By Emily Suess

Small business owners are always on the lookout for ways to save money and increase profits. Saving on shipping is one more way to make that possible while simultaneously passing on the benefits of lower prices and better service to customers. Follow these quick tips to get the best carrier service for the best price.

 1. Use a reliable, reputable carrier.

Note that the best carrier is not necessarily the cheapest carrier. While money will always be an important consideration, reliability and speed are additional factors that can impact your profit margin. If customers receive damaged goods or don’t receive their orders when expected, you may lose valuable time troubleshooting problems or dealing with returns. Look into the company’s delivery methods and make sure they are bonded and insured.

2. Use ground service.

If you don’t need rush service, don’t pay for air delivery. Packages being delivered within 500 miles should almost always be delivered by ground shipping services. It costs less, and in many cases the product may arrive sooner than if it were shipped via air transport. Ground service is also generally the most cost-effective solution for small businesses offering free shipping promotions to their customers.

3. Insure packages.

No, not every package needs to be insured. However, particularly valuable shipments can cost you big if they are damaged, lost, or stolen. Shipping insurance can minimize your financial loss in these situations as well as help you provide customer-friendly resolutions to delivery problems.

4. Beware of flat-rate services.

Never assume that a flat-rate promotion is the least expensive option, even if it seems like it’s the most convenient option. Take a few extra seconds to do a cost-comparison based on shipping weight. Flat-rate offers are usually the best deal when you are shipping a relatively small but heavy product. Investing in a postage machine can also save you money when shipping documents and packages, because you can add precise postage without making trips to the post office.

5. Limit overseas shipping options.

If your business covers the costs of overseas shipping, you could pay dearly. In addition to extra charges and fees, some products are more likely to be delayed when going through customs. If you’d like to offer international shipping as an option for your customers, it might be a better to choice to allow them to select that shipping option while charging them in part or in full for the price difference between domestic and international rates.

6. Automate fulfillment.

Automate every part of the order fulfillment process. This ensures that you are selling inventory you actually have on hand, and it minimizes the chances of human error. The shipping address is entered once—by the customer—and automatically used to generate packing lists and shipping labels.

Sound shipping practices are a must for business counting on the quick, reliable delivery of products. Whether you run an e-commerce store or run a shop on Etsy or Ebay, shipping fees are likely a significant ongoing expense. It’s best to routinely evaluate costs to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible.