Editor's Note: This guest post is written by Shayna Burns for Pitney Bowes, a leading supplier of mail meters, online postage tools, and mailing equipment.
There are a number of ways small businesses can overpay for postage throughout the year. If the holidays bring in more sales for your business, now is the time to become a more cost-efficient mailer. Follow the holiday packaging and shipping tips below to save time and money.
- Package orders now and use the most affordable mail class
Quickly processing orders and mailing packages not only makes for happier customers, but it also gives you a wider range of shipping options - including the most economical USPS ground service, Parcel Post® for nonpersonal items such as merchandise. Keep an eye on for 2011 holiday shipping deadlines, stock up on shipping supplies and set aside time each day to package orders.
- Don't estimate postage costs; weigh your mail
Guessing how much postage is required for your shipments could result in using too many stamps and thus overpaying or, perhaps worse yet, not applying enough postage and risking delivery days. Instead, invest in a postal scale or rent a postage meter with a built-in scale to weigh your mail and packages to print exact postage.
- Use Priority Mail® Flat-Rate packaging for heavy parcels
Shipping heavy parcels to far away destinations? Consider using Flat-Rate packaging and paying a low shipping rate regardless of actual parcel weight or destination. As the USPS website says, "If it fits, it ships!" Flat-Rate packaging and supplies, including envelopes, boxes and mail stickers, can be ordered for free from the USPS website.
- Avoid delays with address verification
Before you print shipping labels, be sure to verify delivery addresses so your mail isn't returned or delivery delayed. You can verify addresses online or use a PC postage tool.
- Avoid delays by securing your packages
Consider how weather might impact delivery and take steps to properly seal your packages. Tape the opening of your box and reinforce all seams with 2-inch-wide tape. You can use clear or brown packaging tape, reinforced packing tape or paper tape but not use cord, string, twine, masking or cellophane tape. Place a strip of clear packaging tape over your label to prevent the address from smearing.
- Avoid paying for unnecessary USPS Extra Services
Mailers often use USPS Certified Mail to show proof of mailing. But if you only need proof of mailing and not a record of delivery, then there is a more cost-effective option: Certificate of Mailing. This service is less than half the price of Certified Mail and is available for First-Class Mail, Priority Mail, Parcel Post and Media Mail.
- Let the Post Office come to you
Instead of driving to the Post Office to mail your parcels, you can schedule free carrier pickup online. Your postal carrier will pick up your packages when they deliver your mail. For a nominal fee, you can schedule a specific pickup time that better meets your needs.
- Keep customers informed
The holidays are a busy time for mailers, but they're also a time to convert new customers into repeat buyers with some good, old-fashioned customer service. Keep an open line of communication with your customers, and be sure to notify them when their orders have been processed and shipped. If possible, provide a tracking code, so they can monitor the status of their shipment online. Many PC Postage solutions have e-mail notification features that make communication a breeze.
- Offer free shipping and other discounts to increase sales
Don't forget to leverage your merchant power and offer free shipping and other incentives to drive more sales. One online cookie store tested different offers and found their most successful incentive to be a next-day shipping offer, which increased sales by 41%.