Sell online with storefront shopping carts for b2b, b2c.
Tips about shipping with Fedex, UPS and USPS

Save money by shipping smart

I have an e-commerce webstore. And, I’m analytical and like to write. Lucky you, because I’ve discovered many “secret” ways to lower my shipping costs, and speed the shipment for free. I’m passing on my knowledge here so you can avoid the same common errors.

Common online seller mistake #1: Shipping non-expedited packages under 13 ounces with FedEx or UPS.

Shipping with USPS First Class Mail is way cheaper. If you ship hundreds of packages per day with FedEx or UPS, you should be getting some deeply discounted rates. But then, USPS also provides a discount for shipping more than 50 packages per day, which should still lower the First Class Mail rates below the best FedEx or UPS rates for this weight class. You can see why here:

Rate* examples for a 10 ounce, 10″ x 10″ x 10″ package from USA 33141 to 90210:

$3.09 to ship by USPS First Class Mail. And if the package happens to be printed or recorded material, the USPS Media Mail rate is only $2.41!
$8.59 to ship by FedEx Home Delivery
$8.93 to ship by UPS Ground, Residential

Oh by the way, USPS First Class Mail delivery times beat FedEx and UPS by one to two days when going more than a few hundred miles. Miami to Omaha takes two days with USPS First Class Mail, three days with FedEx and UPS. For some wonderful, surprising reason, California to Miami takes two days with USPS First Class Mail, but at least four days with FedEx and UPS.

Common online retailer mistake #2: Thinking that you can’t get a tracking number with the USPS First Class Mail packages.

I guess the seller believes there is no easy way to get a tracking number, and that they must go to the post office in order to get a tracking number for USPS, and pay an extra $0.85. This is incorrect. Perhaps sellers get this idea because the USPS Click-N-Ship service does not offer online shipping for First Class Mail packages or thick envelopes.

Shoppers nowadays expect to get a tracking number after their purchase. Further, many ecommerce environments such as eBay, PayPal, Amazon, and likely your own shopping cart’s credit card processor, require you to obtain a shipment tracking number in order to get paid, protect from fraud, or defend against credit card chargebacks.

Here are three ways to get a USPS tracking number for free.

1.1. Sign up with Stamps.com. (Link is for an $80 offer, including $25 of free postage.) Stamps.com charges a monthly fee of $15.95. But for many shippers it pays for itself, especially if you are making any of the other mistakes mentioned in this blog. You can download your orders directly from eBay, Amazon, and many shopping carts.

1.2. Sign up with Endicia. (Link is for a 30 day free trial). Their monthly fee is $9.95 and up. Endicia is similar to Stamps.com, although they both have their own advantages.

1.3. Use PayPal’s free Multi-order Shipping Tool. You can use it for any shipments, whether or not for eBay. If it isn’t an eBay order, you must manually enter in the address. If it is for your eBay orders, the shipment with address will automatically appear. Unlike with Stamps.com and Endicia, the PayPal Multi-order Shipper will not import orders from any other platform besides eBay.

Common online seller mistake #3: Shipping non-expedited international packages under 4 lbs. with FedEx or UPS.

Similar to mistake #2, shipping with USPS First Class Mail International is way cheaper if the recipient does not need an expedited delivery time frame.

Rate* examples from USA 33141 to Sydney, Australia 2150 for a 3 lb, 10″ x 10″ x 10″ package:

$25.90 to ship by USPS First Class Mail International
$36.53 to ship by USPS Priority Mail International
$89.24 to ship by FedEx International Economy
$178.65, lol, to ship by UPS Worldwide Expedited

That’s a savings of at least $63.34 over FedEx and UPS!

Rate* examples from USA 33141 to Thornhill, ON Canada L4J7P7 for a 3 lb, 10″ x 10″ x 10″ package:

$13.93 to ship by USPS First Class Mail International
$23.70 to ship by USPS Priority Mail International
$17.48 to ship by FedEx International Ground
$19.20 to ship by UPS Standard

That’s a savings of at least $3.55 over FedEx and UPS!

But also, the recipient still must pay duties and taxes with FedEx and UPS, and you must complete some complex forms. With USPS, the duties and taxes are usually included, and the forms take less than one minute to complete.

* Rates updated on May 13, 2011. Today’s rates should be very similar. These are my FedEx and UPS contract rates. You should be able to get these rates or lower if you ship 50 or more packages per week. The USPS rates include the $0.19 tracking number fee, are not discounted, and would be lower if you ship more than 50 packages per day and apply with USPS.

Those are some huge savings! So, why are you still shipping those packages with FedEx and UPS?? Please comment below.

Common online seller mistake #4: Thinking you must go down to the post office to fill out the forms to ship USPS international packages.

You can use USPS’s Click-n-Ship, Stamps.com or Endicia to ship internationally. All allow you to print out the postage, then insert into a clear plastic sleeve attached to the package. Only PayPal Multiorder Shipping does not have USPS First Class Mail International shipping capabilities.

Common online seller mistake #5: Shipping with a bigger box than necessary.

FedEx, UPS and USPS all charge much more if a box is just slightly larger than certain sizes. For USPS getting under the one cubic foot size can save you 76%. Really.

Example: From zip code 33141 to 01832, a USPS Priority Mail package with a weight of one pound and dimensions of 12 x 12 x 12 inches, or less, costs $5.66 in the Commercial Plus pricing program. Increase the box size by just one inch on any side, to go above the one cubic foot amount, increase the price to $24.19!

Common online seller mistake #6: Paying for boxes and packing.

This stuff is free and everywhere, you know. Next time you are at the store, ask the nice stock-person to grab you some boxes in the size you need. Then go shopping. At the checkout, fill up your groceries with those boxes, and “tear down” and fold the remaining boxes into one of the boxes. No extra time taken. You’ve saved money. You’ve saved some trees and landfill space.

Oh you need padded envelopes? Next time you are at the Post Office, look in the trash near the PO Boxes. Not “ick”…it’s just paper in there, for goodness sake. Very often you will find padded envelopes in great condition, or not. Just tape them and they’ll work good as new.

Plus, you can note on your packing slip that you use re-used packaging, which (see above) “saved some trees and landfill space”. This will win you extra points with your shoppers. And Mother Nature.

Common online seller mistake #7: Using FedEx without SmartPost.

You can read FedEx’s explanation of SmartPost and, due to poor writing, still not see clearly why it’s better for you. Here are the reasons to use SmartPost:
5.1  Sign up for free and you get to ship FedEx Ground and FedEx Home without the $2.45 residential delivery surcharge that is applied to all FedEx Ground/Home shipments.
5.2  Pickup is free, whereas shipping FedEx will cost you extra for the daily pickup service.
5.3. You can ship to PO Boxes, whereas you can’t with FedEx.
No brainer.

Update: We no longer recommend SmartPost. Here is how SmartPost works. Create your SmartPost shipment from within FedEx’s software. Give to USPS Post Office or carrier. USPS takes a day or few to deliver to FedEx. FedEx delivers to a USPS Post Office that is close to the destination. USPS takes more time to deliver to your customer. So although SmartPost is the same price as USPS, it takes significantly longer than the USPS’s equivalent service. In other words, ship with USPS instead.

Revised 10-8-2014

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