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In some ways, the approach to calculating shipping costs seems designed to confuse. After all, billable weight sometimes doesn’t reflect weight at all – but instead involves a tricky little concept called dimensional weight.

To insulate themselves from the cost of transporting lightweight but bulky packages, carriers calculate charges based on the greater measurement between the actual gross and volumetric weight, assuming a package meets a certain threshold size.

But you can insulate yourself from unnecessary costs, too. When you know dimensional weight is likely to be triggered – when bulk exceeds weight – you should pack to your advantage. The first step to trimming such costs, then, is understanding dimensional weight.

What is dimensional weight?
Dimensional weight has long been the standard bearer in air shipping, but it didn’t arrive in ground shipping till 2007, when many carriers began incorporating the calculation. The application of dimensional weight can therefore penalize shippers of light objects over dense objects.

The “weight” label is a bit of a misnomer. The dimensional weight – often shortened to dim weight – reflects a package’s density, or how much space a package will occupy on a carrier’s freight truck or airplane. It’s essentially a theoretical weight, what a package should or could be expected to weigh given its size.

But it isn’t quite as simple as knowing how big a package is.

To calculate the dimensional weight of a package:

  1. Measure the package. Note that the sizes indicated by a box manufacturer may not apply, as carriers want the measurements of length, width and height to reflect the package’s size at its extremes. If there’s a bulge, a warped side, or an irregular shape, the measurements should reflect all this, accounting for the most space the package can occupy. Avoid charge corrections by measuring.
  2. Get the cubic size. Multiply length x width x height.
  3. Divide by the dimensional factor. For domestic ground shipments, the dimensional factor to divide by is 166. For international air shipments, divide the cubic size by 139. This factor is subject to change (and last did so in 2011) so be sure to check out the information from carriers for updates.
  4. Round up. Carriers will round up to the nearest whole number, so you should too.


Here’s an example:
Let’s say you’re ground shipping a package via UPS. Your box measures 24” x 18” x 18” and the parcel weighs 50 lbs.

  1. To find the cubic size you’ll need to multiply 24 by 18 by 18. That yields 7,776 cubic inches.
    You’re shipping ground, meaning the applicable dimensional factor is 166.
  2. Dimensional weight: 7,776 / 166 = 46.8 lbs., or 47 lbs.
  3. The dimensional weight is less than the actual weight, so the actual weight will be used.

Now let’s pretend that same box is used to ship something that weighs 10 lbs. The dimensional weight is greater than the actual weight, which means that the dim calculation of 47 lbs. will be the billable weight.

When is dimensional weight relevant?
It depends a little on your carrier, but here are a few rules of thumb: Dimensional weight is always relevant for air service. For ground service by private carriers, billable weight is influenced by dimensional weight if the cubic size of the package is 3 cubic feet (5,184 cubic inches) or larger. If it’s less than that, you can expect actual weight to be used.

Once you’ve confirmed the cubic size exceeds 3 feet and calculated your package’s dimensional weight, compare the dim weight to the actual gross weight. The greater of the two will be used to determine shipping costs.

But that isn’t all. If your package is deemed “large” — meaning the length plus girth exceeds 130 inches – carriers like UPS and FedEx will also apply a surcharge.

The United States Postal Service, meanwhile, has its own spin on the cubic size and dimensional weight issue, which can make its flat-rate mailing packages more attractive. Packages addressed to Zones 1 through 4, or going to relatively local destinations, may be subject to a so-called “balloon price”. If the length plus girth is greater than 84 inches, your package will be charged the price of a package weighing 20 lbs. Mail addressed to Zones 5 through 8, or far away, will be subject to dimensional weight principles if the cubic size is more than a foot (1,728 cubic inches).

You can explore the ins and outs of various carriers’ approach to billable shipping on their individual websites. Shipwire can also lay it out for you, and a Shipwire Free Trial can allow you to easily evaluate how your overall costs will be impacted by tweaks to your shipping materials and methods.

The reality of theoretical weight is that it’s costly. Where possible, decrease the size of the box you’re using to ship. Even shaving 1 inch can save money, and the savings only increase with greater volume.

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USPS has revised its Destination Sectional Center Facility (DSCF) Standard Mail service standards to allow Load Leveling across delivery days. Changes went into effect on April 10, 2014.

What this means
This means that USPS processing and distribution centers that serve designated geographical areas and route mail between local post offices and larger distribution centers can now delay delivery of Standard Mail in order to balance the delivery volume of mail across multiple days. The change only applies to Standard Mail and does not affect service standards for First-Class Mail or Priority Mail.

Formerly, mail received at the DCSF on Friday was delivered to homes on Saturday and Monday, while mail received at the DCSF on Saturday was delivered to homes on Monday and Tuesday. Under the revision to allow load leveling, an extra day is added to the end of each of these delivery widows — a 3-day delivery expectation applies to most Standard Mail, but load leveling allows a 4-day delivery window for Standard Mail received at the DCSF on Fridays and Saturdays.

Why implement load leveling?
There were a few factors driving the decision to allow load leveling. It balances deliveries throughout the week, reduces the number of overtime hours USPS employees work to meet Monday deadlines, lowers operating costs, increases efficiency, and provides USPS customers with a more consistent service and a better overall experience.

How does this affect Shipwire?
If anything, load leveling will improve experiences for Shipwire users. Since load leveling only impacts the delivery of Standard Mail and generally evens out mail levels across the week, there will be increased capacity on Monday for First Class and Priority Mail services.

For more information, see USPS Important Updates.

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Recently, Shipwire released an update in response to a serious security vulnerability called “Heartbleed,” which impacts the encryption used for Internet communications and could allow access to decrypted HTTPS traffic.

Once we became aware of Heartbleed, we addressed the issue and evaluated possible impacts. We want to share some specifics of the Heartbleed vulnerability as it relates to Shipwire’s services, as we know that our customers, like us, are concerned about privacy and security.

Impacted services
We have no evidence that the Heartbleed vulnerability was used to obtain any Shipwire data or to access Shipwire services.

Our application load balancers, which are the primary means by which most customers communicate with Shipwire, were confirmed not to be using a vulnerable OpenSSL version.

Some of Shipwire’s internal servers were determined to be using affected versions of the OpenSSL library, and patches have since been applied to all impacted servers, and those servers restarted and sessions erased.

What you should do
While there is no indication that Shipwire users have been impacted, we nonetheless recommend that users consider updating their account passwords, especially on API roles. Regardless of circumstances, we recommend regular password changes.

Additionally, many of our users have sites or applications hosted which store their Shipwire credentials and other sensitive data, so we remind you to audit all services you may use (for example, self-hosted shopping carts) to determine if they might also be vulnerable, and to take steps to ensure any vulnerable services have been mitigated, replacing SSL certificates once any vulnerabilities have been addressed.

When in doubt, your hosting provider is a good resource to understand if you may be or may have been affected.

Stay safe.


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It’s been over two years since we have updated the Shipwire Terms of Service and Business Policies and we’ve made a lot of changes to our service offerings since our last update. Today, we’re giving notice to our users about updates to our Terms and Policies. The updates will be effective on May 1, 2014.

The new Terms of Service and Business Policies are available here. For reference, the old Terms can be found here.

We know how important these types of updates are to you and we want to help you understand them. Here is a walk-through of some of the major changes:

We hope you’ll read the complete and updated Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, and Business Policies, and that you’ll agree these simplifications make the information more approachable. Rest assured, we have not changed any of our commitments to serve your business and we will never sell your personal information.

And of course, your feedback is important to us! If you have feedback please submit it here for our legal team to review.

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Shipwire recently took a trip down to sunny San Diego, CA, to attend Miva Merchant’s 14th Annual Miva Conference, entitled Conquering Ecommerce. During the introduction, Miva CEO Russ Carroll announced the occasion as “the longest running ecommerce event of its kind,” while Rick Wilson, President and COO, later captured the event’s amazing turnout in a snapshot worthy of rivaling Ellen’s famous Oscars selfie.

As hundreds of merchants, developers, partners and speakers gathered to trade ecommerce tips and solutions, Miva brought exciting news of their own that got the entire ballroom buzzing with the introduction of Miva Merchant 9, the most significant upgrade they’ve released since Miva launched in 1997.

Other noteworthy mentions from the conference:

The Blades Awards (March 6)
On Thursday night, Miva held their 2nd annual Blades Awards, recognizing leaders in the Miva Merchant community, including Head Blade for Best Website of 2013 and Flight Quarters, a unique store that sells bird diapers, for Most Innovative Product.

Tour of Ecommerce
The Tour of Ecommerce Passport game added a new twist to the conference, encouraging attendees to visit each of the sponsors’ booths and collect stamps to increase their chances of winning prizes like Apple TVs and iPad Minis. We had a great time talking to many of the merchants and developers about the interesting projects they’ve been working on and how Shipwire can help them to expand their businesses.

MivaCon14 had a fantastic lineup of keynote speakers. Themes for this year’s topics included the impact and evolution of SEO, international search and global markets, being a visionary, and taking risks. Here are some helpful takeaways:

  • SEO should be invisible: really consider and plan your approach to SEO. It should not be obvious that you’re calculating your content (Matt McGee)
  • Be vital: create fantastic stuff that Google NEEDS (Matt McGee)
  • There are certain people who are genetically hardwired to take risks: in the question of nature v. nurture it is difficult for people who don’t have it in their genes to adapt it. Risk takers must be prepared to accept the consequences of failure (Dr. Robert Williams)
  • Every organization should nurture risk taking: make sure you have risk takers in leadership positions within your organization (Dr. Robert Williams)
  • Schema and structured data are what drive entity experiences: you have the opportunity to provide better relevant/original content and become the sources for search engine results (Evan Fishkin)
  • It’s a Google world: Google follows directory structures to content and the best way to show Google where the content is is to build out the entire directory in the language of the country to which you are trying to appeal (Anne Kennedy)
  • Real visions rarely come from a group setting: Groups critique, they don’t create. Great ideas almost always start out with an individual (Dr. Larry Osborne)
  • It’s important to guard your vision and values: your vision may evolve over time, but don’t let it leak or veer off course as it ultimately takes you where you want to go (Dr. Larry Osborne)

    Event photos
    MivaCon 2014 1

    MivaCon 2014 2

    MivaCon 2014 3

    For more photos from the conference, check out Leslie Kirk’s photo stream.

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channel advisorChannelAdvisor’s Catalyst conference is just around the corner and Shipwire will be there.

We’ll be stationed at Booth #13 on March 11th and 12th.

If you’re there, we’d love to meet you. This is a great event to network and collaborate with others in the ecommerce industry, so please drop by to chat, ask questions, or simply say hi!

If you’d like to set up an appointment, you can get in touch and we’ll find a time to meet.


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2012-ASF-Expo-PhotoAnother week, another trade show. With CES and the International Toy Fair already under our belt this season, this week it was time for something different and the 2014 Arnold Sports Festival fit the bill.

Those who have been to the festival can attest to what an impressive showcase of athletics it is, and with so many “wow” factors to behold — from bodybuilders to sports competitions — exhibitors turned to flashy marketing to grab attendees attention amid the chaos.

perkyjerkyA couple things that caught our eye were “Jerk Man,” a guy covered in packets of Perky Jerky’s beef jerky and the amazing acrobat positioned atop the Felxicus booth, demonstrating the product’s joint and connective tissue strengthening abilities. Other sponsors did more traditional product sampling and despite the size of the show, it was impossible to be tired thanks to all the energy drinks and supplements that were available to test!

Shipwire provides fulfillment for supplement brands, including SHREDZ, so we wanted to learn how others are doing supplement fulfillment and what channels merchants are using to sell. Given the number of companies present and their various business sizes, all sorts of selling and shipping methods came into play. A few brands own facilities and handle shipping themselves, many sell through distributors, and some continue to run garage warehouse operations.

There were lots of questions about selling and shipping internationally, which is something Shipwire is able to help with given our network of international warehouses. As for selling, we always recommend that brands sell online B2C, as well as B2B, in order to reach as many customers as possible.

For a few more in-depth tips, check out our takeaways from another recent trade show.


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