Small business shipping tips: Complete Guide

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small business shipping tips

Small business shipping tips are essential for entrepreneurs aiming to streamline their shipping processes and enhance customer satisfaction. 

Navigating the intricate world of shipping can be daunting, but with the right strategies in place, small businesses can compete effectively in today’s market. 

In a world where 22% of potential customers abandon their online shopping sessions due to slow shipping, it’s crucial to stay ahead in the shipping game. 

In this article, we’ll be sharing top shipping tips for small businesses to help you grow your venture. 

Small Business Shipping Tips: Shipping Cost

Before configuring your shopping cart’s shipping rates and methods, it’s essential to grasp the intricacies of how shipping and fulfillment costs are calculated. These costs are determined by several key factors: 

1) Service and Speed

Major industry players like Amazon have shaped consumer expectations, demanding faster delivery. While expediting shipping services typically leads to higher rates, other factors also influence total shipping costs. 

Carriers offer diverse services based on various factors, making a one-size-fits-all approach unfeasible.

To make informed decisions about shipping, consider these key questions:

    • When is the required package delivery date?
    • Is a guaranteed delivery commitment necessary?
    • Will package tracking be a requirement?
    • If the recipient’s address a commercial or residential location?
    • Do you need signature confirmation or any additional services?
    • Are you shipping items like alcohol, specialized products, or hazardous materials?

Understanding your product’s shipping needs will provide a clearer estimate of your shipping expenses.

2) Dimension and Weight

Shipping expenses are typically determined by weight and dimensions, and different carriers have their own rules and requirements.

To ease the process of comparing rates, consider the following:

    • FedEx, USPS, and UPS charge based on dimensional weight (DIM), which is dependent on package size, not actual weight. Larger but lighter parcels cost more, while smaller but heavier parcels cost less.
    • Always provide your package’s dimensions when determining the best rate. DIM can be calculated using the formula (Length x Width x Height) / Divisor. A higher divisor results in a lower rate.

Here are the DIM formulas for UPS, FedEx, and USPS:

– UPS: LxWxH / 139

– FedEx: LxWxH / 139

– USPS (usually the most affordable): LxWxH / 166

Major carriers also offer standardized flat-rate shipping, where you pay a fixed rate regardless of weight and destination, as long as it’s domestic. For a quick reference:

    • USPS and UPS flat-rate boxes typically have a weight limit of around 70 pounds.
    • FedEx One Rate boxes have a limit of 50 lbs.

Additionally, cubic pricing is available. This method means that small, heavy parcels won’t be charged the same as larger parcels of equal weight. The USPS provides cubic pricing options for Priority Mail shipments. To determine an eligible cubic rate for items under 20 lbs:

    • Calculate the cubic feet by using the formula (Length x Width x Height) / 1728.
    • This measurement falls into 5 categories, ranging from 0.1 to 0.5 cubic feet. To view the rates for full cubic pricing, check here.

3) Distance

The distance between the shipper’s address and the recipient’s address is a crucial factor influencing shipping costs, as carriers establish domestic rates based on zones. In the U.S., USPS, UPS, and FedEx all employ zone-based distance measurements.

When shipping internationally, consider the following:

    • Verify product shippability, as some countries prohibit certain items.
    • Account for additional costs like Value Added Tax, duties, tariffs, and customs declarations.
    • Adjust your shipping policy and pricing to accommodate the higher expenses associated with international shipping.

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Small Business Shipping Tips: Managing Shipping Volume

To secure better shipping rates, focus on building a high-volume, loyal customer base. Establish a relationship with your carrier account manager for potential shipping discounts.

Use multiple carriers to tailor services and rates to your business needs, and consider shipping software for easy rate comparison.

To reduce additional shipping costs, factor in packaging expenses, and explore third-party insurance providers like Shipsurance, which offer competitive rates starting at $0.55 per $100 with no minimum cost.

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Small Business Shipping Tips: Managing Returns

Returns are a natural part of e-commerce, and how you handle them can define your success. Most customers scrutinize your returns policy before making a purchase, as online buying carries more risk. 

A customer-focused returns policy can alleviate this risk, encouraging repeat business. For ShipStation users who offered access to ShipStation’s Branded Returns Portal to their customers, there was a 16% increase in average order volume (AOV) and a 29% higher likelihood of repeat shopping.

For international merchants, handling international returns may be costlier and more time-consuming. Clearly communicate your returns policy, and for items of lower value, consider offering refunds or replacements without requiring the return of the item.

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Small Business Shipping Tips: How much should you charge?

When it comes to determining what to charge your customers for shipping, you can consider different approaches for various scenarios:

1) Free Shipping

Offering free shipping, even with slightly longer delivery times, can prompt customers to choose more cost-effective shipping options. Setting a minimum order value for free shipping, like “Free shipping for orders over $75,” can boost sales and average order size. 

For lightweight parcels under 16 ounces, USPS First Class Mail offers competitive rates, while USPS Priority Mail is often the best choice for parcels up to 10 lbs.

2) Flat Rate Shipping 

If free shipping isn’t feasible, flat-rate shipping is a practical alternative. By analyzing your typical shipping costs and parcel sizes, you can establish fixed rates for different service levels. 

This approach works well when your parcels are generally consistent in size and shipping cost, especially if you can leverage services like USPS Priority Flat Rate.

3) Real-Time Rates 

Real-time shipping quotes are ideal for oversized items, specialized products, and B2B businesses. Setting up real-time shipping quotes through platforms like BigCommerce minimizes the risk of overcharging or undercharging customers, fostering trust.

Now, let’s take a look at the apps that can help you with shipping!

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3 Shipping Apps for Small Business

1) ShipBob

small business shipping tips

Rating: 4.1/5

Pricing: Install for free, may have additional charges

ShipBob is your trusted partner in the world of direct-to-consumer (DTC) and B2B brands. With a network of 40+ global locations, they provide top-tier logistics solutions for all your sales channels.

Key Features

    • Same-Day Shipping: ShipBob ensures that your customers’ orders reach them on time, every time.
    • Customization Suite: Leverage the ‘Customization Suite’ to showcase your brand in a unique and memorable way.
    • Global Expansion: Get duties-paid shipping options and strategically located warehouses in 6 countries.
    • B2B/EDI Compliance: ShipBob handles B2B and EDI compliance in-house.
    • Effortless Integrations: Enjoy hassle-free Shopify integration and REST APIs for ERPs (such as Netsuite).

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2) Shippo

Rating: 4.2/5

Pricing: Install for free; $10/month

Shippo allows you to easily synchronize your Shopify orders while accessing the most competitive rates from over 40 global carriers, including UPS, USPS, and FedEx.

Key Features

    • Shopify Integration: Seamlessly sync order information with Shopify for real-time updates.
    • Branded Experience: Customize various elements, including pages, emails, and packing slips.
    • Tracking and Notifications: Keep your customers informed with tracking and notifications.
    • Automation: Access shipping rates, generate labels, import orders, batch print labels, and more.
    • Returns: Simplify the customer experience by easily generating return labels.

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3) Order Fulfillment Guru

Rating: 5/5

Pricing: Free; paid plans begin at $9.99/month

Order Fulfillment Guru provides a comprehensive solution for effortlessly handling orders from multiple vendors and warehouses.

Key Features

    • Automated Order Assignment: Utilize advanced routing rules to automatically assign orders to various locations, partners, or 3PL providers.
    • Effortless Order Splitting: Easily split and distribute orders through email, web portals, ShipStation, or even to other Shopify stores.
    • Real-Time Syncing: Seamlessly synchronize orders, products, and inventory across different Shopify stores in real time.
    • Additional Features: Benefit from prepaid shipping labels, the ability to route orders to ShipStation stores, automated invoicing, and more.

Additionally, to streamline your e-commerce workflows and provide excellent customer service, consider Saufter.

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Meet Saufter, The Only Helpdesk That Streamlines E-commerce Workflows!

Saufter is a robust helpdesk tool that combines order tracking and returns management features ensuring you’re consistently informed about your order statuses.

Key Features

    • Real-Time Order Tracking: Receive vital real-time updates on your orders, including location, delivery status, and expected delivery dates.
    • Automated Order Monitoring: Round-the-clock order monitoring that promptly notifies you of any potential delays. 
    • E-commerce Workflow Automation: Automate repetitive tasks such as handling returns/exchanges, order modifications, and address changes. 
    • Comprehensive Order History: Saufter offers a unified view of your customers’ complete order history.
    • Live Chat and Knowledge Base: Empower your customers to instantly find solutions to common queries independently.
    • Smart Reports and Insights: Access valuable insights regarding issues like spikes in refunds and order delays.


In conclusion, this comprehensive guide on small business shipping tips has provided invaluable insights into various aspects of shipping operations. 

By implementing these tips and leveraging the tools, you can streamline your shipping, improve customer satisfaction, and ultimately thrive in the competitive world of e-commerce.

Moreover, to enhance your customer support, consider Saufter. This comprehensive solution is designed to enhance your e-commerce processes with its distinctive features and robust automation. 

Furthermore, by registering today, you can instantly receive six months of complimentary credits and a 15-day free trial!



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