Best Shipping for Small Business: What Are the Options?

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Shipping is one of the most important investments you can make.

No matter the size of your business, shipping products is important – but for small business owners, finding a shipping provider that offers a great service without breaking the bank can be hard. 

That’s why we’ve put together this article showcasing the best shipping for small businesses and everything you need to consider when choosing a shipping provider. 

Shipping: What To Consider

When deciding on the best shipping option for your small business, there are certain things it’s important to consider in order to ensure you select the right one. 

1. Cost

Of course one of the biggest things to consider when choosing how to ship your products is the cost and how that aligns with your own budget. 

There are a lot of elements that will impact the cost of your shipping, such as how much you want to ship, where you want to ship to, and how quickly you want your packages to reach your customers. 

Make sure to calculate shipping costs for your online store before committing to anything – and remember it’s OK to shop around and compare the prices of different shipping companies for your personal requirements in order to find the best value. 

2. Location 

Both your location and the location of your customers are key factors in choosing a shipping provider. You’ll need to first ensure that your chosen provider can either collect the items from you, or you can drop them off at a nearby shipping point. 

You also need to consider where your main customer base is located. Not only do you need to ensure that your provider operates and ships to that location, but you’ll also need to check how much and how long it will take to ship to those areas. 

Sephora shipping page
Sephora features detailed information on its website regarding shipping locations.

3. Product Size 

The size of your products plays a big part in choosing the right shipping provider. Some shipping providers have size limits for packages that they deliver and you may find you have to pay additional fees for larger items. 

Advice from the Experts

Top tip! Check out our guide to measuring a box for shipping to find out how to measure your packages and ensure you’re paying the right shipping rate. 

You also need to think about how the shipping provider delivers goods. If you’re using a local or cross-country service that uses vehicles, you need to consider whether or not your items will be too large for the delivery van. While this is unlikely, if you sell particularly large items like furniture it’s an important consideration to make. 

4. Delivery Times

What sort of delivery times do you want to offer your customers? Do you want to offer next-day or nominated-day delivery? If so, you’ll need to make sure your shipping provider can fulfill this. 

Remember, how long it takes to deliver your customers’ orders will be a reflection on you, not your shipping provider. It’s you that your customers will complain to and you who wants to be sure of providing a good experience. 

Shipping review for online store
Your delivery times can have a big impact on the reviews customers leave your business.

Advice from the Experts

Top Tip: Always be transparent and upfront about expected delivery times. People will understand if a small business can’t offer same-day or overnight shipping like Amazon does – but you need to communicate clearly to avoid impatient or concerned customers chasing their orders. 

5. Insurance Requirements

It’s a good idea to insure your packages just in case something goes wrong in transit. While many of the main shipping providers offer insurance, this can be expensive, especially for small businesses. Instead, you can shop around and find a third-party provider who can insure your packages and cover you for common incidents such as lost or damaged parcels. 

Transit insurance is often recommended if you’re shipping high-value items – you can learn more about the different types of ecommerce business insurance in our full guide. 

6. Item Type 

The type of item you’re shipping should also be taken into consideration when you pick your courier. 

For example, if your items are fragile and breakable you’ll need to take extra precautions such as adding increased padding to the box. It’s also a good idea to mark your box as fragile so that your shipping provider knows to handle it with care.

If you’re shipping perishable items such as food there are extra steps you’ll need to take such as ensuring the items are kept fresh with gel coolants or using a courier who can guarantee quick, temperature-controlled delivery. 

Discover more handy Ecommerce Packaging tips in our beginner’s guide. 

7. Order Volume 

You’ll also need to consider how much you are likely to be shipping. While you may not have the order rates of the likes of Amazon, it’s still important to think about how many orders you are likely to ship each month. 

If you’re expecting just a handful of orders as you get started, you may decide to do it yourself and order packaging supplies before heading to the post office to send your orders. 

For businesses that are predicting a high volume of orders, on the other hand, a fulfillment center may be a worthwhile consideration. 

Best Shipping Options for Small Businesses

So what is the best shipping for small businesses? Let’s take a look at some of the most popular shipping providers to help you work out which is the right one for you.

USPS

The good old United States Postal Service – aka USPS.

It should come as no surprise that USPS offers great shipping options for small businesses. 

As a small business, you can access the Priority Mail Starter Kit that allows you to set up a business PO Box, while its Click-N-Ship program is perfect for brands with a small order volume since you can purchase and print shipping labels online. 

USPS offers a shipping certificate for almost all deliveries, allowing you to easily keep track of your orders and avoid errors or lost parcels. It also provides home pickups if you want to avoid making multiple trips to the post office. 

USPS transit times can be a little longer than its competitors and international shipping can get pricey, so it’s important to bear this in mind if you want to sell products internationally and offer shipping to other countries. 

UPS

UPS is one of the most popular business shipping providers and for good reason. 

It offers international shipping as well as excellent order tracking software, crucial if you want to be able to answer customer queries about the status of their order.

UPS offers great small business assistance via brainstorming sessions for small business owners to help you determine the best ways to streamline and optimize your shipping. 

You’ll have access to an interactive dashboard allowing you to check the status of your shipments and delivery times range from 1-5 days depending on the option you select. 

If you ship with UPS there will be added fees for aspects such as international or weekend delivery. 

Unlike other suppliers, UPS doesn’t offer a free pickup service either. 

FedEx

FedEx offers a dedicated small business program, FedEx Small Business, that’s specially tailored to small businesses. 

The program provides multiple benefits such as discounts on some shipping fees and a help hub that helps you to determine your package dimensions before shipping. 

One of FedEx’s biggest selling points is its temperature-controlled shipping, perfect for businesses shipping perishables such as food that are worried about how well the goods will travel. 

FedEx ships to more than 220 countries and is one of the most convenient shipping providers thanks to the 40,000 drop boxes it has worldwide. 

It’s easy to generate international shipping quotes online and the FedEx customer service is some of the best in the industry. If you open a new FedEx account you can also benefit from up to 60% off flat-rate shipping rates for small parcels. 

FedEx does however charge for pickups so if you would rather have your orders collected, these fees can quickly add up. 

DHL

DHL is equipped to work with almost every industry, including sensitive ones such as chemicals and pharmaceuticals. 

DHL ships to over 220 countries and manages 84,000 service points worldwide. It’s a particularly great option for international shipping with a global freight system covering road, rail, air, and sea. 

If you’re worried about the impact your shipping has on the environment then DHL also offers green logistics helping to decrease your digital footprint. 

DHL has also partnered with the US Chamber of Commerce to provide small businesses with an array of educational resources that help with the setup and fulfillment of your online store orders. 

The downside to DHL, however, is the various fees that can be added to your shipments. You may risk paying for everything from the security of your items to excess weight.

Despite its strong international presence, DHL actually has the smallest US presence of the couriers featured in this list which is worth noting if you’re planning to focus on a domestic audience. 

Shipping for Small Business: Summary

Choosing the right shipping option for your small business is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. 

Whether you opt for a courier who collects the products from you, a drop-off point, or to package and post the items yourself, you’ll need to consider everything from the size of the items you want to ship to the location you need to ship them to. 

Although choosing a shipping supplier may not be the most exciting task, taking the time to find one that’s right for you will set up your small business with the best chance of success.

Now that you’re an expert on choosing the best shipping for small businesses, head to our guide to setting your ecommerce shipping strategy up for success. 

Frequently Asked Questions

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a shipping supplier for your small business but the main things to take into account are:
  • Cost
  • Location
  • Product Size
  • Delivery Times
  • Insurance Requirements
  • Item Type
  • Order Volume 

Yes of course! Just because you choose a certain supplier when you first start, doesn’t mean you can’t switch to a new one later on. Just remember to ensure you alter your shipping details so that customers know any new shipping terms such as delivery timeframes and costs. 
While free shipping is a great way to add value for your customers, it is not a necessity. If you can’t factor it into your budget, focus instead on offering the fastest and most reliable shipping options you can afford. 
Written by:
Black and white headshot of Lucy Nixon smiling at the camera
I’ve been a content writer for Website Builder Expert since 2021. Through almost a decade in the digital marketing industry, I’ve built up knowledge on everything from growing ecommerce businesses to building websites. I love breaking down tricky topics into digestible and engaging content for readers. Breaking down the jargon and uncovering the best platforms, tools, and strategies, I’m a meticulous researcher who’s committed to providing our readers with tips and advice that’s tried and tested.

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