One of the most frequently asked questions we receive from our e-commerce customers is:
What is the best shipping method for e-commerce?
While it would be ideal if there were one definitive answer to this question, the reality is that there is no single best shipping solution for e-commerce.
The best shipping solution for e-commerce businesses is a customized “shipping formula” that factors in criteria such as:
- Shipping Speed: The cost of shipping increases as the delivery time decreases. Faster shipping is more expensive, so it's important to balance the cost of fast shipping with the value it provides to customers.
- Package size and weight: Small, lightweight parcels can often be less expensive to send through USPS, for instance, because they don’t require special handling and can be left in a customer’s mailbox. Large or heavy items typically take longer and cost more to ship.
- Shipping Distance: Distance can have a significant impact on the cost of shipping, as carriers typically charge more to ship packages longer distances.
Based on these criteria and business goals, the best shipping solution for e-commerce businesses typically involves the use of multiple carriers and services. Keep reading to learn more about your shipping options and how to create the perfect “shipping formula” for your e-commerce business.
Customers expect fast and free shipping these days. If your business is unable to meet their expectations, it can lead to cart abandonment, lost sales and negative reviews.
- 68% of shoppers abandon their carts due to high shipping costs and/or slow delivery times.
- 62% of customers expect their orders to arrive within three days or less.
While fast and free shipping is important to customers, it can be expensive for businesses. Finding the perfect balance of speed and price for your business often requires the use of multiple carriers, each with its own pros and cons.
When it comes to cost, USPS offers the most competitive pricing, especially for small packages and domestic shipping. However, their delivery times may be longer for some destinations, especially for international shipments and may not be ideal if you ship packages over 70 pounds. UPS and FedEx are generally more expensive than USPS, but often provide faster delivery times and a range of additional services that may be worth the extra cost for some businesses.
When it comes to speed, FedEx First Overnight and UPS Next Day Air Early are the fastest, but the most expensive. Note that UPS does not offer Saturday delivery as a part of its standard service offerings, which can slow down delivery times by up to two days unless you pay an extra fee for Saturday delivery.
Shipping Speed Tips
- Give buyers shipping tiers to choose from, such as standard ground shipping, expedited 2-day shipping and overnight delivery. Be aware that many online shoppers today expect free shipping no matter what. You may have to incorporate shipping into the price of your merchandise to offer “free” shipping and stay competitive.
- Carrier cutoff times are vital for timely deliveries and meeting customer expectations. Slow picking, packing and kitting can result in you having to pay more for overnight express delivery if you miss cutoff times.
- Sometimes goods require special handling, such as if items need to be temperature- or humidity-controlled. When shipping sensitive merchandise, speed is often a prime consideration as it reduces the likelihood of product degradation.
- If you can’t offer free shipping across the board, there are a few options:
- Offer in-store pickup or local delivery for customers who live nearby.
- Offer free standard ground shipping and give shoppers the option to pay an additional fee for expedited shipping options.
- Offer free standard ground shipping for purchases that meet a certain amount, let’s say $50, and offer free expedited shipping for purchases that meet a higher amount, such as $200.
Package Size and Weight
The size and weight of a shipment can impact costs just as much as the shipping speed. Typically, USPS is the least expensive option for small, lightweight parcels because they don’t require special handling and can be left in a customer’s mailbox. If you ship small and heavy parcels, USPS is also the best choice thanks to their flat-rate shipping boxes.
If you have larger shipments, you’ll want to compare carriers or use a combination of carriers. Large, bulky items typically take longer and cost more with USPS, whereas FedEx and UPS are better options for larger and heavier packages. USPS also limits package weight to 70 pounds whereas UPS will deliver packages weighing up to 150 pounds.
It’s important to note that surcharges can be added for large or heavy packages. These vary by carrier. For instance, UPS charges extra for parcels longer than 165 inches in total length and girth and/or over 150 pounds.
Package Size and Weight Tips
- Another way to save money, particularly if you ship a high volume of larger or heavier items, is to contract with one carrier, which can get you a discount based on volume. However, for most e-commerce businesses, using a variety of carriers gives you the most options and cost savings.
- You’ll also want to factor in the dimensional weight of a package. Dimensional weight charges by how much space a parcel takes up in the delivery vehicle, not by its weight. When given a choice between charging for the dimensional weight or the actual weight of a package, the carrier always demands the higher price of the two. Shipping carriers use dimensional weight because many lightweight and bulky items take up excessive space on transit vehicles, so they need to make up for the loss in income that they’d receive from heavier, but less bulky items (smaller, denser parcels). You can reduce this by minimizing packaging as much as possible and shipping items unassembled.
The speed, size and weight of a shipment are primarily what determine shipping costs for e-commerce companies. Shipping distance also impacts shipping costs, but there is a strategy known as zone skipping that can help lower shipping costs and expedite delivery times.
Shipping zones are geographical boundaries that represent the distance a parcel travels when shipped. In the U.S., a package on one coast can travel across several of the eight zones to reach the opposite shore. Most carriers charge by how many zones you cross for each parcel’s actual or dimensional weight.
Zone skipping consolidates packages going from one zone to the same destination zone, thus lowering the per-package shipping price.
If you can reduce the number of zones traveled–for instance, by having distribution centers in various zones–you can lower your shipping costs.
Does all this have your head swimming? If you don’t have the time, staff or resources to implement a zone-skipping strategy, the easiest and most cost-effective solution is to partner with a full-service e-commerce fulfillment company.
Customized E-Commerce Shipping Solutions with Jet Mail
Since 1993, Jet Mail has delivered customized fulfillment, direct mail and digital printing solutions for businesses across the U.S. While we deliver at jet speed, we always take the time to understand your business and work with you every step of the way as your hands-on, proactive e-commerce fulfillment partner.
Contact us today and let us create the perfect shipping formula for your e-commerce business.