4 Ways to Reduce Shipping Costs for Small Business

Published on November 30, 2023
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Filed under Shipping Basics
Read time 19 Minutes

Finding ways to reduce shipping costs is crucial for all small businesses. There are enough expenses required to run a successful business that you shouldn’t have to worry about paying too much for shipping. You can look at cutting costs in four areas: Finding lower shipping rates, using the right shipping services, affordable packaging, and streamlining shipping workflow. If you can do these things, more cost-effective shipping will follow. Trust us! Afterall, affordable shipping is what ShipStation does best. With this guide, we’ll help you find ways to decrease spending and make shipping quicker and more efficient.

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Find Lower Shipping Rates 

The simplest way to reduce shipping costs is to make shipping labels more affordable. Don’t pay retail rates you’d find at the post office. There’s plenty of discounts out there and simple to get. Additionally, customers are increasingly cost conscious especially when it comes to delivery charges. Growing your business will require you to keep shipping costs low. But it’s easier than you may think. Instead of negotiating volume-based pricing, you can access deep savings on the services you already use! We offer shipping discounts of up to 89% for USPS, UPS, DHL Express, and many more carriers thanks to our ShipStation Carrier Services. We’ll get into how ShipStation’s shipping and fulfillment features help you reduce shipping costs later, but for now, let’s go on and talk about shipping discounts.  

USPS Shipping Discounts 

The USPS is a leading carrier for all US merchants. Everyone uses the USPS. And if you need to print shipping labels, ShipStation users can access the lowest USPS postage rates in the industry. All you have to do is sign up for a free 30-day trial account. Get instant savings such as: 

  • Up to 89% off USPS retail prices
  • Mail Express® – Save up to 17% off Post Office rates on all Priority Mail Express shipments.
  • Priority Mail® – Save up to 35% off Post Office rates on all Priority Mail shipments, depending on weight and distance.
  • First Class Package Service – Save up to 26% off Post Office rates on all First Class Parcels.
  • International Shipping – Save up to 5% on Priority Mail International shipments, up to 8% for Priority Mail Express International and up to 5% on First Class Package International Service.

*CPP rates are usually reserved for business shipping at least 50,000 units a year. Pay up to 15% lower than these CPP rates simply by signing up for ShipStation.

UPS® Shipping Discounts

UPS offers fantastic services and rates for parcels of all shapes, sizes, and delivery needs. This is made even better with ShipStation’s shipping discounts offered through UPS® from ShipStation. The rate you see at checkout is what you pay, and these UPS® discounts are incredible. 

  • Up to 78% off UPS® Ground
  • Up to 88® off UPS® International Services
  • Up to 72% off UPS 2nd Day Air®
  • and many more
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DHL Express Shipping Discounts for International Orders

DHL Express is a world leader in international logistics. With ShipStation, you can save up to 75% on shipping costs. ShipStation users can create a new DHL Express account, save on shipping, and use a single postage balance for shipping labels for DHL, UPS, USPS, and more. Having options like DHL Express at your disposal help grow your business internationally. 

Consolidation, Insurance, and Freight Shipping Discounts

There are ways to ship beyond major carriers. You can diversify your shipping strategy and account for edge cases and bulk delivery needs. Accounts are easy to set up and shipping is as simple as any other carrier. Here are some that you can use through ShipStation. 

LTL Freight Discounts through Seko LTL

ShipStation offers other great ways to save on shipping costs, too. For instance, if you want to deliver LTL freight, Seko LTL is also offered through ShipStation Carrier Services. All you need to start shipping large items or pallets across the country is in our carrier services. 

Shipping Consolidator Discounts

GlobalPost is a cost-effective way to ship your domestic and international orders. With hubs and last-mile carrier partners in 220+ countries, GlobalPost can help you grow your business with affordable shipping rates and efficient tracking and consolidation options.

GP Economy = 78% off

GP Standard = 72% off

GP Plus = 74% off

Insurance Shipping Discounts from Shipsurance

Shipsurance from ShipStation allows you to provide insurance coverage for your customers’ parcels for less money than the carriers. It even provides coverage for services that carrier coverage won’t allow! A seller who insures 10 packages per day for a value of $100 each could save $4,375 annually. Additionally, our Stamps.com USPS integration offers parcel coverage at a rate of 40% lower than you’d find from the carrier. 

Choosing the Right Shipping Services Reduce Shipping Costs

Even with the best shipping discounts, using the best service for each shipping is a must. No one—from the newest business to the biggest corporation—wants to throw money away. Sometimes, merchants feel locked into certain carriers and don’t know that they have more affordable options. For instance, you may think a parcel weighing 1.5 lbs would be most affordable with USPS Priority Mail, but UPS® Ground may be more affordable. Carrier rates change, incentives come around, and you may be stuck using the same old service. Over time, this adds up!

Not using the most optimal carrier or service for your shipments can cause slower delivery and wasted money. Additionally, using the best shipping service saves you more than just money, it can save you time too! Anyone running a business knows that the simplest math equation is  Time = Money. No company is too big or too small to optimize shipping. There are scenarios that are tried and true and others that can change based on a few criteria. 

Standard Shipping: USPS First Class Mail® vs USPS Priority Mail®

The question of when to use USPS First Class Mail® or Priority Mail® usually comes down to if the parcel weighs less than 16 ounces. Any package under a pound will usually ship most affordably with USPS First Class Mail. While First Class can take a day or two longer to reach its destination, the savings are substantial enough to make it worth it for economical or standard shipping. 

UPS® Ground vs USPS Priority Mail®

UPS® Ground and USPS Priority Mail® are two of the most important shipping services for merchants shipping parcels. They both offer detailed tracking and similar 1–4 day shipping timeframes. The old rule of thumb is: They offer competitive rates for small, light parcels. But as you move up in weight and size, UPS® takes the lead. But this is more for retail rates. With UPS® from ShipStation, you can save up to 78% on UPS® Ground. Shipping rates this low can change which shipping service you choose—especially for small, light parcels that USPS historically wins on. Comparing rates to find the cheapest way to ship is crucial for reducing shipping costs. 

Express Shipping: What to Use For Fast Shipping

For express shipping, you have a few options to choose from. With ShipStation, you can save big on both UPS® and USPS express shipping services. For instance, UPS® 2nd Day Air is available at a discount of up to 72% off. But there are other options, too. USPS Priority Mail Express offers great rates, particularly for lightweight parcels. As with other shipping services, rate shopping tools like a shipping calculator will give you the best idea of when to use a specific service as well as a better delivery timeframe. 

Affordable Overnight Shipping Options

Next-day shipping is a separate beast. These services are expensive and you have to ship them by a certain time of day in order to even have it be accepted. Depending on the delivery area, carrier or service, overnight shipping rates can accrue additional carrier surcharges. This is why it is good to use a service like UPS from ShipStation. The rate you pay at checkout is much more likely to be the final price you pay. This helps you avoid end-of-month surprises on your invoice. 

USPS Media Mail Reduces Shipping Costs For Books, Movies, and Music 

USPS Media Mail helps merchants reduce shipping costs when shipping books, movies, music, and other physical media. If you are sending qualified materials, Media Mail helps reduce shipping costs. Media Mail allows you to ship parcels weighing up to 70 lbs. anywhere in the US, so you can ship volumes of encyclopedias for cheap!

Is Flat Rate Shipping Best For Reducing Shipping Costs? 

Flat-rate packaging can be an easy way to save money on shipping. However, there are situations where standard packaging is more affordable. This is especially true if you’re shipping lightweight items. The USPS hopes you ship a sweater in a flat rate box! Flat rate services work because carriers have specially designed the packages to fit neatly into their trucks, pass through facilities, and be delivered with ease. Flat-rate boxes are most affordable when shipping heavy items (that fit in the box, of course). 

How to Reduce International Shipping Costs

International shipping is notoriously expensive. But, there are always places to trim costs. There is no tried and true option for cheapest international shipping options unless you use First Class Mail International. But, with no tracking or delivery timeframe, it’s not going to win any awards. Factors like country, size, and speed play heavily into which service will work best. That’s why it’s recommended to have access to as many carriers as possible to find the best way to ship. Having DHL Express, UPS, USPS, Global Post, and FedEx accounts will allow you to keep costs as low as possible. 

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Affordable Packaging Reduces Shipping Costs

Reduce Packaging Costs With Poly Mailers and Bubble Mailers

Poly mailers and bubble mailers are affordable packaging options that work with most parcel shipping services. Parcel delivery services consider these bags to be packages, not envelopes. But, they’re pliable, can fit into nooks in delivery vehicles, and can usually fit in mailboxes. They’re also much more affordable to buy in bulk than boxes. Just be sure that you’re not putting items too fragile or pointy into these bags. They can break easily or puncture the mailer. This can cause additional handling fees. 

How to Get Free Shipping Supplies

The best place to get free shipping supplies is from the carrier. You can usually get free shipping boxes, labels, etc. if you know where to look. Commonly offered free shipping supplies you can get from carriers include: 

  • Hazmat labels
  • Dry Ice Labels
  • Flat Rate boxes
  • Airway bills 
  • Shipping tubes 
  • Express envelopes 

ShipStation also partners with Onyx Products for shipping supplies like printers and scales.

Free Carrier-Provided Shipping Supplies

Free carrier-provided shipping supplies go far beyond flat rate packaging. You can find many free accessories, supplies, and packaging to fit many different situations.

How to get free shipping supplies from carriers
UPS Free Supplies
USPS Free Supplies
FedEx Free Supplies
DHL Express Free Supplies

Buy Cheaper Shipping Supplies

Not all shipping supplies are going to be free. If you find yourself having to supply your own shipping materials, there are always affordable options like Uline, Amazon, or even stores like Staples. But, if items are already in rigid, cardboard boxes, they could be ready to ship on their own! Keep in mind, though, that information that lets you know what contents are inside—brand name, content types, pictures—can increase the risk of items being stolen. And this, in turn, can cause shipping insurance claims to be rejected. 

Streamline Shipping and Fulfillment

Rate Shop With a Rate Comparison Tool 

One way to reduce shipping costs is to see all the different carrier rates available for any given order. ShipStation’s rate calculator lets you make sure that you are using the best service every time you print a label. Comparing shipping services allows you to protect your profit margins. Just saving a few cents on every shipment can really add up! 

Shipping Automation Shortens Fulfillment Time

Shipping and fulfillment is more than putting items in a box and slapping a label on it. Automated shipping workflows from ShipStation help you avoid manual tasks and allow you to reduce the time and money it takes to ship. Many ShipStation customers automate their workflow to the point that all they have to do is click “Create Label.”

Automatically Configure Shipments

ShipStation lets you apply specific actions to orders as soon as they import. You can configure import automations to your specific needs. There are countless configurations available for you to set up. For instance, any domestic order weighing under 1 lb needs to use USPS First Class Mail, you can configure that! So anything you find yourself repeating throughout the day can likely be automated. Taking this a step further, we can even bring this shipping service information over from your stores. 

Scan-Based Workflows Let You Ship The Right Items Every Time

It can be a major headache if you send out duplicate items or wrong items to a customer. It adds work, causes negative customer experiences, and hurts your bottom line. Luckily, there is a solution! Scan to Verify ensures that a shipping label cannot be created until you scan the UPC or SKU barcodes on every item in an order. This customizable feature verifies that ALL items in and ONLY the items in an order are accounted for when you print the label. Features like this are available at no extra cost through ShipStation. If you were to find a standalone solution like this, it can become quite expensive. It is also an extra program to have to integrate your stores or order management system to. With ShipStation, it fits right into your shipping workflow. 

Conclusion: How to Keep Shipping Costs Low

Shipping is a necessary expense of running an online business. But it doesn’t have to be difficult, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Finding ways to charge for shipping, streamline your workflow, and keep costs low will protect your profit margins and help you grow your business. ShipStation wants to help you do all of these things. You can pass shipping savings to your customers with live, in-cart shipping rates, ship more quickly automated workflows, and save big with our low shipping rates.

Written by

James Messer

James Messer is a copywriter specializing in shipping, logistics, and ecommerce.

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