How to save money on shipping costs

By Chris Dawson December 18, 2018 - 10:00 am

I recently purchased two nearly identical products on Amazon. One arrived in a large letter format and the other arrived in a small packet sized box. The cost for shipping would have been very different, although in this instance they were both supplied through Amazon FBA, but again storage costs and fulfilment costs would have varied for the two merchants concerned with one having figured out how to save money on shipping costs.

In the first case the product, a building brick block fun toy, was retail boxed and purchased as a Christmas gift. The second product for a similar toy came with the retail box flat packed and packaged with the contents in a poly bag. Net result, one product can fit through a letter box and could easily be sent via regular postal services and the other was in a much larger box with some void fill and would have to be shipped via a parcel post service or courier.

As an added bonus to lowered packing and shipping costs, when a product can be posted through a letterbox it’s likely to achieve more first time delivery successes than a box which can result in a ‘while you were out’ card being left.

This may seem a minor change in how goods are shipped (or prepared for Amazon FBA), but if you’re shipping hundreds or thousands of items a week the incremental costs in storage even small ways to save money on shipping costs will start to add up to significant sums of money.

In some instances it may also go some way to explain why your competitors are able to sell at lower prices and offer cheaper shipping rates than you are able to access.

It is always worth examining your cost base to see where savings can be made and often it’s not immediately obvious that a product could be shipped flat packed rather than retail boxed. In some circumstances such as in today’s example, it would be reasonable for a consumers to consider the retail packaging to be a part of the product and so simply unboxing and shipping as an unboxed product isn’t a reasonable solution. However if the product can be unboxed and the packaging included in a large letter rather than posting boxed as a parcel then the monetary savings are well worth considering.

  • james
    9 months ago

    yeah that’s a nice tip in theory, but if you sell on ebay that’s just going to ruin your feedback & DSR’s.
    “I had to lift a finger! outrageous! 1 star!”

  • Max
    9 months ago

    I think you can do it only if you tell customers beforehand.

    Not everyone is as clever as you are at understanding why it is done and why this is still the same product.

  • jim
    9 months ago

    ebay buyers can even whinge if you fail to write fragile on a package,
    its a sure fire negative if you flat pack the box

  • 9 months ago

    Have done this for years already, without any downside.

    It would depend on what you sell of course and how the buyer might be expecting it to turn up, but it is very easy to do with certain products in certain categories and for the risk of a small number of numpties leaving unkind feedback or reviews, worth trying at least.

  • SAM
    9 months ago

    Rarely sell anything via eBay unless it is large letter. Cannot compete with the big firms and of course the Chinese with their FREE RMG post, and now the army of counterfeit sellers running unchecked on eBay…with more FREE RMG post. eBay is complete pain of a platform best get it through a letterbox than have some nugget kicking off complaining a big box has not been delivered cause their out.

    • BFT
      9 months ago

      This Chinese problem is very real.
      I recently bought 2 items from sellers claiming that the item was in the UK, but it wasn’t – it was shipped direct from China by a massively subsidised RM service. The seller is defrauding HMRC (false VAT number etc), buyers and honest sellers. The only winner is eBay, who trouser their Final Value Fees.
      To my horror, I have found that similar underhand tactics are being used in my main selling category. Some of these goods are being sold for less than my wholesale costs from the official importers. I don’t know if they are the genuine product or fakes, but again everyone is a loser apart from the criminals and eBay.
      I have telephoned eBay about this problem and get told that they are tackling the problem, but are they really?
      I reported the 2 sellers above to eBay, but I see that they are still selling.
      I am left thinking that eBay are just paying lip service to complaining buyers and sellers and continue to greedily take their share of the proceeds of these frauds – perhaps a crime in itself?
      Anyway, the upshot of all this is that I no longer consider eBay a safe place to buy and sell. Count your money while you can eBay!

  • Toby
    9 months ago

    Sadly ebay don’t care about fake or fraudulant sellers…. so long as ebay get their cut of the money. I have now given up reporting them as nothing ever happens. Note there is no option when reporting an item to actually report a business seller posing as a private one or a clear option for false location… They don’t care.
    As for the box thing… Well we tried that a while back and added to the description why we had done it… but as virtually no one reads the description anymore it caused a few issues – some claiming it was a return or second hand! So we then trialled adding a note to the package to explain why we had done it. Then we got issues with people complaining that they had to remake and repackage it. You can’t win. So we have abandoned that now as simply wasn’t worth the extra hassle – plus the extra time!
    What we have done is contact some of our suppliers to see if items could be packaged differently at source, but obviously not everyone can do this!

  • 9 months ago

    Letterbox factor is super important and while this particular example carries some risks (people may not understand why the package has been disabled and that could result in negative customer experience/feedback), can be a great way to reduce costs!

    Many companies have completely changed traditional packaging formats into letterbox friendly packaging because of this – like the supplements category where many tablet products are now shipped in flat plastic shells/cases instead of traditional bottles.

    I have also adopted the same ideas into my own business – for example, when developing a new product I specifically made it in a size that is letterbox friendly AND at the same time, the weight is on the higher end of a weight bracket in Amazon FBAs pricing rules. By doing this my fulfilment costs are lower by 30 to 40% compared to other sellers who have not optimised the product for size and weight.

    Lastly, there’s the added bonus of using less packaging materials, resulting in less waste etc., which is a huge plus on its own! We all can agree that many products use too much packaging materials and it would be beneficial for everyone to cut down on packaging in general.

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