Shipping issues for Single person shops
Package services or the Local post office, which to choose ?

A word or two about shipping costs and other issues, for Single person shops in particular, who mail their own goods. I have made mention of shipping issues in general in other articles, but I would like to take a moment to break it down as to what happens with various shipping methods, and what it can mean at the shopping cart. ( notice, this article does not apply to 3rd party vendors and those who use drop shippers, who have no choice over the shipping means or costs. This applies to single sellers, who mail out their own goods, by hand )

Problems with shipping methods:

Shipping via other than the post office for small orders:

Example: I just spend a merry few hours shopping away on a computer parts site. Now, what I finally attempted to order, came out to about $12.00, all lightweight and small items, total weight was about 6 ozs tops, of some non fragile goods, that required no special packaging, or handling ... however, when I went to check out, the shipping costs were ? Over $9.00 ! Nearly doubling the price, needless to say I emptied the cart and left, as I was not about to pay  twice what the goods were worth.

Now, the reason for this cost was the method of shipping the seller opted for,  which was one of the specialized package services. Fine services, make no mistake, but over all, fairly costly, for low wt items in particular, as the price is often the same for up to a pound for most such services, so you have to pay a flat rate, no matter what you send, and the services charge for pick up, insurance, tracking, etc. automatically.

For those who send out 1000's of orders a day, this is a costly, if reasonable solution, as it would be far too cumbersome, and therefore, even more costly, to have someone whose job it is, to load all small orders on a truck, and take them to the post office. The problem is, this shipping limitation, can prevent smaller orders from occurring, this is a major cause for cart drop, as you can see by the example above, as it's not worth the cost to ship it, for a small order. Large orders are not as likely to lose from this means of shipping, but the small ones ? You bet, they get dropped out of shopping carts daily, all day long, by people just like me who go.. no way I am paying that much to ship 6 ozs of non breakable stuff !

Now the reason, as stated, the major players do this, is they do send out 1000's of orders a day, they have their own shipping department that boxes it all up, that in turn, loads it all up on a shipping dock, and the package delivery service comes by everyday, and puts it all on a truck for them, logging it in as they go. Tons of tracking software and special printer paper, to print out their own bar coded shipping labels etc. But ... the cost for all this convenience, is high, to the consumer, in particular, for smaller packaging. Is it really needed to do a "package delivery service" however to get all that?

Some suggestions for the Single person shops, who send out their own goods:

Ok, so say we skip the package delivery services for a moment, in favor of the normal post office for our small package, since we do not ( not yet anyway) send out 1000s a day.

But you say, "I need some kind of tracking on an order don't I ?" Yes for most things it's wise, which is why one is tempted to use the package delivery services in the first place, as we are convinced that they, and only they, can provide that ... not true, you can get the same thing from the normal postal service, it's called delivery confirmation, which will tell you, right at the Postal web site online, or via a automated phone service, your choice, that such and such a package, # 1234567891011, was delivered on X date, just like the other tracking services. Cost ? 75 cents for the retail paper version, You can also do delivery confirmation electronically, which is a grand total of 18 cents, last time I looked, for the service, but let's assume you want the paper in hand for your files, as delivery confirmation.

Do you really need to know all the intermediate stages it goes though before it gets there ? As that is the only real difference between the post office tracking, and the package services tracking. If you are like most, all you really want is some verification that the item arrived where it was addressed, signature tracking is about $2.15, if you want further verification, for proof of delivery, to where someone had to sign for it, and that paper record of that signature mailed to you automatically, so the total should have been for my package, at most, $3.00 and change, since no signature statement was required or offered by the seller.

Pre packing Services:

Another aspect of costs, is the cost of the packaging. Now, I know a great many single sellers who take their items to the post office, or one of the package services, and buy the box on demand, filler etc. custom sized for their item(s), and have it packed right there at the counter.

The same items I tired to order handled this way ?:

Cost of a box to fit it all, $2.46, cost of packing filler to protect them, plus postage to mail it, = total cost, $6.50, without delivery confirmation.
Again, a bit too costly for a 12 dollar order, but a lot closer to some reality here, as this is what the consumer might pay themselves if they were to mail the same things, and did it the same way, and they often do, it's why there are boxes and such to buy at the post office or packaging services, for the occasional shipper.

A possibly better answer however ?

Have your own shipping supplies, and mail it yourself:

Do like the major players do, on a smaller scale, which is have your own little shipping department.

Regardless of which package handling you choose, if you already own the needed boxes, packing material, padded envelopes etc. bought in bulk, the cost ratio would have dropped to less than 54 cents for the packaging, in this case, plus postage for a small box, =$1.89, so the cost to ship, with delivery confirmation = $3.18, via normal mail, if you really wanted signature confirmation, it would be $4.93

In either case, as you can see, it is a far cry from the major seller whose shipping the same thing, via a package delivery service, or priority mail, for the same wt package, and much better than having to buy the packaging as you go. Shipping labels ? It's the cost of paper and ink to print them out, and you can get programing, directly from the post office, to dress that up anyway you like, including scan readable custom bar codes. Using self adhesive paper, so you can just peel and place. Rounding it all up to the next whole dollar, helps cover the costs of the labels, ink etc. and your still under the package services cost for the same shipping of your smaller order.

But don't the package shippers provide boxes and such for free ?:

Well yes and no, yes you can order all kinds of "free" boxes, labels etc., but are they free ? Not really, the cost for all those freebies, no matter who provides them, has to come out somewhere and the somewhere is often, a higher rate of shipping costs over all, not to mention most of the 'free" boxes all tend to be one size ( By the way you can get flat rate free boxes at the post office now ) still even with that, your best bet is what  ?

Go through the investment of " do it yourself ":

Ok, why ?

Simple, people can add ... people mail packages and large envelopes themselves all the time, so they know what the rates are, and guess what, most customers don't use package delivery services, unless they need to overnight something, for which they expect to pay more, or it's very valuable, so they want the automatic insurance most package delivery services provide, ( which you can also get from the normal postal services, although most are unaware of that, the rates run from $1.65 min to $4.60, range of value, 0 to $300.00 of coverage and up, which would more than cover the value of most orders a single seller might send, and you can make such insurance an optional fee to the customer )

You see, everybody knows that a package, via the package delivery services is automatically insured for up to $100.00, as part of the standard fee, but that standard fee, for a small package, is far too high as our example proves. The same items I wished to order, insured for their value with the post office ? A grand total of 1.65, which covers a vaule up to $50.00, so if I really needed it insured, the cost would have been, $5.32. Still less than the package service, do you see the trend here ? Even with adding on a fee for delivery confirmation, insurance etc., it still comes out to less than the other services would cost.

Your average person uses the normal mails, at the typical rates for low wt packages, so when they see a price tag of $9.00 and change for shipping for a 6 oz package, their first thought is, they are being ripped off, even if everything is perfectly legitimate and at cost, none the less ... drop goes the cart.

That is not what it would cost them to mail whatever they ordered, and they know it, they expect to pay no more than it would cost themselves, anything more than that, and they will generally find a local alternative instead.

Packing to excess:

Your customer is not going to care as much for the packaging, as they will for what they have to pay to get their order. Any packaging that protects the item long enough to get it there, is good enough, there is no need for overkill. A box that is 3- 5 times the size needed for example, stuffed with packing peanuts for a small item, that they have to dig around to find it, does not impress people, other than in the negative, for its sheer wastefulness, and the unneeded added expense they are having to pay to have it shipped.

( This is a common practice with many sellers large and small, who pack their own, to have only one size box, that will fit the largest thing they ship, and use it for everything they ship, stuffing the otherwise empty air space with packing material, to make up the difference, in order to cut the cost outlay for supplies, as they only need to order and have on hand, one size box. However, the one who pays the extra cost to ship this box, that is mainly empty space on a small order, is the customer )

People are more impressed with your shipping rates, if they are are in line with what they, the customer, would have to pay if they were doing the shipping, than the so called "professional" look, of having a special delivery service bring it to them, or overnight express ( unless they ask for it ), they quite honestly don't care how it gets there, as long as it does arrive, it's intact, in a reasonable amount of time, for a reasonable price.

But the Package services better at handling stuff right ?

In a word, no, it's a myth, well fostered by those same companies, that the package delivery services are somehow "better" at handling things, than the normal postal service. However, statistics show they have almost the exact same rate of damaged or lost deliveries, or delivery in error, and almost every "special service" option, you can get with the package services, you can get from the local post office, and very often for less, as the above examples prove.

The main reason people use the packaging services, is, quite honestly, they have a better advertising campaign that tells you of their services, and will provide you with free or nearly free goods, that you need, programing etc., in order to use their services. However, due to their flat rate costs, they are not free, you are paying for them, as noted above, in the often higher rates it costs to ship.

For the most part, the local post office can and will provide you with the same things, they just don't advertise it as well, so a lot of their available services, go unnoticed by the general public, and even the business sector.

So it's very much worth a bit of investment in supplies, boxes, packaging, padded envelopes, your own postal scales, so you know how much a package weighs, and if you really do lots of orders, you might want to invest in a postal meter to print out your own postage, or go online and order them printed out, right off your own printer, so you can send things from your own home. Want the post office to come get it ? With Click-N-Ship, you can print their own special labels online or off, or call for a standard Carrier Pickup, they will come and get it for, express, priority or international mail (subject to limitations), for free.

The same is true for local mail, and small packages, on any given day of the normal mail delivery week, if it will fit in your mailbox, your local mail carrier will pick it up for you, no charge. Even larger items you have to hand to the carrier yourself, the pick up is free as long as postage is already affixed. The primary reason we all head off to the post office or package delivery shop, is to have it weighed and or, to put the right amount of postage on it, which, with your own scales, and postal meter to print out the postage, or an online account to print it out, this is unneeded.

The bottom line is, to keep the costs to no more than what it would cost the consumer themselves, to send the same items, packaging and all, and they will not mind paying it. So use which ever service costs you the least amount. But don't automatically call up the package delivery services out of habit, do the research, and see which provider can really give you the best cost ratio for your own typical orders.

Ok, the customer is paying the shipping, why should you care ?

You need to care for the example I started out with, cart drop. If your shipping rate is enough to scare away the customer, not only will they drop the cart for whatever they wanted to order today, but they will remember that, and likely avoid you as a place to do business with, so it should be a major concern to the seller, all the time, any time, to cut costs to the buyer, whenever possible.

The larger companies seem to figure, they have a high enough volume they can "afford" to lose a few customers over such cart drops. Personally I think that's absolutely idiocy on their part, but it's a standard policy for a lot of large firms, they know they are losing business over their shipping rates, and figure it's worth the cost of lost small orders, for the convenience of the services.

As a single seller you don't have to do this, you can, and in my personal opinion should, take the extra steps and hold the costs down to the least possible for your customers sake. And since you are not doing high volume sales, every single sale matters, it matters a lot. Do you really want to lose even one sale over something you could have prevented ?

This requires a bit more work, a start up investment for supplies, and bit of study for learning what you need, where to get them, what the current rates are etc., but it's well worth the effort and investment, for the cost savings you can often pass on to your customer.

Which will mean many more repeat orders than your competitors in most cases, who may be using the higher convenience, but often much higher costing services. As bottom line, people will go with who can bring them the goods they want, for the least amount of money, it's as simple as that. With a bit of effort, that can be you, every time.

More soon

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