Many people who run their own online business become excited at the prospect of not needing to ship physical items because they are selling software or any other type of intangible product with electronic delivery. While it is possible to earn a living working only with these types of products, you can also use the internet to reach new customers to buy your existing physical products, and shipping these products becomes the central focus of your business in order to keep costs low and keep customer satisfaction high.
Of course it is possible to buy shipping materials at your local office supply store, and if you only have a small amount of physical products that you need to ship then this might be a good idea for you. Most online businesses will anticipate a larger number of sales and a larger number of products that need to be moved, so it might not be cost effective to buy your shipping materials from the supply store. A better solution is to purchase your shipping materials in bulk from a wholesale supplier, meaning that you make a large purchase of hundreds of boxes or envelopes instead of buying them one at a time which would obviously mean that you pay less for each one individually.
If you are only operating a small business then you might feel daunted by the idea of buying hundreds or thousands of boxes for shipping all at once. Where will you put them all? And what happens if you have too many extras left over? You do not want to rack up disproportionately high costs for shipping your products, so if you would pay $1.50 per box at the office supply store or $0.20 per box if you buy 500 at a time, obviously it makes sense to buy more even if this is all the shipping material you would need for the entire year.
It is also important to consider whether you as the seller should pay for the shipping costs or if the buyer pays for all shipping costs. If you decide that it is better to pay for shipping on your end then you will need to reflect this cost in the price of the product, but also make sure to display “free shipping” prominently so that the customer knows that the price they see does not have any other extraneous additions to it. Many businesses choose to have the buyer cover the shipping costs since these costs can vary greatly depending on location. If this is your situation then you may not need to purchase any shipping materials at all, because if you allow your customer to choose which method of delivery they would like then some shipping companies such as UPS or FedEx will provide you with free shipping materials once you set up an account with them and prove that you will invoice the shipping costs to customers.
If you are shipping your products within the continental United States then you may also choose to ship with the US Postal Service. The post office will supply you with shipping materials for free if you choose Overnight Express Mail or Priority Mail, and since these two options are more costly than traditional postal shipping it makes sense for the post office to provide these materials to you for free.