SOHO is an acronym for Small Office Home Office. This is a size of business which is generally categorized at 1-10 employees and is one notch below small business. Typically, these are professional service providers that are consultants, lawyers, architects, real estate agents and so forth that are in a small office or working from home. We can estimate the number of SOHO organizations based on statistics gathered from the IRS. They have a category called “nonemployer businesses”. According to the latest report from the US Census Bureau, “the United States added nearly 1 million nonemployer businesses between 2006 and 2007, bringing the total to 21.7 million.”
The report went on to say, “Three economic sectors made up more than 40 percent of the total receipts — real estate services ($177 billion); professional, technical and scientific services ($130 billion); and specialty trade contractors ($97 billion). These three sectors were comprised of 7.2 million businesses and represented more than 33 percent of all nonemployer businesses.”
Their shipping profile is similar to the mobile worker with a few notable exceptions:
- They don’t have discounts on shipping; mobile workers use their corporate discounts
- As the owners of their businesses, profitability is a great concern. Saving on shipping costs goes right their bottom line.
- Saving time and convenience are important to them. Many SOHO’ers don’t have any administrative assistant to delegate shipping tasks, so they have to do it themselves.
- The shipping technology to help them ship their packages and express envelopes needs to be simple and available 24/7. SOHO workers don’t have 9 to 5 jobs. They are shipping proposals, documents, drawings, and samples. They ship it at night, after they have been face to face with their clients during business hours. They are not shipping every day so software needs to be intuitive and support after hours is a plus.
Another benefit to SOHO shippers would be a tool to find the closest shipping drop-off location. Most of these shippers drop their packages off because they may not be home when a FedEx or UPS driver comes to pick up the package. And they probably don’t want to pay for a weekly pick up service because their volume is not high enough to justify the extra $9 per week and they don’t want to pay the $4 per package charge for an on-call pickup.
Most SOHO shippers use the carrier’s website, such as ups.com, usps.com, or fedex.com to ship packages. Of course, this has problems. It is difficult to compare service levels and costs amongst multiple carriers. It takes too much time and requires learning multiple software applications. Furthermore, the address book and shipping history has to be maintained in multiple carrier websites if a SOHO company does want to compare.