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Volumetric weight: what is it and how can it save your e-commerce business money?

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Photo of a pallet of boxes with a tape measure and tape dispenser resting on top, to represent measuring boxes in order to calculate volumetric weight for shipping

Have you ever wondered why some packages cost more to ship than others, even if they are similar in size and weight?

The answer lies in the concept of volumetric weight. Understanding how volumetric weight works can help your e-commerce business save money on shipping costs. In this article, we will explore the science behind volumetric weight, its impact on shipping costs, how to implement it in your e-commerce business, and the financial benefits it can bring.

We will also discuss common misconceptions and offer tips for overcoming challenges with volumetric weight. So let's dive right in and explore the world of volumetric weight!

Understanding the concept of volumetric weight

Before we can delve into the intricacies of volumetric weight, it's important to understand the concept itself. Volumetric weight, also known as dimensional weight, is a calculation used by shipping companies to determine the cost of shipping based on the size of a package, rather than just its actual weight.

This calculation takes into account the package's dimensions, such as its length, width, and height, to determine its overall volumetric weight. In simple terms, it helps shipping companies account for the space that a package occupies in their vehicles or warehouses.

The science behind volumetric weight

Volumetric weight is based on the principle that empty space should also be considered when determining shipping costs. This is because large, lightweight packages consume more space and thus require more resources to handle and transport.

To visualise this concept, imagine trying to transport a large, empty cardboard box versus a smaller box filled with heavy items. The larger box takes up more room and requires more effort to handle, even though its actual weight may be relatively low. Taking the volume of the package into account allows shipping companies to charge fees that reflect the resources required to transport it.

How is volumetric weight calculated?

To calculate the volumetric weight of a package, shipping companies use a simple formula. They multiply the package's length, width, and height in centimeters and divide the result by a predetermined volumetric divisor (sometimes called a dimensional divisor or DIM factor).

The volumetric divisor varies across different shipping companies and is usually adjusted periodically to reflect changes in industry standards. It is essential to check with your shipping provider to ensure you are using the correct volumetric divisor for accurate calculations.

(L x W x H) / Volumetric divisor = Volumetric Weight

For example, DPD calculate it as:

Length (cm) x Width (cm) x Height (cm)/5,000 (cm³/kg).

A good calculator for working out volumetric weight can be found here.

The impact of volumetric weight on shipping costs

Now that we have a good grasp of how volumetric weight is calculated, let's explore its impact on shipping costs. Understanding this impact can help you make informed decisions that save your e-commerce business valuable resources.

Why does volumetric weight matter in shipping?

Volumetric weight plays a crucial role in determining the cost of shipping because it allows shipping companies to account for the space a package occupies. By considering both the actual weight and the dimensions of a package, shipping companies ensure that they are fairly compensated for the resources needed to transport it. This is particularly important when dealing with large, lightweight items that may have a low actual weight but take up a significant amount of space.

Volumetric weight vs actual weight: What's the difference?

It's important to understand the difference between volumetric weight and actual weight. Actual weight refers to the weight of the package in kilograms or pounds, while volumetric weight takes into account the package's dimensions. When shipping a package, the shipping company will compare the actual weight and the volumetric weight and charge you based on whichever is higher. This means that if a package is lightweight but takes up a lot of space, you may end up paying more for shipping than you would expect based solely on its actual weight.

Implementing volumetric weight in your e-commerce business

Now that you understand the importance of volumetric weight and its impact on shipping costs, let's explore how you can implement this knowledge in your e-commerce business to save money and streamline your shipping strategy.

Steps to integrate volumetric weight into your shipping strategy

Integrating volumetric weight into your shipping strategy requires a thoughtful approach. Here are some steps you can follow to make the process smoother:

  1. Start by updating your product listings with accurate dimensions. This will ensure that you have the correct information when it comes to calculating volumetric weight.
  2. Work closely with your shipping provider to understand their specific volumetric divisor and any other requirements they may have regarding volumetric weight calculations.
  3. Invest in packaging materials that are appropriate for your products and minimise empty space. This will help reduce the overall size of your packages and lower their volumetric weight. Book wraps are a good example of variable height packaging.
  4. Regularly review and optimise your shipping methods to identify opportunities for reducing volumetric weight and achieving cost savings.

Tools and technologies to help with volumetric weight calculation

Luckily, there are several tools and technologies available to help you calculate volumetric weight accurately and efficiently. Many shipping companies provide online calculators that automatically generate the volumetric weight of a package based on its dimensions.

Additionally, there are software solutions and e-commerce platforms that can integrate with your shipping provider, simplifying the volumetric weight calculation process and ensuring accurate shipping costs for your customers calculated in checkout. Shiptheory is a good example of one of these types of services and they are a company we use for our own dispatches.

The financial benefits of using volumetric weight for your e-commerce business

By leveraging the concept of volumetric weight, your e-commerce business can enjoy a range of financial benefits. Let's explore how volumetric weight can reduce your shipping costs and bring long-term advantages.

How volumetric weight can reduce shipping costs

By accurately calculating volumetric weight and optimising packaging, you can avoid overpaying for shipping. Shipping companies charge based on the higher value between actual weight and volumetric weight.

By reducing the overall volumetric weight of your packages, you can potentially pay lower shipping fees. This can lead to significant cost savings, especially when shipping larger quantities of products.

The long-term financial advantages of understanding volumetric weight

Understanding volumetric weight not only helps your business save money in the short term but also enables you to make informed decisions that have a lasting impact. By optimising your packaging and shipping methods based on volumetric weight considerations, you can improve your operational efficiency and reduce wasted resources. This, in turn, can have a positive effect on your bottom line in the long run and contribute to the overall financial health of your e-commerce business.

Overcoming challenges with volumetric weight in e-commerce

Like any aspect of e-commerce, working with volumetric weight can present its fair share of challenges. However, with the right knowledge and strategies, you can overcome these challenges and optimise your shipping operations.

Common misconceptions about volumetric weight

One common misconception about volumetric weight is that it only affects large items. While it is true that larger items are more likely to have a higher volumetric weight, even small or lightweight items can be subject to volumetric weight charges if they occupy a significant amount of space, due to being an unusual shape such as golf clubs, for example. It is important to keep this in mind when planning your shipping strategy and accurately calculating shipping costs.

Tips for managing volumetric weight issues in your business

To effectively manage volumetric weight issues in your business, consider the following tips:

  • Regularly review and update your packaging materials to ensure they are as efficient as possible in minimising empty space.
  • Optimise your product dimensions to reduce volumetric weight while still adequately protecting your items during shipping.
  • Stay in close communication with your shipping provider to understand any changes in volumetric divisor or shipping policies.
  • Continuously monitor and analyse your shipping data to identify patterns and opportunities for further optimisation.

In conclusion, understanding and leveraging the concept of volumetric weight can have a significant impact on the shipping costs of your e-commerce business. By accurately calculating volumetric weight, optimising packaging, and making informed decisions based on this knowledge, you can save valuable resources and improve the financial health of your business.

So why wait? Start implementing volumetric weight strategies today and see the difference it can make for your e-commerce business!

Ready to take your e-commerce business to the next level with packaging that not only saves you money but also enhances your brand's unboxing experience? Our bespoke packaging solutions are designed to fit your unique business needs, offering high-quality branded experiences that delight your customers while optimising shipping costs. With our expertise in packaging consolidation, reduced cost per unit, and labor reduction, we're committed to elevating your brand and improving your bottom line.

Learn more about bespoke packaging and discover how The Packaging Club can transform your e-commerce shipping strategy today.

This article was written by...

Nathan Calvert

Nathan is Head of Digital at The Packaging Club. He has worked in the packaging sector for over 15 years across food, consumer electronics, FMCG ecommerce and more, both directly in-house or as a freelance consultant.

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