chapter 5

When it comes to shipping your packages, you need to decide which shipping courier or couriers to partner with. Remember, the received package is the first physical touchpoint your customer will have with your brand. When choosing a shipping carrier, you’re choosing a business partner, you want the best representative of your brand.

Shipping Labels from Your Shopify Admin

Like many business owners, you probably spend hours of your busy work week in line at the post office, waiting to do one of the most important things you’ll do all day – ship your orders.

That’s why shipping within your Shopify Admin is more important than ever.

Here’s How it Works

When you’re ready to ship an order, click “Buy shipping label” from the fulfillment screen. Then, choose your box size and shipping method (first class, priority, or priority express). We’ll calculate the shipping cost for you based on your box size, product weight, and shipping method.

Some Major Benefits

One of the most important things to any entrepreneur or business owner is time. With this added functionality to your Shopify Admin, you’ll save plenty of time to focus on growing your business.

You’ll save time

  1. No separate shipping account is required. Anyone in the US can print USPS shipping labels from within Shopify.

  2. You can begin purchasing labels instantly. No need to pre-pay or fill your meter before buying postage. You’ll simply be billed on your next Shopify invoice.

  3. You can skip the line at the post office by purchasing and printing labels at your convenience, when you want, wherever you want.

You'll save money

On Shopify Basic plan, you’ll pay standard shipping rates. However, on the Professional Plan, you’ll get a discounted rate – and on Unlimited or Plus Plans, you get a heavily discounted rate.

Rates depend on the dimensions, originating point, and destination – you’ll generally, however, save up to 30% (or absolute dollar amounts).

You don't need any special equipment

You don’t need any special equipment to print your own shipping labels, just a regular printer and some clear packing tape will do. But, if you ship dozens of packages at a time, or you’re tired of fumbling with printer paper and rolls of tape, you'll want to buy some supplies.

Visit the Shopify hardware store to stock up on everything you’ll need for a do-it-yourself shipping station.

Ready to ship? Simply stick the label on your package and drop it off at any USPS office. Because your package is ready to ship, you’ll be able to skip the line. Or, if you have at least one priority package, you can schedule a free home or office pickup.

Note: Want more details on shipping within your Shopify Admin? Be sure to checkout our dedicated documentation for a more in-depth look into shipping.

Shipping Outside of Shopify

There are many different carriers, small and large, public and private that are up for consideration. For the purpose of this guide, we’ve provided information and resources as it relates to several of the biggest carriers.

  • USPS

  • Canada Post

  • UK Royal Mail

  • Australia Post

  • FedEx

  • UPS

  • DHL

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all for choosing a shipping partner for your business. Each carrier has their strengths and weaknesses. You’ll need do your own research with each carrier to determine what would be best for your business. The following sections will better help you understand the factors you’ll need to consider when evaluating the various shipping carriers.

Calculating Shipping Rates

Shipping couriers base their rates on a variety of factors. Everything from weight and size, departing and destination country, as well as extras like insurance and tracking.

All shipping couriers base shipping rates on a variety of factors including, but not limited to:

  • Package Size

  • Package Weight

  • Departing Country/City

  • Destination Country/City

  • Tracking Options

  • Insurance Options

  • Volume of Orders

  • Negotiated Discounts

It can be difficult to compare services exactly as they all offer slightly different options and every business will have their own unique variables.

Below is a list of shipping calculators for some of the most popular shipping couriers so you can easily find the most cost effective option for your business needs.

Note: It’s important to experiment with these calculators for different box sizes to see the effect on shipping costs. This can help you choose the right size packaging to save on shipping costs.  

Shipping Add-On Services

There are a variety of add-on services available that can either add value for you (the merchant) or your customer. For the purpose of this section, we’re going to talk about the two most common and important ones, insurance and tracking for your shipments.

Package Insurance

Depending on what you’re selling and its value, shipping insurance can offer a great deal of security to you.

Shipping insurance is a service which may reimburse you when parcels are lost, stolen, or damaged in transit.

Shipping insurance is sold by postal services, courier companies, and 3rd party shipping-insurance companies like My Shipping Insurance or Shipsurance. Not all insurers will insure all goods so you’ll want to check with your carrier of choice or a 3rd party insurer to make sure your products are eligible.

You may want to consider only purchasing insurance on high-value items and shipments so that in the rare cases when a package does go missing, you'll be covered. Keep in mind that some shipping services have insurance already built into the shipping price depending on which service you use, so consider this when you are comparing various courier services and prices.

Package Tracking

Being able to track packages is beneficial so you can confirm delivery should there be any issues, however, it’s particularly valuable to customers as it allows them to see where their merchandise currently is and help them predict delivery.

It’s also important to note that with some carriers, payment providers (PayPal) and 3rd party insurance providers, tracking is the only way to prove you shipped a product to the customer and is often required to receive insurance compensation in the event a package goes missing.

If you’re shipping locally or domestically, especially within more reliable countries for postal service like Canada, UK, USA, and Australia, tracking is not necessarily needed and becomes a large expense for the little gained from it.

Just like package insurance, your other option is to only provide tracking on higher value shipments, or ones that you deem to be high risk of either postal loss, or customers making the claim their package never arrived.

Shipping Add-On Services Conclusion

You’ll quickly get a sense of what works best as you actually begin shipping packages and taking note of what percentage of packages go missing. If your products are lower value, or your loss rate is minimal, it may not be worth it to pay for tracking on every package.

Vice-versa, if the majority of your orders are high-value, you may want to consider a 3rd party insurance provide that can provide blanket rates on all your shipments.

Setting Up Business Shipping Accounts

Once you have decided on the carriers you want to use, consider setting up business accounts. Business accounts offer a variety of services including discounts, better expense tracking and a whole host of online tools to more efficiently manage the shipping aspects of your business. For USPS and Canada Post services, sign up through Shopify Shipping for preferred rates and discounts.

Here’s a list of some of the most popular shipping carriers with direct links to get set up with a business account:

  • USPS Business Gateway - Set up an account through Shopify Shipping (where you receive pre-negotiated USPS discount) and get access to the full suite of business tools they offer that can help with label and postage printing, shipment tracking and more.

  • Canada Post Solutions for Small Business - This account with Canada Post can help you save 5% on shipping and packaging products as well as upgraded services on parcel shipping. You can sign up through Shopify Shipping.

  • UK Royal Mail Online Business Account - An online business account with Royal Mail will help you save time by managing all your shipping expense and invoices all in one place.

  • Australia Post Business Credit Account - A Business Credit Account with Australia Post will allow you to charge many of the common services directly to your account for better management of your expenses.

  • FedEx Business Center - Sign up with FedEx Business Center and manage all your shipment information online in one convenient place.

  • UPS Business Solutions - Get a 20% small business discount and manage all your shipments, package tracking, billing schedules and package pick up schedules.

  • DHL Business Account - Open an account with DHL to save up to 30% on shipping and personalized customer service.

Note: Some carriers may require a minimum number of shipped packages per day/week or month. Make sure you check with your selected carriers to find out if they have any minimums.

Bonus: Free Shipping Supplies. Many carriers will offer a selection of free packaging products when you use them. Here are links to free packaging supplies from some of the biggest carriers: USPS, UK Royal Mail, FedEx, UPS.

Shipping Profitably

One of the best and least talked about secrets to being successful at ecommerce is to figure out how to ship profitably. Because shipping represents a significant expense for ecommerce merchants, if you don’t do your research, you could end up losing money on shipping and this can significantly affect overall profitability.

Before you finalize your pricing and strategy for your ecommerce store you should use a chart, like the one below to map out all your costs associated with getting your products into your customers hands.

1. Determine Packaging Costs

Use the template below to help calculate your total packaging costs.

2. Determine All Other Shipping Costs

Use your total price from the previous chart for your packaging costs in the next shipping costs template:

3. Tweak Your Shipping Packaging & Shipping Strategy

Now that you have an idea of costs for a sample package. Pay close attention to the highest costs and look at where sacrifices can be made to reduce costs if necessary.

Customs & Duties

If you're shipping outside of your own country, you’ll need to include the proper customs documentation. These are available online or at your local post/shipping office. These forms tell the customs officers at the country of import what is in the package, how much it costs and whether it was a gift or a purchase. Based on this information, your customer may or may not be charged applicable duties and taxes.

Check with your country's postal service or courier of choice to find out exactly what forms you’ll need to attach to your package. These forms should be completed honestly and clearly to prevent your package from getting held up in customs.

Getting Stuck In Customs

In general, international shipments aren’t a problem, however packages can get stuck in customs sometimes for days, and sometimes longer. Make sure your customers are aware that you don’t have control over customs delays and consider accounting for delays in your copy and conversations with international customers.

How Much is Customs & Duties?

Fees for customs & duties can be extremely complicated. Like all things in the shipping and logistics world, it will depend on a wide variety of factors including, but not limited to:

  • Country of export

  • Country of import

  • Product classification

  • Product material origin

  • Manufacturing country

  • Value of shipment

To get an idea of what fees your international customers may incur, check out this duty calculator.

Communicating Customs & Duties To Customers

Your customer will be responsible for any additional fees that are charged by customs. They usually will have to pay any additional fees at the time of delivery. It’s always a good idea to make sure to include this information in your policy page so customers aren’t hit with unexpected fees.

Here's an example of how one store prominently displays information regarding additional charges on their shipping policy page to ensure customers are aware of possible charges:

Additional Customs & Duties Declaration Information

For more information on customs declaration and the required forms and policies, please see the resources below:

Customs & Duties Conclusion

Customs and duties can be complicated for both you the merchant, as well as your customers. Understanding some of the potential taxes and duties involved in the countries you ship to and clearly articulating it to your customers can help your business run smoothly and prevent unpleasant surprises for your customers.

In the next chapter, we’re going to show you how you can use outside help to scale your shipping operation, while lowering your costs as your business grows.

Next chapter

6. Scaling Your Shipping Strategy

2 min

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