Shipping products is a large part of selling on Amazon. Get it wrong, and you could end up spending over the odds getting your products to buyers. This can lead to frustrated shoppers and increased outgoings – not ideal.
By optimizing the shipping process and choosing the right delivery options, you can dramatically cut costs in this area, improving your bottom line and increasing overall revenue.
The tricky part is knowing where to start. There are tons of different shipping options available, all with their own unique set of pros and cons. The best one for you will depend on the type of products you’re selling, the size and weight of them, and the delivery destination.
What Are Your Packaging Options?
One of the most common questions that crops up is about boxes for shipping. If you’ve ever wondered whether it’s cheaper to use your own box for priority mail or to use a flat rate box, you’re not alone. To help you get to the bottom of it, we’ve created a handy guide that tells you everything you need to know about shipping boxes.
The difference between the two is in the kind of postage you pay for. If you buy Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box postage, you have to use a Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box. The boxes are branded with the Priority Mail logo and design. If you don’t buy flat rate postage, you can use whatever kind of packaging you like.
It’s important to note that Priority Mail is just the name of the service class and you can use any box or packaging you choose. In the majority of cases, it actually works out cheaper to use your own packaging instead of a Flat Rate service.
The idea behind the Priority Mail Flat Rate service is that you pay just one fee regardless of the weight of your product or where it’s being shipped to. If it fits into a flat rate-branded box, you can send it.
It sounds simple, but the cost isn’t the only downside.
When you ship with a Flat Rate box, you have to use the Priority Mail Flat Rate service branding. This means you can’t use your own branding which can impact your customers’ experience in a negative way. It’s worth working out whether the minimal savings you might be able to make is worth the trade off of a potentially sub-par buyer experience.
Flat Rate Boxes vs Your Own Box
USPS Priority Mail service provides free shipping boxes for sellers to use. These come at no cost to the user which is a huge benefit when you consider that most boxes elsewhere cost between $0.25-$1 or more.
You can pick up Priority shipping boxes from the post office and they come in a variety of different sizes (we’ll talk more about this later). You can also order them online and have them delivered directly to your door. Again, this is free of charge and great for sellers who don’t live close to a post office.
The range of Priority Mail boxes available allow you to ship based on a fixed amount regardless of the weight of your products. The boxes are free to get your hands on, but will cost you to send them once you have packaged up your items and got them ready for delivery.
This can be particularly beneficial to sellers who regularly ship heavy products.
Here are the sizes of Priority Mail boxes available:
- Small flat rate box
- Medium flat rate box
- Large flat rate box
- Flat rate padded envelopes
As you can see, there are plenty of flat rate options for sellers depending on the size of the products they’re shipping.
Alternatively, you can use your own box to send your packages in. The general difference between the two options is that Priority Shipping flat rate boxes cost more to ship but tend to deliver quicker than your own boxes. It’s up to you to decide whether speed or cost is more important to you, but it will also depend on the size of your items, their weight, and where you’re delivering them to.
It’s worth noting that if your products are under 2.5 pounds, then flat rate fees are often more expensive than shipping non-flat rate.
At Urtasker, our goal is to help you maximize your revenue and optimize your sales processes. So, with that in mind, here are some things you should be aware of:
- Flat rate is often only cheaper in a few situations, namely if you’re using flat rate envelopes or small flat rate boxes. As soon as you size up, the costs dramatically increase and it often works out cheaper to use your own packaging
- Flat rate boxes are delivered at the same speed as all Priority Mail, which tends to be between one and three days if you’re shipping to another US address
- Priority Mail flat rate shipping comes with full tracking, so both you and the recipient can keep an eye on where the package is at all times
Shipping Via Flat Rate Boxes
Now we’ve touched on the differences between the two options, let’s dig a little deeper into the details of using flat rate boxes.
How Much Do Flat Rate Boxes Cost to Ship?
For products that fall into the 1.4 pound range, Priority Mail boxes are often the cheapest way to ship. Like we said before though, this totally depends on the size of the box you use, where the product is being shipped to, and whether the destination is a business or home address.
Prices are mostly based on weight, dimensions, volume, and delivery address, so bear this in mind when researching your options.
Here is a general list of prices for flat rate boxes:
Envelopes are obviously the cheapest option to ship. Letter envelopes, gift card envelopes, window envelopes, and small envelopes all cost $7.15.
Padded envelopes and legal envelopes are a little more expensive, with the former clocking in at $7.75 and the latter at $7.45.
Small boxes cost $7.65, medium boxes are $13.20, large boxes are $18.30 and APO/FPO boxes cost $16.80. Look into the dimensions of each of these boxes to determine which one is the best fit for you and your products and calculate pricing from there.
Here’s how you can optimize the shipping experience:
- For items under one pound – ship via First Class Mail and select a box that keeps the weight limit at or below one pound
- For small items that weigh over one pound – some of the flat rate boxes available can save you money here, particularly small flat rate boxes, flat rate envelopes, and flat rate padded envelopes
- For items that weigh over two pounds – sometimes the Regional Rate (more on this further down) or Flat Rate boxes ship for less than your own box. Regional Rate A rates are very similar to the two pound Priority Mail rate. This means that you can ship in the Regional Rate A box for the same rate. In a similar vein, the Regional Rate B Box ships for pretty much the same price as a four pound Priority Mail box.
- For items that weigh over three pounds – it’s often cheaper to ship via FedEx or UPS depending on the size of the shipping box you need. However, FedEx and UPS both charge based on weight and dimensions and also add a $3-$3.50 fee for products being shipped to a home address
- If you’re shipping 50 Priority Mail packages a month – explore shipping services that allow you to ship via USPS Dimensional Weights
What About Regional Rate Boxes?
You’ve probably come across Regional Rate Boxes in your shipping research. They work in a similar way to flat rate boxes except there are only three weight tiers and the price is based on how far the package is going.
You can pick up the boxes for free (just like flat rate boxes) and, if your product is being delivered to anywhere in Zone 1-4, this option is usually cheaper than flat rate boxes.
Which Boxes Should You Use?
The best thing you can do is sit down and play around with the shipping calculators provided on each carrier’s websites. While flat rate boxes are free to pick up, they cost to ship, and sometimes this cost is higher than independent carriers even if they charge more for pickup.
If you decide to use the Priority Mail service, you’ll need to calculate whether your own boxes are more cost-effective than Flat Rate Boxes or Regional Rate Boxes. Unless you’re sending packages in an envelope, it usually works out cheaper to use your own boxes. This means you can incorporate your own branding and ultimately provide a better customer experience for your buyers.
At Urtasker, our mission is to help online sellers optimize their systems and their revenue. Shipping plays a huge part in this and choosing the right packaging option can save you a ton on unnecessary costs. Get in touch today to find out how we can help you streamline your sales.