Free shipping supplies such as mailers, packages, and boxes are no longer simple amenities. For many eCommerce businesses, free packages are a necessity since they save dollars on every transaction.
No matter how large your shipment volume, your business can take advantage of the free shipping supplies offered by major mail carriers. Your fulfillment process defines your profit margins so being able to offer faster shipping times is crucial to your business, even though it is a significant expense.
In this guide, we discuss how businesses can navigate high shipping costs using free supplies offered by mail carriers. By saving on packaging, you can improve the profit margins of your entire fulfillment process. As a result, you can offer your customers more for less.
Who Offers Free Shipping Supplies?
Four of the major mail carriers – UPS, USPS, FedEx, and DHL – have offers for free shipping supplies. In most cases, they can be obtained at the appropriate office or online. Large businesses can take advantage of free packages to cut costs across thousands of orders while small businesses can use them to improve an already narrow profit margin.
Here is a brief guide to how each mail carrier treats free shipping supplies and how to use them in each case.
UPS Shipping Supplies
You likely already know UPS for one thing – their premium shipping rates compared to the post office for single-order shipments. However, the company has extensive resources that give them advantages in the realm of mass shipping, including their many locations and their free express envelopes.
These envelopes can be shipped using UPS Next Day Air, 2nd Day Air, or even internationally. They are the carrier’s designated method for shipping sensitive items or important documents.
In addition to free express envelopes, UPS also offers free supplies such as:
- Shipping stickers and labels
- Shipping forms
- HAZMAT supplies
HAZMAT supplies refer to shipping pouches that can be used to ship dangerous goods such as lithium batteries, tobacco products, products related to firearms, and more. Check the UPS Guide for Transporting Hazardous Materials to learn more about how to use these free supplies.
UPS offers free supplies at their many locations as well as through online orders.
USPS Shipping Supplies
At your local post office, you can pick up free supplies to use in your business. As with UPS, you can order them online – boxes, for example, can be ordered in packs that come with 10 or 25 boxes and shipped to your business.
Using the USPS mailing service gives you access to many choices concerning the size of your box and the speed of your shipment. Free mailers offered by USPS include:
- Boxes for Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express orders
- Envelopes for Registered Mail and Global Express Guaranteed orders
- Tracking labels
FedEx Shipping Supplies
FedEx Express and FedEx Ground orders can be shipped in free packages from any of FedEx’s locations. These supplies can also be ordered online – your business should receive them in 2-5 business days.
The supplies that FedEx offers for free includes boxes (including triangular boxes), mailers, pouches, airbills, shipping forms, and labels.
DHL Shipping Supplies
DHL does not have as extensive a network as the United States Post Office or UPS. However, for international shipping orders, DHL is often the favored carrier, which means that for eCommerce businesses that frequently ship products overseas, DHL’s free supplies are a profit-saver.
Free supplies offered by DHL include envelopes, mailers, shipping labels, pouches, boxes, and waybill sleeves.
Tips for Using Free Shipping Supplies
For many businesses, free shipping supplies can be a great help to the logistics of their fulfillment processes as well as their profit margins. Saving on shipping expenses as well as equipping your team with packing materials before orders come in can make a huge difference.
However, free shipping supplies often come with restrictions (the carriers who offer them have to make sure they benefit from them). Here are some tips on how to use your free shipping supplies:
Choose Your Carrier and Service
You may think that you can mix and match the carrier and the shipping supplies, but this is not usually the case. Shipping carriers design their supplies for their own shipping plans, including their processing methods, label scanners, weight calculations, and more.
Businesses should use the free shipping supplies with the carrier they came from – in many cases, this is even required. In other words, USPS boxes must be used with a USPS order. This means that when you choose your free shipping supplies, you are also choosing a carrier.
This premise carries over to the specific shipping plans you choose. A USPS Priority Mail box must be shipped by USPS Priority Mail. Before ordering supplies, use each carrier’s shipping calculator to determine the shipping plan you want to order for.
Order as You Go
Knowing that carriers offer shipping supplies for free, some small businesses feel the need to stock up beyond their capacity. Rest assured that mail carriers will always offer free shipping supplies because by attracting businesses with free supplies, their business profits. There is no need to waste your storage space on boxes you do not need yet.
Ordering a monthly supply is recommended. Remember that you can pick up extras from your local mail carrier if you need more.
Alternative Ways to Save on Shipping Supplies
Due to your location or business model, free shipping supplies may be difficult to obtain. In that case, here are some other options for free supplies that your business can use.
Reuse packaging – With a new label, many packages can be reused. Instead of recycling Amazon boxes, you can replace the labels and use them for your orders. You can even ask grocery stores for boxes that they plan on throwing away or donating.
Utilize flat rate shipping – If the free supplies won’t work for your products, flat rate shipments can help you lower costs compared to other shipping methods. You can buy these materials from your local mail carrier.
Hire a 3PL – A third-party fulfillment company can offer shipping supplies, including custom packaging, as part of their services. They know how to use offers from mail carriers as well as their own supplies to lower your shipping costs.
For any eCommerce business, shipping is a major expense. Mail carriers offer free shipping supplies to help you mitigate that expense in exchange for using their services to conduct your shipments.
Use this guide to choose the right carrier and shipping service to best utilize free shipping supplies. A 3PL can help guide you through the process and provide their own shipping materials to bolster your profit margins by saving on one of your biggest expenses.