You’ve probably heard the old axiom,Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” I would argue for a third certainty – rising shipping rates. Each year, like clockwork, FedEx and UPS increase their shipping rates. Earlier this year, the U.S. Postal Service raised its shipping rates, after leaving shipping rates flat for three years.

What does this mean for your business? Escalating costs usually trigger businesses to reassess their operations. These recurring rate increases are prompting businesses of all sizes, from small professional offices all the way up to the world’s largest e-retailers, to look for ways to better manage their shipping. And, there are a growing number of options becoming available, from regional carriers to new, alternative delivery methods.

As rates rise, so too will competition for those deliveries. We already know that Amazon is looking at ways to gain more control of their shipping by building their own networks where it makes sense. The same goes for smaller businesses.

Now is the time to look at the data and re-evaluate your carrier strategy to maximize your shipping dollars. However, with each major carrier offering their own system, it is hard for businesses to manage. The good news is that multi-carrier shipping solutions have never been more accessible and affordable, including new cloud-based solutions. These systems offer the ability to manage multiple carriers from one platform; giving businesses the information they need to select the best carrier for each package with full tracking capabilities and visibility into the total cost of shipping from one integrated platform.

New online sending solutions can:

--Facilitate multi-carrier management, which allows you to select the best carrier for each parcel based on a simple view of service level, cost and value

--Initiate carrier pickup in real-time from a desktop, tablet or mobile device

--Automatically reconcile all sending charges to one account

--Improve the package receiving process, so inbound tracking capability becomes as convenient as your outbound shipping

These new sending solutions provide much of the functionality and benefits of existing enterprise systems, but in a more affordable SaaS model.

In addition to leveraging new technology, here are a couple things you can do to manage your shipping expenses, including:

--Match your shipping strategy to your customer and business needs. That way, you can select the right carrier for each parcel based on a host of factors, including delivery requirement, cost and value. In other words, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

--Eliminate wasted space. Carriers use Dimensional Rating on parcels which can have a dramatic effect on the shipping cost. Outer packaging should consist only of what is necessary to properly secure the enclosed items and provide protection during transport. Don’t ship small items in a big box or you will overpay big time!

The one guiding principle that all businesses should observe for their sending is to look at the data to optimize your shipping strategy. By analyzing their data on delivery performance and cost, they can ensure the right packages are sent via the right carrier.

Taking a multi-carrier approach allows even small businesses to maximize their shipping dollars while meeting their specific delivery requirements.

Don’t fall into the trap of using one carrier for all parcels. Each carrier has its strengths and playing to those strengths will allow businesses to win big. Because there is one thing we can all be certain of… rising shipping rates.

Jeff Crouse is Vice President of SMB Shipping Solutions, Pitney Bowes