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Shipping Considerations for Small Businesses

For businesses that regularly ship goods to customers, finding the right shipment method can be a challenge. This is complicated by factors like the s

For businesses that regularly ship goods to customers, finding the right shipment method can be a challenge. This is complicated by factors like the size and scale of your shipments and the destination. If you’re a small business and are new to sending goods to buyers, the considerations below can help.

Types of Shipping

Before diving into the considerations, it’s worth covering the different types of shipping and how each one could benefit you.

Ground

If your goods are staying within the country, ground shipping is a popular mode of transport. Freight is carried by large trucks or vans and is driven by a professional driver to a set of locations. While ground shipping is a convenient way to transport freight, it is not suitable for odd-shaped or bulk goods, or for transport across long distances. If ground shipping suits your needs, though, there are different types to consider:

  • Full Truckload Shipping: full truckload shipping utilizes an entire vehicle (or a fleet of vehicles) to transport goods. Due to the size and scale, it is usually not suitable for smaller businesses, but the advantage is that it is often faster since an entire order can be sent in a single truck. Truckload shipping can also be temperature controlled.
  • Less Than Truckload Shipping: as the name implies, less than truckload involves sharing cargo with other parties. This method is better for businesses with smaller cargo, and it is also cheaper; however, it can take longer.
  • Flatbed Shipping: flatbed shipping involves sending goods on a truck trailer without an enclosure. This method is ideal for cargo that doesn’t require the protection of an enclosed space. It is also suitable for over-sized goods (e.g. raw building materials) or items that cannot be unloaded at a distribution point.
  • Dry Van Shipping: dry van shipping involves shipping goods in a semi-trailer truck that is enclosed to protect goods from the elements. This method is used in many industries and is designed to carry loose freight or goods that are boxed or palletized. However, dry vans aren’t typically temperature controlled, so this needs to be taken into account if your freight needs to stay cool.

Air

If speed is essential, air is a popular shipping method. Most goods are sent on special freight planes that deliver your items to almost any large city in the world. While there are often daily cargo flights, times vary depending on the destination and carrier. Decent freight companies should be able to arrange additional freight delivery to and from the airport. 

Ocean

If speed isn’t an issue and you’re sending goods across the globe, sea freight is another option. Not only is it the most cost-effective method, but it can also accommodate goods of all shapes, sizes, and weights. The only downside is that it takes longer to send.

Rail

Another convenient way of sending freight is via rail. This method is typically faster than truck- or van shipping, so it’s worth it if you’re working with a tight timeframe. Another option is to send your freight using a combination of rail and road. Most decent rail freight companies can help you arrange this.

Considerations

Along with the types of shipping methods, there are other factors to consider. While a lot of these are common sense, they’re worth reviewing, especially if you’re a solo trader or new to sending goods as a business.

Speed

One of the most important considerations for small businesses is speed. With retail giants such as Amazon setting the bar at one-day delivery, your customers expect their parcels to be delivered at a similar rate. The issue with speed, however, is that it costs more. While there are ways to offset the costs of expedited shipping, it needs to be worked out ahead of time. For retail companies, tiered shipping options allow you to offer everything from free shipping to next-day delivery.

Weight and Dimension 

Weight and dimension matter a lot when it comes to shipping. Depending on what cargo or goods you’re sending, you’ll need to weigh up costs with additional shipping materials such as box packaging, air-fill cushions, etc. If your business regularly sends goods, you’ll want to find the most efficient and cost-effective way to send freight without hurting your budget. 

Destination

This is an obvious point, but the further your goods travel, the more they will cost. These prices are determined by global and regional zones, so you’ll want to check these rates ahead of time. Reputable shipping companies can help you find the cheapest and most effective way to send your goods. It’s also worth remembering that delivery to commercial properties usually costs more than delivery to a private residence. If you ship often, it’s also worth using services that have a lot of pick-up locations.

Volume

Another element to consider is volume. For example, how often are you sending goods? If it’s a regular occurence, you may be eligible for a discount (although this normally applies to larger businesses). However, it’s worth asking around and finding out how to qualify for discounts as your business grows.

Fragile Items

Fragile items are another key consideration. Depending on the item (and the number of them), you’ll have to work out how to properly wrap fragile items so that they do not break. You certainly don’t want an unhappy customer who has received their item in pieces. If you’re new to shipping, research the best ways to protect your goods and wrap them securely in cushioning materials. You’ll also want to label the box as fragile. 

Claims and Insurance

You need to be mindful of freight claims since you’re delivering goods via a third-party service. These allow you to claim financial reimbursement should your goods get damaged in transit. Before you send anything, become familiar with the claims process of your shipping company so that you know rights you have.

When it comes to insurance, most services allow you to buy this for individual shipments. The type of insurance depends on the value of the items, the destination, and the shipping method. The most common type is carrier liability insurance, which covers goods up to $100. You can also take out insurance from a third-party company such as ShipWorks, Parcel Insurance Plan (PIP), and Shipsurance.