The next topic in our business series is on how to ship products. We are going to be going over this process in depth so we have set it up as a five part blog series. Each of the blog posts are outlined below.
Click here to view our other blog posts about shipping. Click here to view our other blog posts about business related topics.
This blog post we will be talking about where to buy shipping supplies. In order to ship, you will need multiple supplies including shipping boxes, supplies, and marketing materials.
The first place to start with is what you will be shipping your items in. This will depend on what you are selling and how big your items are. The most common types of shipping packaging is cardboard boxes, rigid mailer/envelopes, and poly mailers.
If you are sending items like apparel, a box or poly mailer would work the best. If you are sending fragile items, a heavy duty box is going to be your best bet. For shipping decals, you want to keep them flat or loosely roll them so a rigid mailer or box would be the best recommendation.
Most shipping companies offer free shipping packaging materials as long as you ship with them. When utilizing these free shipping supplies, make sure you are using the correct shipping method when purchasing your postage. You can get the supplies at most locations as well as by ordering online.
Any package type that says "Flat Rate" means that the flat rate option needs to be selected. Most packaging options are for use with Priority Mail or Priority Express. These options are more expensive than the First Class Shipping options and are the best option for shipments that are 1lb or more. The Priority Mail boxes cannot be used with First Class Shipping.
Also, it is important to note that the Priority boxes that do NOT say "Flat Rate" are going to be sent by weight so the more they weigh, the more they cost. These types of boxes can be cut down and altered but any Priority Mail Boxes that say "Flat Rate" must stay in their original form and must close completely to be valid. They will ship the same rate regardless of where it is going to within the US as long as the package is under 70 lbs.
UPS.com Shipping Supplies - Here is the link to get free shipping supplies from UPS. If you are using UPS boxes, make sure when you calculate shipping that you select the same boxes you are using so that shipping calculates properly.
Fedex.com Shipping Supplies - Here is the link to get free shipping supplies from Fedex. If you are using Fedex boxes, make sure when you calculate shipping that you select the same boxes you are using so that shipping calculates properly.
The above options are a great way to get shipping supplies but the sizes and options may be limited. We will be stocking our most commonly used packaging supplies in store. If you are local to us, be sure to check out our shipping supply options.
If you need large quantities, or don't live near us, we have a variety of other resources that offer shipping supplies listed below. We primarily use Paper Mart because they are the only place we can find the specific size of box we use. We also purchase some of our shipping supplies on Amazon and eBay. Below we have included some of our favorite places to get shipping supplies and some of the options that are available from Amazon. Click on the links or photos to shop.
Once you have your packaging figured out, you will need some additional shipping supplies to ensure that your package is secured and will arrive to your customer safely. The supplies you will need will also depend on what you are selling. Here are a few ideas of things you may need.
Shipping Scale - As we talked about in our first blog post, it is important to be able to weight your items so you can calculate postage correctly. A shipping scale is perfect for this. Below is the scale we use and have been very happy with.
Shipping Labels - Once your package is ready to ship, you need to include your return information as well as the customer's address. You can hand write this information on each package but having the ability to print the label makes things more efficient and looks more professional. We have included two different shipping label options. The first one works with any printer and prints two labels to a sheet. The second option works to print thermal labels for a DYMO label printer.
Label Printer- A thermal label printer is a game changer, especially when you are shipping multiple packages a day. They have more of an upfront cost but once you get them, you never have to buy ink again. When you compare how much you will save in ink costs, a thermal printer will easily pay for itself in a few months. We have and use the DYMO label makers but we have heard good things about Rollo and Zebra as well.
Protective Packaging - To ensure that the item doesn't get damaged in transit, it is best to use packaging supplies to secure your items. This can be achieved in a variety of ways including packing peanuts, bubble wrap, crinkle paper, kraft paper, shrink wrap, cellophane, and tissue paper.
In addition to protecting the items in the box, you need to make sure the box is secure and the contents won't fall out in transit. Clear packaging tape is the best option for this. Even with boxes that latch, we still add packaging tape over the seam just to make sure it stays sealed.
One of the most important parts of packaging and shipping your items is marketing materials. This step doesn't need to be elaborate, but it is your opportunity to connect with the customer and leave a lasting impression. There is a wide variety of ways you can go about doing this.
Some people include a free gift or sample. This is nice, but don't feel like you are obligated to include extras like this, especially when you are first starting out. Some small ideas for gifts are candy, a small sample of your product, stickers, and add on accessories that compliment your products.
Some other marketing options are to include a business card, invoice or packing slip, thank you note, flyer, postcard, and using packaging stickers or labels. Again, these options don't have to be extravagant but having professional materials goes a long way.
If you sell physical goods that need care or instructions to use, care instruction cards are a great thing to include. Explaining how to install a decal will be helpful to your customer, especially if this is their first decal purchase. If you sell drinkware or apparel, it is important to make sure customers know the proper way to wash and care for their items.
Business cards, fliers, and postcards are a great way to include your contact information, social media links, and more so that customers are able to reach out to you with questions or when they are ready to order again. It is also a great way to showcase your other product options or to provide a discount code for their next purchase.
Some of our favorite places to purchase marketing materials include: