12 Ways to Slash Shipping Costs for Canadian Small Businesses

One of the biggest challenges for Canadian small businesses is the high cost of shipping. It’s expensive to ship within Canada and it’s even more expensive to ship outside of this country. That makes it very tough to compete in the online world.

Luckily, there are ways to ship cheaper and more shipping solutions are available every day. Some solutions can cut your shipping costs by more than half!

Shipping Expectations of Canadian Consumers

Canadians are a reasonable bunch for the most part, but we’re becoming more demanding as eCommerce evolves.

  • Thirty-three percent of Canadians agreed that shipping times could reasonably vary based on what product is being shipped.
  • Nineteen percent of Canadians expect orders to arrive in two days or less.
  • Paying up to $10 for shipping is fine with 25.5 percent of Canadians.
  • 53.2 percent expect free shipping. Sixty-eight percent of Canadians say free shipping plays a major role when deciding where to shop online, but 69 percent will pay for faster delivery.
  • Fifty-five percent of Canadian shoppers abandoned shopping carts with online retailers because free delivery was not available.

The pressure is on to provide free or discounted shipping, but the cost of that has to be covered somehow. If you also offer free return shipping, you could easily end up in the red. We can only increase our product prices so much, so what are our options?

12 Ways to Lower Shipping Costs in Canada

1. Canada Post

Sign up for Canada Post Small business shipping and direct mail to receive a small discount on shipping. You’ll also save a bit if you use their online shipping tools and skip the post office. Unfortunately, they don’t offer flat-rate boxes like USPS does.

2. Choose Ground Shipping

There’s a delicate balance between customer delivery expectations and the cost of shipping. Most Canadians accept that if you offer free shipping, delivery will be slower. Make sure you offer faster shipping options for higher rates in case they need it quicker and want to pay for it. Remember to post a last day to order to receive items before December 25th notice, so shoppers know when they have to pay for faster shipping to receive items before Christmas (or other gift holidays).

3. Know the Shippers’ Size & Weight Scale

You could be pushing your weight or size into a higher price range by an ounce or a centimetre. If you measure and weigh it before sending it, you can make adjustments to bring it under the limits for a lower price.

4. Save on Courier Costs

If you don’t ship enough to receive volume discounts from couriers and don’t want to ship through a third party, you might be able to save in other ways.

  • Use the courier’s packaging to avoid fees for non-standard sizes (as outlined by each courier). Their shipping materials are often cheaper as well.
  • If you know the cost of shipping each product, you could save a lot by purchasing prepaid shipping labels.
  • As your number of shipments grows, call the courier to negotiate rates.

5. Use Shipping Solutions

Most small businesses won’t ship enough parcels to qualify for volume discounts through couriers, at least in the beginning. New companies have popped up to address this issue. You can ship through them to access their volume discounts using integrated solutions. They’ll also show you the best rates to choose from, generate labels and provide tracking.

You’ll usually be charged a monthly fee, which will be more than covered by the money you save on shipping. Some solutions, like eShipper, don’t charge a monthly fee but skim a portion of your volume savings instead.

NetParcel is a popular example of this cheaper shipping option. You can “import orders, publish real-time shipping rates, select the cheapest shipping rates in Canada or internationally, generate shipping labels and schedule pick-ups.” Chit Chats and Ship Nerd are also commonly recommended for Canadian small businesses.

6. Ship Through PayPal

PayPal now offers its own shipping solution. Use PayPal Shipping for significant savings on Canada Post and courier shipping.

PayPal Shipping Canada

PayPal Shipping Canada to USA

7. Use Shopify Shipping

Canada’s Shopify never fails to impress with its diverse set of features. They’ve also got you covered for cheap shipping in Canada and beyond. For starters, you can save up to 47 percent on Canada Post rates! Their shipping solutions are fully integrated, so you can fulfill orders, print labels & customs forms, update inventory, and manage the customer journey all from your Shopify account. It’s all billed on one Shopify invoice.

8. Fulfillment Centres for International Shipping

You can often save a significant amount by having a global or American fulfillment company process and ship your orders. You’ll be charged for storage and the services they provide, but you’ll still save money overall and you’ll save a ton of time as well.

9. Business Organization Discounts

If you’re a member of a business organization, find out if your membership includes deals on shipping from Canada.

For example:

  • Startup Canada Members can take advantage of exclusive discounts on UPS Small Package shipments and Brokerage services.
  • Freightcom and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce have partnered to provide a nation-wide shipping solution.
  • ShipTime is an online courier and freight shipping service that offers exclusive savings to CFIB members.

10. RRR

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle are words to live and save by when shipping. Reduce the amount of packing materials and use a smaller box size when possible. Reuse boxes and packing materials that you’ve received with shipments. Recycle what can’t be reused.

11. Amazon Prep & Ship Services in Canada

Amazon sellers have unique shipping and receiving requirements, that often involve prepping shipments so they’ll be accepted by Amazon for order fulfillment. There are several companies in Canada that provide Amazon Prep services, along with shipping and receiving options. RedHatPrep.com and eShipper.com are a couple of prep & ship services used by Canadian Amazon sellers.

12. Advocate for Affordable Shipping

Use your voting power to pressure the Government, to call Canada Post on its mandate to provide affordable shipping to Canadians. Small businesses ARE the Canadian economy and they’re drowning in expensive shipping. To compete at today’s global level, we have to address this important issue. It’s critical to economic growth.

The above suggestions can save over 50 percent of your shipping costs, making them worthy of further research and consideration. All are relatively easy to implement and could benefit your business in other ways as well.

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Digital Business & Marketing Manager at | Website | + posts

Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In over 20 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and eCommerce websites.

Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.

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Kamran Malik

Thank you for mentioning http://www.freightcom.com and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce http://www.chamber.ca . Together we are able to better serve and support Canadian SMB’s.

tammy baldwin

thank you!