Almost all small businesses in the US interact with the United States Postal Service (USPS) in at least one way, whether it is something as simple as receiving business mail, to shipping out hundreds or thousands of packages, to targeting customers through a Direct Mail campaign. The U.S. Postal Service offers many products and services that support small business shipping. This article will touch on some products and services that you may not know about – there are many ways the USPS can help meet your business needs.
If your retail or ecommerce small business ships an exceptionally high volume of packages that tend to be small and heavy, you may benefit from USPS volume discounts.
USPS discontinued most of their volume discounts for high quantity shipments in 2019 except for a program called USPS Cubic Pricing, which offers shipping options and volume discounts for smaller, heavier packages. USPS Cubic Prices bases shipping rates off of the measurements of the package and the distance, versus the weight. This can confer significant savings over competitor companies. To qualify for this discount, you must ship over 50,000 packages a year with USPS. Also, packages should be less than 20 pounds, smaller than 0.5 cubic feet, and all dimensions should be fewer than 18 inches. Tracking is included, $100 of insurance is included, and most packages arrive in 1 to 3 days. If you not have a shipping volume over 50,000 parcels a year, you can use a third party shipping company such as EasyPost or Shippo that can help you secure discounted pricing, sometimes without any volume requirements. Jessica Rose, CEO of Copper H2O, an ecommerce wellness company, uses Shippo and recommends it: “For many years, we’ve been using Shippo to purchase our USPS shipping labels. Their interface was very easy to use and they provided great prices. I would highly recommend Shippo for anyone looking for a simple and efficient way to purchase multiple shipping labels.” Alex Willen of Cooper’s Dog Treats uses a company called Pirate Ship to secure Cubic Pricing for his business. Alex strongly recommends small businesses look into using a third party shipping software like Pirate Ship: “Any small business owner shipping via First Class or Priority Mail should almost certainly be using a third party shipping site to purchase and print their labels. These services give you access to the discounts that large-scale companies that ship huge numbers of products get, and there’s no downside for you. They’re also much more convenient than going to the post office.”
Make use of USPS free shipping supplies if you can.
Small businesses can utilize USPS free shipping supplies such as Priority Mail boxes and envelopes, which can provide an affordable and consistent method to package your products. You can also benefit from USPS stickers, shipping labels, forms, and more – all for free, which can help reduce your overall shipping costs. You can even order these free products in advance. If you prefer to use your own packages or boxes and still want to ship with Priority Mail, you can apply USPS Priority Mail stickers to your own packages. Jeff Neal, owner of Critter Depot, which ships live crickets and roaches across the country to reptile owners, uses the Priority Mail shipping service to mail his critters. He’s unable to use the Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes because these “boxes do not offer the ventilation the live insects need during transit. It would be great if we could use them, because they are free!” Instead, he uses Priority Mail stickers and rates on his own critter-safe packaging. On the other hand, Dennis Bell, CEO of Byblos Coffee, is able to use Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes for his business with success: “I’ve found the free shipping supplies from USPS to be a great deal. I get to shop different boxes for the packages I need to ship out. The flat rate is very convenient as I don’t have to worry about the additional fees, as long as the items fit in the package.”
If you’re shipping media items, definitely use Media Mail to save money!
If you are shipping books, music, select printed educational materials, or films, your small business may benefit greatly from the lower cost Media Mail option which offers cost-effective rates for these specific items. Keep in mind that Media Mail has longer delivery times, usually 2 to 8 business days. Also don’t lie – USPS will inspect your shipments to make sure they qualify for Media Mail! Mike Arman of Arman Publishing, which publishes technical manuals, ships 99.5% of his business’ products through Media Mail, spending about $1,600 per year with USPS. He ships mostly to individuals, so he likes that there is no “residential surcharge” for his shipments, commonly tacked on by other shipping carriers such as FedEx.
USPS helps small businesses market services and products to consumers through their Direct Mail offering.
One of the most valuable products offered by USPS is their Direct Mail offering which can send mail like advertisements or coupons directly to target customers, based on geographies you select. You do not need to know these customers’ names or addresses. This can help you reach and attract new customers for your business. It can also save you time preparing mailers and shipments. You can select routes based on a geography or a desired list of criteria (such as age or income) that you hope to target. Direct mail is typically used and valued by certain types of local businesses such as retail stores and restaurants. Political campaigns also sometimes use Direct Mail to reach a voting base. USPS Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) postage rates are excellent and can be as low as $0.164 per piece. USPS also offers the ability to customize Direct Mail with variations in thickness and tracking features. You can also include postage paid envelopes in your Direct Mail, so that it’s easy for your customers to respond. Zach Hendrix, Co-Founder of GreenPal, a lawn care company, sends out 300,000 mailpieces via Direct Mail a year to homeowners soliciting orders of lawn care products online. One pro tip that Zach shared is to send Direct Mail customers to a unique internet URL, allowing you to isolate and measure the impact of your Direct Mail campaign. Zach explained, “This maneuver makes it insanely easy to measure the traffic that comes through this unique domain, conversions and customer acquisition costs that we are achieving through or direct mail channels.”
USPS offers a variety of other shipping solutions that support small businesses.
USPS helps small businesses maintain mail receiving and business address services with Post Office boxes (PO boxes). You can also take advantage of business mail consolidation and forwarding, insurance and certified mail receipts, click-n-ship options to print shipping labels in-house, and more. Be sure to consider USPS broad suite of products and services for your small business’ shipping needs.