It's Big Awesome Savings time
Need help choosing a plan?
Created with Sketch. 1800 917 771 Schedule a call
Need help?
We're here for you.
Schedule call
Created with Sketch.
a person using a tablet with shipping boxes
Running a business

Shipping Guide For Small Businesses

Ecommerce is on the rise. Due to the coronavirus, online grocery and retail shopping have increased sharply, and experts don’t expect the popularity of online shopping to drop once the pandemic has passed.

Many small businesses across the country have already begun moving towards online sales. For brick and mortar businesses, dipping into ecommerce allows them to access a much larger pool of consumers while keeping their employees and customers safe.

But launching an online store is only half the battle. Online orders need to be shipped quickly and securely. And if you haven’t built a shipping strategy for your small business, shipping orders might be easier said than done. Before you start shipping, you need to determine which shipping courier is the right fit for your small business and which shipping options suit your needs and budget. 

Courier options for small business shipping in Australia

With eCommerce on the rise, there are many options to choose from when it comes to couriers for small business shipping in Australia. Some popular shipping couriers for small business include:

It is important for your small business to partner with a shipping courier that you can trust to deliver your products to your customers safely and on time. Other factors to consider when choosing the right shipping courier for your small business include:

  • Small business shipping rates and costs
  • The couriers capacity and ability to handle a range of parcel shapes, sizes and weights depending on your product offering
  • Standard shipping and express shipping delivery options
  • Interstate shipping and international shipping options 
  • Insurance options
  • Parcel tracking options for small business orders
  • Packaging 
  • Shipping automation and online integration with your eCommerce platforms 

There are benefits to each courier for small business shipping, so compare costs and, when possible, speak with a shipping advisor. 

Small business shipping services

Many shipping couriers offer shipping programs for small businesses. Some couriers allow you to buy packaging, print mailing labels online, schedule a pickup or drop off your packages and provide volume based discount postage for small businesses that ship up to a certain amount of parcels per month.

Four tips to streamline your small business’ shipping process

If you’re new to shipping or want to streamline the shipping process for your small businesses, there are a few shipping technicalities to consider before sending out your first parcel.

1. Packaging for small business shipping

When it comes to packaging your products, presentation is key. Think about the unboxing experience you want your customers to have when they receive orders from your shop. At the very least, they expect the product to arrive clean and intact. Additionally, shipping your products is a great opportunity to surprise and delight your customers with personalised packaging while showcasing your brand.

The type of packaging you use to ship your products depends on the products your small business sells. Some items will require a sturdy box filled with packing material. Others can be shipped in a simple mailer bag. Common packaging materials for small business shipping include:

  • Boxes
  • Mailer bags
  • Satchels
  • Packaging peanuts
  • Void fill
  • Tissue paper
  • Bubble wrap
  • Hex wrap
  • Foam 
  • Tape and tape dispensers
  • Shipping labels
  • Fragile stickers

The packaging itself can be expensive. Here are a few tips to help you save money on packing materials:

Buy shipping materials in bulk

It might be more expensive upfront, but you’ll save money per unit on the back end. Small business shipping supplies can be purchased from a packaging wholesaler and even online. Your operations manager can even negotiate further discounts and build a relationship with your wholesale packaging supplier.

Use flat-rate boxes

Flat-rate boxes are a great option for smaller, heavier items. For example, Australia Post’s If it Packs, it Posts initiative allows small businesses to pay a national flat rate for shipping based on the size of the packaging from Australia Post’s range of If It Packs, it Posts satchels and packaging, instead of a shipping rate based on a combination of weight and destination. 

Get free shipping supplies

Most couriers offer free shipping supplies including parcel boxes and satchels in various sizes as well as protective wrapping for your small business products. Often, all you need is an account with the courier. Supplies can be ordered online for delivery or pickup.

2. Shipping destinations

Ask yourself how far is your small business willing to ship orders. In general, the further the package has to travel, the more expensive the shipping will cost. If your small business plans to ship orders internationally, there are a few stipulations to keep in mind.

Domestic Shipping rates in Australia

Domestic shipping rates in Australia may vary depending on the state or region, standard or express shipping service and weight of the parcel. Below are domestic shipping rates based on size and weight guidelines from Australia Post.

Please note that Australia Post may update their domestic shipping services and rates from time to time. Keep in mind that your small business is eligible for savings through MyPost Business Rates and Savings. To calculate domestic postage costs for your small business, use Australia Post’s Domestic Postage Calculator.

International shipping rates

Keep in mind that international shipping often comes with additional taxes, duties and documentation, like customs declarations. Plus, it’s more expensive. If your items aren’t priced for international shipping, you could lose money on the sale. It’s important to make sure you set up international shipping zones for your small business that match or are slightly more expensive than your courier's international shipping rates to ensure that you still make a profit. 

To check international shipping rates in Australia read our guide on international shipping from Australia. To calculate international postage costs for your small business, use Australia Post’s Overseas Postage Calculator.

International Shipping Restrictions

Some products are forbidden from entering some countries—and they’re not always obvious. You probably know that you can’t ship explosives or gasoline. But did you know nail polish and perfume are on the internationally prohibited list as well? Or that you can’t ship motorcycle helmets to New Zealand? Check international shipping restrictions before you ship and use Australia Post’s dangerous and prohibited goods and packaging guide.

Grow Your Business with QuickBooks

3. Setting shipping prices

Consumers have come to expect both free and fast shipping options—an expensive combination for small businesses diving into ecommerce. If you want to please your customers without breaking the bank, follow our tips below.

When setting your shipping prices for your small business, if any, you need to consider the shipping rates and times set by your courier and determine an appropriate shipping rate to charge your customers to ensure you are still making a profit. 

Consider the following shipping options when setting shipping prices for your small business:

  • Free shipping: Your small business can offer free shipping if the shipping costs wont greatly affect your profit margin. Free shipping can be a powerful marketing tool to convert shoppers into loyal customers. Free shipping is better suited to smaller, lightweight items as opposed to large heavy items which will cost more to ship and could cut into your profit margin.
  • Offer free shipping with minimum orders: Offering free shipping on a low-cost item could cost you money on the sale. Minimum order deals drive up the amount a customer spends in your shop and ensure sales cover shipping costs.
  • Offer flat-rate shipping: A flat shipping rate of $10, for example, means your customers pay $10 for shipping no matter how much or how little they buy. You might end up paying additional shipping on larger orders, but the smaller orders that cost less than $10 to ship will help you break even.
  • Offer flat-rate express shipping : A flat-rate express shipping fee allows you to charge a higher fee for getting your customer’s order shipped and delivered within a couple of days. Your small business can take advantage of a higher flat-rate express shipping fee during the holiday season as many customers are willing to pay the extra fee to ensure their holiday season shopping arrives in time for Christmas and New Year. Read our guide to international shipping in Australia to check Australia Post’s Christmas shipping cut off dates.

4. Volume based shipping discounts for small business

The number of orders you ship and how often you ship them will help you determine your small business shipping strategy. Your shipping strategy defines how you’re going to get orders to your customers and which shipping carrier you’ll use.

In-house order fulfillment and shipping

Small businesses shipping just a few orders a week can likely handle order fulfillment in-house. This means you receive orders, prep the orders for shipping and hand them off to your shipping carrier yourself. Couriers often have tiered shipping discounts for businesses based on the volume of parcels sent our per month. For example, Australia Post’s MyPost Business Rates and Savings Guide provides savings bands for domestic and international shipping. 

Outsourcing order fulfillment and shipping for small businesses

It might be time to consider outsourcing your order fulfillment and shipping process if your small business is:

  • Shipping more than 100 orders per month
  • Consistently shipping interstate and internationally 
  • Unable to handle order fulfillment in-house

If the above applies to you, outsourced order fulfillment and shipping can save your small business time and money. When you outsource shipping and order fulfillment, a third party stores your inventory, then packs and prepares your orders for shipping. Your fulfillment service will have multiple warehouses, making it faster and cheaper to ship far away from home. Plus, outsourcing order fulfillment and shipping takes the burden of packing orders off your shoulders, allowing you to get back to what you do best. Finally, a small business order fulfillment service increases your capacity to handle more orders and grow your business.

As with shipping couriers, when it comes to order fulfillment services, you have a few options. Fulfillment by Amazon allows businesses to sell products on the Amazon platform. Products are stored in Amazon’s fulfillment centers, then picked, packed and shipped by Amazon. Do some research and look for a fulfillment service that fits your business needs and budget

Shipping in bulk or very large packages

Businesses shipping lots of packages all the time, or shipping large, heavy packages, might consider freight shipping. Freight shipping allows you to ship heavy packages (over 68 kilograms) or bulk packages by land, air or sea. Businesses typically use freight shipping to ship products from the manufacturer to the fulfillment center or a retailer.

Many freight companies offer three freight shipping methods:

  • Full truckload
  • Partial truckload
  • Less-than-truckload

For partial or less-than-truckload shipments, you split the cost of the shipment with the other parcels onboard. This makes freight shipments an affordable option for businesses that can’t quite fill a whole truck.

As always, it’s a good idea to shop around. Compare shipping costs and services before committing. Some carriers offer temperature-controlled freight shipments. Others allow you to schedule and manage your freight shipments online. Choose the freight carrier that works for you and your customers.

Integrate shipping software

No matter where you are in your small business journey, shipping is an integral part of your success. Late or damaged products can damage your reputation, whereas fast, affordable shipping can skyrocket your success. Integrating shipping software into your business operations will help your small business save time and money. QuickBooks Shipping Manager allows you to process shipments and print FedEx, UPS and USPS shipping labels at a discount from within QuickBooks. Say goodbye to manual labels, our Shipping Manager pre-fills the shipping labels with your customers address information from QuickBooks Invoice or Sales Receipt forms. Our Shipping Manager even allows you to schedule pickups and track your packages within your QuickBooks account. 

QuickBooks Inventory Management Software allows you to sync your small business’ inventory with QuickBooks Online to keep track of your products, inventory, orders and fulfillment status all in one place. As the popularity of eCommerce grows, there’s never been a better time to embrace the internet and build a solid shipping strategy. For more tips and best practices on eCommerce shipping visit our guide to eCommerce shipping. 


Related Articles

Looking for something else?

Get QuickBooks

Smart features made for your business. We've got you covered.

Help Me Choose

Use our product selector to find the best accounting software for you.

QuickBooks Support

Get help with QuickBooks. Find articles, video tutorials, and more.

Stay up-to-date with the latest small business insights and trends!

Sign up for our quarterly newsletter and receive educational and interesting content straight to your inbox.

Want more? Visit our tools and templates!

By signing up you are agreeing to our terms and privacy policy.

A person is smiling and holding a laptop.