Ten years ago you would have been hard-pressed to find companies offering free shipping. Today, however, free and low-cost shipping are the norm, and the marketplace has come to expect it.
That’s great for customers, but can be difficult for online retailers. Someone has to pay for the actual shipping costs, and you can’t always find a way to include it in the price of an item and still be competitive with other retailers.
So many online retailers have to bite the bullet and take the hit to their profit margins. We’d like to make that hit a bit smaller, by sharing with you the many shipping carrier discounts available to you.
Every major carrier offers discounts. Sometimes you can also “stack” or add the discounts together; check with each carrier to see which ones are eligible for stacking. While the discounts change from time to time, here are the current discounts we’ve found:
eCommerce and Small Business Discount Programs
Most carriers want businesses to feel special, even if they’re not high volume users. So they’ll give discounts for businesses that consumers aren’t eligible for. Here are programs from each major carrier:
Getting a USPS PC Postage account will let you print First Class postage from your printer, offers a rate calculator to determine the least expensive USPS option for your shipment, and offers significant discounts on almost every service that the United States Postal Service offers.
If you’re signed up with ShipStation, you can get one of these PC Postage accounts as a part of your subscription. You’ll be able to receive both Commercial Base Pricing and Commercial Plus Pricing on shipments, including First Class, Priority, and Priority Express Mail. More specifically, the discounts include:
- Up to 49% off Priority Mail, and up to 56% off Priority Mail Express
- Up to 22% off First Class Package Service
- Up to 18% off First Class Package International Service
- Up to 18% off Priority Mail International, and up to 20% off Priority Mail Express International
- Up to 40% off USPS Package Insurance Rates
UPS Connect offers one free year of UPS Smart Pickup, a 10% discount on ground shipments, and a 20% discount on air and international shipments.
For smaller numbers of shipments, FedEx offers the Save Now Program. Retailers will be able to save up to 16 percent off the list price on express services, 8 percent on ground and home delivery services, and 60 percent on freight services.
Businesses that ship frequently may choose the More Savings Program. During a nine-week introductory period, customers receive 22 percent off the list price on express services, and 9 percent off ground and home delivery services specified in the program agreement. When the introductory period ends, customers can receive up to 32 percent off on express services and up to 11 percent on ground and home delivery services.
If you’re a member of a trade organization, you may be able to get deep discounts from shipping carriers. While carriers don’t supply a list of organizations that provide discounts, you can check with your trade organization or with the shipping carrier to see if a specific organization receives a discount.
UPS offers discounts to members of many associations. You can learn more about UPS association discounts here.
The FedEx Advantage program offers discounts to members of various organizations. You can call the FedEx Advantage Hotline, at 800-345-6227, and ask if a specific organization offers a discount.
You can receive a free Stamps.com account that works if you ONLY import orders from eBay. Some of the features are limited, but it’s a good way for eBay sellers to try Stamps.com. The offer can be accessed by a special link here.
UPS offers special eBay pricing to all U.S. eBay sellers (excluding HI and AK) with a PayPal account, who are not enrolled in the UPS Savings Program for eBay PowerSellers or have a customized shipping agreement with UPS.
The discounts range from 8.5% off to 23% off standard list ground rates, depending on the volume of shipping, as well as 16-32% off next day air, and 8-25% off international shipments.
FedEx offers eBay discounts as well. Customers can save up to 37% on ground, Express and international shipments.
Using Multiple Carriers
Many online retailers choose to send shipments using multiple carriers. In this way they are able to get the best discounts based on size, weight, shipping method and geography. Shipping software can help make this process easier. ShipStation, for example, supports all major shipping carriers, and allows customers to use a variety of shipping carriers, print labels and manage orders, all in one place. You’ll also be able to retrieve real-time rates for each carrier and take advantage of the best pricing.