Tips on Handling Dimensional Weight Rates

December 16, 2014


It seems like just yesterday I heard about the dimensional weight changes and how they’re changing rates at the end of the year for FedEx and UPS. Now, the holiday season is almost at its peak, with the majority of the shipping deadlines happening within the next few days, and it means those rate changes are almost upon us.

To recap what’s going on: UPS and FedEx, at the end of this year (12/29 for the former and 1/1 for the latter), are switching their rates to be calculated by a box’s size rather than its weight. This is how boxes larger than three cubic feet have always been calculated for FedEx, but this change marks the first time the calculation has been used for all packages for both companies.

Now here’s how it affects you: both carriers will now choose the higher (read: most costly) rate between a package’s actual and dimensional weight. To determine the billable weight for a package, you can use UPS’s tool here or FedEx’s tool here.

Making the Switch Easier

While we can’t change what the two carriers are doing, we can try to make it easier on ourselves. From taking a look at our business practices to using a few of the features of ShipStation, here are our tips for making the switch a little bit easier.

1. Reduce your boxes.

This is a two-fold step: reducing your box versions and their dimensions. If you have a lot of different-sized boxes in your inventory, it may be worth it to re-evaluate just how many you actually need. While you’re doing that, investigating new or different ways of packing your items to reduce the box size in which they ship can help to reduce your rates, as well.

2. Stop using boxes entirely.

Unfortunately this tip won’t work for everyone, but if you have the means, stop using boxes for some or all of your products. Specifically for apparel sellers, investing in some poly bags may be a good option to help reduce the amount of packaging you need as well as its size.

3. Re-visit your customers’ shipping charges.

No one likes it, but when rates go up, the money has to come from somewhere. The way I see it, you have two choices: increase your product/shipping prices, or lose some margin. Ok, three, you could do a combination of both depending on how hard these rate changes are going to hit you. By doing the two steps above, and doing some testing with the carriers’ tools above, you should have a good idea of how the rates will affect your shipping prices. Then, you can decide how you’ll handle it with your customers and your prices.

If You Use Our App…

We pride ourselves on the automation we can provide shippers, and helping you handle dimensional weights is no different. While shopping carts and marketplaces don’t usually send over dimensions (calculating an entire order’s size can become rather difficult programmatically), we have some features that can help.

1. Shipping Presets

The easiest of our features to set up to help process your orders with dimensional weights is called Shipping Presets. Basically, we can save certain pieces (or any combination thereof) of a shipping setting–service/package type, dimensions, weight, etc.–based on your criteria. So, in addition to setting how you’ll ship something out, you can also save your box sizes and apply them one-by-one or in bulk to your orders. (You can even set it to a keyboard shortcut to make it an even easier application process.)

2. Product Defaults/Types

If you sell a lot of single-item orders, this one’s for you. On each of your product records, you can specify product dimensions that we’ll use if an order contains just that product. Much like a shipping preset, you can save a lot of information using these product defaults, including weights, default service/package type, and even tags. If you have a lot of the same type of products, you can create what we call a Product Type. It’s basically the same thing as a product default, but you’re able to apply a type to multiple products.

3. Automation Rules

I saved the best for last: automation rules. These are the most flexible and automatic of the three options we have for easily applying dimensions to your orders. But they also take the most amount of prep to make sure they apply in the right order. Automation rules are hierarchical, so if you have an order that matches two rules, the latter rule will override the first. This means, you’ll have to sit down and think through the criteria of how you assign each of your orders a box size, and then build that ruleset in ShipStation. The nicest thing, though, is that you’ll only have to change the set when your business practices change, and until then all your orders will have their dimensions set automatically.

I know I’ve said it time & time again, but testing is always recommended. Going into something that can be as big of a change as these rates means you need to prepare for it. By using our tips above and your knowledge of your business, you can be in ship-shape and ready for the new year.