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6 ways small businesses can reduce shipping costs

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Expert advice on everything from lower rates to time-saving technologies.

Running a small business can feel like herding cats. A lot of fun but exhausting, too. Having a partner like UPS to handle shipping and logistics can be a big help because it lets you focus on growing your business – whether it's an online startup or a breakthrough product launch. Here are six ways to keep costs in line and free your time, according to Mark Wright, UPS small business segment marketing manager:

Cut costs and save time with these savvy tips from a logistics expert.

1. Choose the smallest possible box. UPS now uses dimensional weight to set charges for shipping. Thus, the price you pay is now the dimensional weight or the actual weight, whichever is greater. "Reducing package size and excess packing materials can lower your shipping costs and keep you from incurring extra charges you won't be able to recover from your customer," Wright says.

2. Select the right service. Many customers don't realize that UPS Ground service guarantees delivery the next afternoon within the immediate service area of about 450 miles. "Unless you need a package to arrive the next morning, you don't need to incur the extra cost of air shipping," Wright says. Tip: Visit ups.com to print a time-in-transit map for your ZIP Code and post it by the shipping station.

3. Put technology to work. Adding Quantum View Manage® functionality lets you track both inbound and outbound shipments. The payoff: You can forecast daily workloads for staffing purposes, let salespeople know when new items will be in stock and have more control over inventories. Quantum View Notify® service will send e-mail or text messages to your customers with their delivery date and a UPS tracking number to drastically reduce "where's my order" (WISMO) calls. "If you do get a call, you will be able to check status right on-screen to cut way down on the time involved. It gives you one-call resolution," Wright says.

4. Save time with a thermal label printer. Many small businesses spend time filling out labels by hand and stuffing them in those clear plastic pouches. That takes a lot of time compared with printing labels with a thermal printer. "You can lease one for $2 a week or get it subsidized through the UPS Customer Technology Program," Wright says. "They're more professional-looking, adhere better to packages and give you the ability to add your own logo or marketing message, such as a discount for reorders."

5. Consider UPS Hundredweight Service®. If you are shipping multiple packages to the same place on the same day and total weight is 100 to 500 pounds, UPS Hundredweight Service® could save time and money compared with less-than-truckload (LTL) service with a common freight carrier. You can save 30 to 35 pounds because Hundredweight shipments don't require a pallet. Plus, you save on fuel surcharges and LTL accessorial fees, such as lift-gate or inside delivery. Customers report saving up to 20 to 30 percent compared with LTL freight shipping.

6. Sign up for UPS CONNECT. "A small business that signs up for UPS CONNECT immediately qualifies for a 10 percent discount on ground shipping and 20 percent off air and international rates," says Wright. In addition, you qualify for a free one-year trial of UPS Smart Pickup® service, which automatically alerts your driver to swing by whenever you print a label. "You also have access to online 'whiteboard' sessions with UPS shipping and logistics experts, which can be invaluable to jump-start a growing business."

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