The internet has afforded millions of customers the opportunity to shop for things without ever having to leave the house – and, conversely, it’s also provided hundreds of thousands of small businesses with a way of supplying goods and services that just wouldn’t be feasible without the technology. But if you’re going to be making a living selling goods over the internet, you won’t be able to do all of your business electronically – at some point you’re going to have to pay someone to actually transport said goods to your waiting customers.
Delivery accounts for a significant portion of just about any online business’s day-to-day running costs. Fail to keep these costs under control, and you’ll enormously inhibit your business’s profitability. But slash too much, without due care and attention, and you might end up doing more harm than good. Let’s look at some of the ways in which we might keep postal costs under control.
Cut down on packaging
While different couriers offer different pricing structures, a few rules hold true across all of them. The larger and heavier an item, the more it’ll cost to ship. After all, there’s only so much space in the rear of a delivery van or shipping crate. In order to minimise your expenditure, then, you’ll want o to eliminate unnecessary packaging. If you’re sending out thousands upon thousands of letters each week, then the extra cost of weightier paper might prove significant. By the same token, an excessively large box containing a few small items is surely wasteful. This won’t just save you on the cost of postage, but it’ll also help to reduce your spending on the packaging itself.
Guard against failed delivery
If your packages don’t arrive at their destination, then you’ll have to replace them – and cover the cost of sending out said replacement. But there are also indirect costs to this sort of problem – a company that builds a reputation for postal problems is likely to acquire a poor reputation, and this sort of reputation can be difficult to shed.
The vast majority of postal failures can be traced to a single cause – illegible or misreported addressing information. You can eliminate the former with the help of a simple label-maker. The latter can be guarded against through technological means. A postcode lookup system is a form of software that prevents mistakes when recording address information. Rather than typing out an entire address, the user can simply enter a postcode and then select the correct option from the resulting list. If the postcode isn’t entered correctly in the first place, then the mistake will be realised and rectified almost immediately. Shipping specialists like Hopewiser provide this sort of software – and it can save huge amounts of wasted time and energy for very little expenditure.
Buy in bulk
The more you buy, the greater your leverage will be when negotiating discounts, and the less you’ll spend per item. This wisdom should be familiar to just about every small business owner – and it’s wisdom that can be applied to postal costs, too.
If you’re spending enough money each year, then you’ll be able to save significantly by applying for a Royal Mail business account. You needn’t be an enormous multinational in order to qualify – and once you’re signed up you’ll be able to benefit from volume-related discounts. Generally speaking, businesses that spend more than £5,000 each year on postage will be able to qualify – which amounts to around £20 per working day. Your expenditure needn’t be spread evenly over the year, however; if you find that you’re putting down large amounts around certain peak times, like Hallowe’en or Christmas, then you’ll be able to qualify.
Royal Mail credit accounts come in two forms. There are standard accounts, where you’ll be billed at the end of each week, and credit balance accounts, where you’ll pay money into your account in advance (much like a pay-as-you-go telephone tariff). Bulk discounts will be applied to your account automatically, and be listed on your invoice – though the precise amount you save will depend on how much you’re spending. To benefit further from bulk discounts, private firms like Hopewiser provide a range of solutions worth exploring.
You might also consider investing in a franking machine, which will eliminate the cost of postage stamps. They can be easily rented – but if you’re looking to stick around for the long-term, investing in a machine of your own is surely worthwhile.