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Shipping is one of the most important aspects of running an online store. Getting your products to customers quickly and reliably is key to customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention. But shipping can also be complicated, especially for those just starting in ecommerce. This guide will help you understand shipping basics so you’re ready to tackle shipping like a pro.

The first thing you need to consider is shipping costs. There’s a lot to think about here, from shipping options and methods to packaging materials and shipping zones. To keep shipping costs low, start by calculating your shipping rates before setting up your store – that way you can factor them into the prices of your products. You’ll also need to research shipping services and shipping rates from major carriers like UPS, FedEx, and USPS – then decide which one will work best for your business.

The second thing you need to think about is shipping times. Providing an accurate shipping timeline can be tricky, but it’s essential if you want happy customers who come back for more. Again, shipping services can help here – they’ll often offer delivery speed estimates that you can use as a guideline. You should also factor in your handling times and shipping cut-off times when figuring out shipping timelines.

Finally, consider shipping materials and methods. Your shipping materials will be key to ensuring customer satisfaction – you’ll need sturdy shipping boxes, packing materials like bubble wrap and foam, shipping labels, and stickers for branding. As for shipping methods, you can choose between standard shipping (typically via ground) or expedited shipping (which is faster but often more expensive).

Shipping doesn’t have to be intimidating! With a bit of research and planning, you can have a shipping strategy that works for your business. Now that you know the basics of shipping for small businesses, it’s time to get started!

**Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be substituted for professional shipping advice. Please consult with a shipping expert to determine the best shipping company and shipping methods for your business.**

Shipping Costs

Shipping costs can be a major expense for small business owners. But by doing some research and planning, you can keep those shipping costs under control. When calculating shipping rates, there are several factors to take into consideration. These include shipping options (such as ground or air shipping), shipping methods (which refer to the carriers that will deliver your parcels), shipping zones (which refer to the geographic area in which you’ll be shipping), and packaging materials.

Once you have a good idea of your shipping costs, you can then set up shipping options on your website. This includes setting up shipping cut-off times, providing accurate delivery information to customers, and offering discounts or free shipping promotions.

Shipping Times

Accurate shipping times are important for customers — they want to know when their order will arrive so they can plan accordingly. You’ll need to consider several factors when estimating shipping times, such as shipping methods, processing time, and shipping cut-off times.

The good news is that many shipping services offer delivery speed estimates that you can use as a guideline. For example, USPS standard shipping typically takes 3-5 days, while UPS 2nd Day Air shipping takes two business days. Keep in mind that these are only estimates — you should always provide customers with the most accurate shipping information available.

Shipping Services

These are an essential part of shipping for small businesses. Choosing the right shipping service is important to ensure reliable and timely delivery, while also keeping shipping costs under control.

To find the perfect shipping service, you’ll need to consider several factors. For example, you’ll want to look at shipping speed, shipping costs, shipping materials, and shipping services. Doing your research in advance to understand shipping options can save you time and money when setting up shipping for your small business.

Shipping services play a crucial role for small businesses that wish to expand their sales beyond local customers. These companies must make sure that the items being shipped are delivered in a timely and secure manner. Fortunately, there are many shipping services available that can help small businesses with shipping needs.

The most popular shipping services include USPS, UPS, and FedEx. Each of these shipping companies offers different shipping methods including ground shipping, expedited shipping, and international shipping. When choosing a shipping service, it’s important to compare their prices and services to find the best option for your business.

Additionally, some businesses may require specialized shipping depending on their products or customer needs. For instance, shipping large or fragile items may require different packaging and shipping methods that are tailored to the item’s characteristics.

Overall, shipping is an important part of an online store’s operations and can greatly impact customer satisfaction and the success of your business. By familiarizing yourself with the shipping options available to you, you can ensure that your products are shipped safely and efficiently.

Once you’ve figured out shipping costs and shipping times, it’s time to think about shipping materials. This includes shipping boxes, packing materials like bubble wrap and foam, shipping labels, and stickers for branding. You should always use high-quality shipping materials to ensure customer satisfaction — no one wants a damaged or lost package.

Best Free Shipping Software

I always recommend Pirate Ship to print shipping labels from. It’s free. There are no monthly subscription fees. They have competitive rates. You can save up to 89% off UPS and USPS shipping rates. You can integrate shipping tools from your website into their software. This way all of your orders show up in Pirate Ship ready to go.

Pirate Ship will calculate shipping costs for multiple carriers so that you can choose the best way to ship and reduce shipping costs.

Have multiple businesses? Using Pirate Ship can help you streamline shipping. It imports shipping data from multiple sources such as Shopify, Big Cartel, ebay, Etsy, Woo Commerce, and more!

Best for Large Packages: UPS

UPS shipping is great for large packages and shipping internationally. With UPS shipping, you can get shipping insurance on your products with their package coverage program. They also offer tracking services to make sure your customers know the status of their orders. Plus, you can access discounts and special pricing through their website if you’re shipping more than a few packages a month.

Best for Small Packages: USPS

The United States Postal Service is ideal for shipping small packages, especially those weighing less than 13 ounces. It offers a wide range of shipping options and has an extensive delivery network in the U.S. First Class Shipping can be purchased through Pirate Ship for packages up to 15.9 oz.

Low cost shipping on lightweight parcels with First-Class Mail service starting at $4. USPS also offers a wide range of shipping options, including flat-rate shipping, Priority Mail Express, and Priority Mail. Shipping prices may vary depending on the weight, dimensions, and destination.

Best for International Shipping: Pirate Ship Simple Export Rate

Pirate Ship Simple Export Rate (S.E.R) is the perfect shipping option for international shipping. It offers flat-rate shipping to over 40 countries around the world and includes tracking insurance and customs clearance services. Shipping costs start from just $10 per package with no additional fees or surcharges.

I have found this to be the best and most affordable way to ship packages that qualify for First Class International shipping. Keep in a mind a few things when shipping internationally.

Other countries have rules about what can be imported. Make sure that your product aligns with their import rules. Also, there may be import duties/taxes for your customer to pay. These are not your responsibility.

Some countries have issues with their postal system because of government corruption, poverty, crime, etc. You may want to exclude those countries from the list of countries that you are willing to ship to.

Your item will be going a long distance so make sure that you’ve packed it properly.

Simple Export Rate does not require you to fill out customs forms or anything like that. You will just print the label and stick it on your package.

shipping for small business

Best Shipping Label Printer for Small Businesses

My favorite printer for shipping is the Zebra thermal printer. It requires no ink and prints out 4×6″ labels. They are built for commercial use and can stand up to lots of printing. If the Zebra ever gets to the point where it prints very light labels, the print head likely needs to be replaced. This is an inexpensive part to replace.

Other brands of thermal printers work just as well, but some have to have special labels or are not as well designed. The Zebra labels also go inside the machine, unlike the Rollo, and that was very appealing to me as a mom of small, curious children.

They can be purchased new or, as I did, used on ebay.

Best Shipping Supplies for Small Businesses

The shipping supplies that you need will be based on what you are shipping. Listed below are the supplies that I keep on hand, and if they don’t work for you, it may give you some ideas and give you some suppliers to work with.

Accuteck Postage Scale

Carton Reducer

Packing Tape

Cardboard Scissors

Bubblewrap Dispenser

Anti-Fatigue Floor Mat

8 Cubit Feet Packing Peanuts

Bubble Mailers

#000 (4″ x 8″) Bubble Mailer

#0 (6″ x 10″) Bubble Mailer

#3 (8.5″ x 14.5″) Bubble Mailer

#5 (10.5″ x 16″) Bubble Mailer


Polymailer Starter Kit

9″ x 11.5″ Polymailer 

14.5″ x 18.5″ Polymailer

Bubble Wrap

3/16″ Bubble Wrap (small bubbles)

1/2″ Bubble Wrap (big bubbles)

Combo pack (1 of each- 3/16″ & 1/2″)

Shipping Boxes

6x4x4 Cardboard Box

14x10x4 Cardboard Box

shipping for small business

How to Offer Free Shipping for Your Small Business

For the sake of protecting the customer from abandoning his cart after seeing the shipping charges, a lot of companies provide free delivery. You know what it’s like when a mother tells you, free things do not exist! Both your client and I will pay the shipping charges. You’ll now be able to charge your customers based on their shipping costs and pay shipping costs at your margin. Incorporating free shipping into your pricing structure and offering free shipping for your entire product can result in a couple of losses, but it generally is a bit of an adjustment.

How to Offer Same Day Delivery for Your Small Business

A fast-moving delivery method is a great way to rival big players in the industry such as Amazon. Most major airlines offer local same-day delivery, but there are other services available to you. Uber Direct offers the company its drivers to transport products from suppliers from their stores to customer destinations. Other good choices include Roadie, a U.S. UPS Company using a crowdsourced logistic service to offer same day delivery on most items to over 90% of American households. If you own the shop make your pickup as simple as possible.

How to Offer Flat Rate Shipping for Your Small Business

Several small businesses offer flat rate shipping on every order. Flat rates eliminate surprises. Selecting flat shipping fees can be difficult. Flat rate shipping is best for businesses whose items are in the same weight and size range. You could use Flat Rate delivery for a coffee roasting operation and you can pre-determine how long shipping costs can cost.

Small Business Shipping Tips

1. Don’t forget to factor shipping costs into your pricing structure.

2. Invest in good shipping tools such as a shipping scale, packing tape, and bubble mailers or polymailers.

3. Offer free shipping for customers who meet certain criteria (e.g., spending over a certain amount).

4. Consider offering same day shipping for your customers.

5. Utilize flat rate shipping to make shipping costs easier to calculate and manage.

6. Consider offering different shipping options such as priority shipping or express shipping for certain products or orders.

7. Streamline the shipping process by integrating with a shipping service or software.

8. Consider shipping insurance to offer customers peace of mind and protect your business against loss or damage.

Frequently asked questions:

What shipping should I use for my small business?

In the USA there are three major shipping companies that small businesses typically employ:

-USPS (United States Postal Service) USPS is commonly used by businesses and governmental institutions to send parcels.

-UPS (United Parcel Service) Typically these services offer more affordable prices on larger parcels.

-FedEx (Federal Express)This service also offers more affordable prices on larger packages.

What is the cheapest way to ship for a small business?

USPS provides cheap shipping to American small businesses. The U.S. postal system may be the better choice for cheap shipping from the USA.

Should I offer free shipping for my small business?

Free shipping offers great benefits but small business owners can also use it as an effective promotional tool. The presence of free shipping banners is guaranteed on any site to attract potential buyers. Free delivery also provides great encouragement to complete online purchases.

Should I use a third party logistics provider?

A third-party logistics provider can be an effective shipping solution for small businesses. Third party logistics providers specialize in shipping services and provide you with the resources to manage your shipping needs efficiently. This can be helpful when shipping packages takes away too much time from your business. You will likely save money and save time by using an outside service.

They also guarantee that your orders will be delivered on time and within budget. Additionally, they can help to streamline processes and reduce shipping expenses by helping you find the best shipping rates.


Shipping can be a challenging task for small businesses, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right shipping strategy and options, you can create an efficient shipping process that works for your business. Consider using flat rate shipping, third party logistics providers, same-day delivery services, and free shipping to make shipping easier and more profitable for your small business. When shipping is done right, it can have a huge impact on both customer satisfaction and your bottom line.

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