for the cost and speed of your orders and shipments.
Knowing the lead time on the processes in your business will allow you to have smoother communication and expectation within your business and with the customer.
When it comes to your process, shipping time to your customers should be a priority, especially in today’s society we’re shipping the same day, and overnight has become the norm. Because of this, shipping companies will work with small businesses by assisting them in maintaining good relationships with their customers and offering reasonable rates. You can also inquire about assistance provided for small businesses like logistical assistance and managing inventory. Here are the top 5 shipping companies we recommend for small businesses.
- United States Postal Service
United States Postal Service
Ships goods both domestically and internationally, offers discounts and loyalty credits to small businesses, and delivers goods within 2–8 days on average. In addition, it provides free application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow small businesses to add shipping tools to their websites easily.
USPS shipping costs vary based on package size, delivery location, and delivery speed.
TIP: Deliveries on Sundays and holidays typically come with an added cost.
An Australia-based small business shipping company, Sendle is best for small packages because it guarantees the best price for domestic packages up to 20 pounds. Shipping is 100% carbon neutral, and there are no subscriptions or contracts involved. They are well known for beating the price charged by major carriers for packages under 20 pounds.
TIP: packages cannot pass 20 pounds, and international shipping is unavailable.
If you ship large products, UPS will be the best option for you. They offer competitive rates (large flat rate boxes start at $18.40) and have resources for small companies that can assist in preparing your packages and information on palletizing your products if needed. They also offer same-day delivery in some cases.
Small businesses can get discounted pricing from UPS, with shipping incentives ranging from 20% to 50%, depending on the desired shipping speed and the small business’s average weekly shipping volume.
TIP: Some APIs, application programming interfaces, can’t be used on customer-facing websites.
If your business has taken you overseas, DHL Express is the best for those international shipments. They have a long-lasting history in international shipping and offer resources for small businesses that engage in global trading.
Costs vary widely based on your package’s size, whether it’s an import or export, the shipping speed, surcharges, and any optional services you choose.
TIP: DHL is known for many surcharges and optional service fees, so keep a close eye on your shipping agreement to avoid cost surprises.
FedEx is known for everyday shipping, even weekends, which means your product is delivered faster. FedEx can assist in shipments domestically and internationally and has a shorter lead time than others. Shipments in the US are usually 1-5 days and 3-7 for Alaska and Hawaii.
Small businesses can also benefit from their small business program, offering discounts on shipping, printing, money management tools, and more. They also provide a yearly contest where small businesses can win funds.
CON: Small package shipping costs are higher than USPS. However, they can arrive faster.
When it’s time to package, we know how important it is that your product arrives to the customer safe and on time. The first step to completing that goal is ensuring you have the suitable packaging material for your product. One of the things to keep in mind before buying your material is knowing that purchasing in bulk will save you money down the line and is worth the investment. So follow along as we share the top things you’ll need for your packaging process.
Boxes and Mailers
Begin with deciding how you’re going to ship your product to the customer. The most popular options are boxes and mailers.
Cardboard boxes can offer the best protection for many products. Whether your product is a perfect square or an odd-shaped size, a cardboard box with the correct dimensions is an excellent choice for shipping purposes. You can choose to personalize these boxes and find them in different styles, colors, and sizes. These can be bulked orders or found at your local shipping store.
Mailers are great for small or flat products and less prone to damage. You can personalize these to your company’s brand, like cardboard boxes, coming in various colors, styles, and sizes. You can also choose to purchase mailers that come with a form of protection, whether this is internal cushioning or outer material that can handle bad weather.
Depending on your products, you can choose to keep an assortment of shipping materials available to use. However, keep in mind your product when purchasing shipping material to not waste funds on unnecessary boxes or mailers.
Cushioning and Filler
Keep your items safe and secure by purchasing cushioning and filler material. When shipping, these are crucial key material pieces as you want the product to arrive to the customer exactly how it left you.
Cushioning material is used for fragile items like glass, porcelain, or ceramic. Think of bubble wrap, foam peanuts, paper as options to keep the product from shattering or breaking in its packaging.
Void Filler can be used for any product. With material options like craft paper, air pillows, shredded paper, and others, these pieces of material will keep the item from moving around or crashing into each other if you’re sending more than one product at a time.
Keep these materials on hand at all times, as you wouldn’t want to ship products out without some filler to avoid broken or chipped products on arrival.
Labeling and Tape
Once your package is well prepared and safe to be closed up, you’ll need to seal and address it before shipping. Using quality tape and labels is the best way to confirm your product arrives to the correct customer on time and safely.
You can even create personalized packaging tape to stand out from competitors since packaging tape comes in various colors and sizes. Having suitable tape will save your product from accidents in the shipment process. You can also choose to invest in a tape dispenser if your company sees a pickup in shipments, which can help the processing speed.
Labels are also created in different sizes and styles. Used mainly for addressing the customer, make sure to use good labels to ensure it won’t fall off in transport. Labels can also include your company logo, specialty stickers like “handle with care” and more. Keep in mind that you can personally create these labels and style them to fit your product and small business.
Get Ready to Ship!
Now that you have the basic information for shipping and handling logistics for your small business think of ways to make yourself stand out. Packaging and shipping don’t need to be boring and can be another way your company stands out from competitors!
Look into eco-friendly merchandise for shipping and packaging. Include thank you letters, promos, or small freebies to induce excitement and customer loyalty. Create an unboxing experience for customers by creating a process that showcases your brand when opening a package from you, like wrapped apparel in tissue paper with a sticker to open the merchandise.
Your package is a window into your business for customers, so make sure to focus on your packaging like you would your product!