E-Commerce is all the rage nowadays. By 2040, it is believed that 95% of all transactions would be done via this platform. With more and more people buying their goods online, it is necessary for businesses – especially the small ones – to keep up with the pace.
While much focus is put on creating a shopping website, one other thing is just as important: and that is to get hold of a good shipping service.
With the many options out there, you may be overwhelmed with the selection process. Worry not, as this article will help guide you choose the best shipping service – so you can expand your small business and reach even greater heights (and revenue!)
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Selecting the Best Shipping Services
According to a report, a good delivery service would prompt 96% of customers to make a repeat purchase.
So if you want to make more sales – and better revenue – then you should consider these factors when selecting a shipping service for your business:
1. Product Weight
What goods are you selling? Are they lightweight cosmetics or bulky furniture? Your products’ sizes should be your top consideration when choosing a shipping company.
If you sell small items, then it will be best to go for a service that offers flat rates. If your products are big though, then you should go for a company that has the best prices in terms of product weight or shipping volume.
You should also consider the company’s weight limitations, as your product may be too big to be accepted. For example, USPS and UPS accept parcels as large as 70 pounds, while FedEx deliveries are limited to just 50 pounds.
2. Shipping Volume
Bulk purchases usually come with discounts. That too applies with shipping. If you can guarantee to send a good deal of products through a certain company, you may be entitled to get lower rates for each package.
Almost everything in this world is instant. Clients can be very impatient, and this may be the reason why Amazon Prime is a hit with many buyers. With that being said, you should get a company that offers speedy deliveries at very reasonable costs.
On a related note, you can generate more sales if you could indicate the parcel’s estimated delivery date on your website. After all, the lack of explicit delivery times can lead to a 46% cart abandonment rate.
As with any other service, price is a big determinant when it comes to shipping. While it may be tempting to choose the cheapest company out there, you should consider the other factors mentioned. Remember, some buyers don’t mind spending some money, especially if they want to get their packages quickly.
Some companies offer cheap rates for parcels below 2 pounds, while some offer better value for packages weighing more than 3 pounds. It’s not always about getting the most affordable service, as the price will usually depend on how heavy your usual items are.
Apart from the shipping cost, you should also be wary about additional fees covering Saturday deliveries, signature requirements, fuel surcharge, and whatnot. You may end up spending more if you don’t scrutinize the fee breakdown of each service.
5. Tracking Service
Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to shipping. Your clients will want to know where their packages are – and when they’re about to be delivered. As such, you should opt for a company with a good tracking service.
While most companies offer tracking services, you will benefit a lot from having a branded tracking page. Personalizing this with your business logo, colors, contact information, and social media pages will help promote brand retention among your customers.
With the many shipping companies out there, you should opt for a service that has been proven and tested. As mentioned, a good delivery service can affect your client’s decision to buy again from you.
If you want to keep your customer loyal to your brand, then you should go for a shipping service with a solid reputation. You can learn this by conducting online research, or by asking fellow business owners who have already adopted a shipping system.
7. Complimentary Packaging
Packaging can be as cheap as 10 cents. While it doesn’t seem much, it can build up in the long run. If you want to save money on parcel costs, then choose a company that offers complimentary packaging. Some are even lined with bubble wrap and some form of insulation, which could save you more money especially if you ship fragile products.
If you are shipping fragile items, then you need to choose a shipping service with a good safety rate. It’s useless to have fast delivery if the product will end up broken and damage en route. Similar to researching about reputation, you should check the courier’s safety rates to see if what they do to ensure the perfect state of fragile packages.
Whether you sell affordable or high-value items, it pays to have a service that is covered with insurance. The usual default value is $50 to $100.
Going to the shipping company’s office can be time-consuming. It can also be laborious, especially if you are shipping many packages or heavy parcels. If this is a problem for you, then you should pick a shipping service that offers pick-up services. More often than not, this comes for free, especially if you plan to ship multiple packages.
11. International Shipping Options
International sales prove to be a good way to grow your small business. More and more retailers are opening their stores to the global market, with revenues reaching $4.88 trillion by the year 2021. If you want to make the most out of this opportunity, then you should choose a service that provides good international shipping options.
The usual primary concern is cost, as shipping your goods internationally can be quite expensive. While the cheapest service may be appealing, you should check its reputation and user reviews. Buyers won’t mind spending additional dollars as long as their goods arrive complete – and on time.
When setting up international shipping, don’t forget to check the following:
- Additional taxes and documentation
Shipping to other countries can be quite laborious, as you need to consider duties, tariffs, customs declarations, and value-added tax.
- Product deliverability
In some countries, certain items are banned. This will save you the hassle of sending a product, just to have it returned to your store.
The United States Postal Service, as the name suggests, is an agency in charge of facilitating postal services in the country. While the waning of traditional mail led to some revenue losses, USPS has made up for this through the use of its shipping services.
USPS offers a Click N Ship service, which is a software specially designed for businesses. Here, you can print shipping labels, request parcel pick-up, print custom forms, even buy stamps.
It also offers flat-rate pricing. With a delivery time of 1 to 3 business days, it also comes with up to $50 worth of insurance. Given its free pick-up service, you don’t have to leave your business to ship all the packages.
USPS also makes returns easy, with its Priority Mail, Ground Return, and Merchandise Return services. What’s great is that it has no minimum returns for most tiers. It could make your life easier since you could include a return label in the parcel – or request one as needed. Customers are also allowed to print their own return labels as they deem fit.
- No additional fees. USPS does not charge extra money for fuel, rural delivery, or weekend deliveries.
- Offers flat rate, prepaid, and regional pricing structures.
- Delivers to remote areas.
- Tracking problems. You don’t get real-time or tracking, in contrast to other couriers that provide tracking at a vehicular level.
- Later deliveries. Compared to other shipping services, USPS may take some time to deliver your packages.
UPS, which is the world’s largest shipping company, has a dedicated service for small businesses. It also offers several options for air delivery, ground delivery, and international shipping.
The company makes the shipping process easily with its paid pick-up services so that you can send packages on a daily or weekly basis. It also has several drop-off locations, which allows you to hand over your parcels no matter what time it is.
You can navigate through any of its services via the UPS My Choice platform. Here, you can manage shipments, make delivery changes, monitor parcels, and be notified of delivery dates. You can even add multiple users, should you need to make other employees part of the shipping experience.
UPS also comes with a Billing Center, enabling you to streamline the said process rather easily. Here, you can create reports, even configure invoices and payments.
UPS also offers Marketplace shipping, which allows you to process orders from various storefronts. It also comes with a Return service, which makes the process efficient, cheaper, and more customer-friendly.
- UPS drop boxes, where you can leave packages for shipping anytime.
- Overnight delivery (by air) by 8 am in many areas.
- Offers detailed tracking for both senders and receivers.
- You need to pay a fee to avail of its pick-up services.
- Expensive rates and surcharges apply to heavier parcels.
FedEx, short for Federal Express, is a Tennessee-based delivery company. Founded in 1971, it has a revenue of more than $65 billion a year. While it is widely known as a government contractor, FedEx offers its shipping services to small businesses as well.
FedEx promises small owners a bevy of affordable shipping options. Customers get to enjoy daily shipping to most areas, with Saturday (and some Sunday) shipping for free.
Clients also get to enjoy convenient parcel pick-up options at FedEx offices, Walgreens, and Dollar General stores, especially if they worry about parcel looting and whatnot. Since some stores are open 24/7, your customers can get their packages conveniently.
International shipping is also made easier with Fedex’s Global Trade Manager. It can help business owners with the documents, taxes, and duties necessary for your products to reach other parts of the globe.
FedEx also provides its clients with an E-commerce center. This platform allows you to start your own online business, improve sales, and process orders. It also enables you to provide customer service as needed.
- Sophisticated tracking system.
- The delivery manager system allows you to hold or reschedule parcel shipments.
- Lower shipping rates for high-volume shipments.
- More expensive shipping fees.
- Costly pick-up service.
DHL promises to link small businesses to clientele all around the world – with relative ease. It supports budding entrepreneurs with its wide array of services, extensive delivery network, and customs handling expertise.
DHL takes pride in delivering more than 450 million packages with the help of its 29,000 vehicles. With its 34,000 shipping points, it has amassed more than 2.6 million customers – a number that continues to grow.
As a small business owner, you can ship with DHL simply by following these 5 easy steps:
- Ask for a quote. You can do so by typing in the package content, the destination, and the desired delivery timeframe.
- Prepare and pack your shipment (and necessary documents) for pick-up or drop-off.
- Ship the item.
- Track the package online or through the MyDHL portal.
- Pay the shipment through cash or card.
- Door-to-door delivery services.
- Free pick-up service.
- Provides refunds in case of shipping failure.
- Expensive fees and surcharges.
- Less shipping visibility in the US.
Ontrac is a regional shipping service that caters to the states of California, Arizona, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Washington, and Colorado. Established in 1991 as California Overnight, the company provides swift deliveries to an area that covers 20% of the American population.
Ontrac offers a variety of shipping services, including:
- Ontrac Ground
As the most popular offer, Ontract ground assures parcel delivery by the end of the day.
- DirectPost by Ontrac
Here, Ontrac works with USPS to deliver small and lightweight packages. While it’s not as fast as the other delivery services, it can have your parcels delivered in 3 to 5 business days.
This mid-day service is designed for packages that need to arrive before noon (weekdays) or by 2 pm (Saturdays).
Ontrac also offers a collect on delivery option, where businesses can send a package with a value of up to $10,000.
- Parcels arrive 1-2 days earlier than most national shippers.
- Free ‘signature required’ delivery service.
- The cost of every repeat COD attempt is billed to the shipper.
- As a regional shipper, its services are only limited to the West coast.
For Midwest deliveries, the Spee-dee Company should be your regional service provider of choice. After all, it offers affordable yet fast deliveries to the states of Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota. It also ships parcels to select zip codes in Nebraska, Missouri, and Michigan.
Spee-dee offers next-day, second-day, and three-day delivery services, with rates determined by weight and zone/area.
For businesses that don’t ship often, Spee-dee offers an on-call pick-up service. It levies one pick-up fee regardless of the number of parcels shipped.
Users also get to use a complimentary Spee-dee Ship platform, which enables small business owners to process parcels and track shipments. With this program, sellers can also print labels, estimate shipping costs, and save important delivery data.
- Delivers parcels weighing as much as 150 pounds.
- Offers warehousing and order fulfillment services.
- Standard account owners need to pay a weekly service charge.
- Comes with surcharges for address correction, delivery acknowledgment, and shipment of hazardous materials.
Short for Lone Star Overnight, LSO is a regional shipping service that delivers to the states of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Tennessee, and South/East New Mexico. It takes pride in offering reliable, on-time deliveries for a price that’s 40% cheaper.
LSO’s services are as follows:
- LSO Early Next Day
With this service, packages arrive at most LSO areas by 8:30 am. While this does not include a signature service, this tier comes with free packaging (tube, box, or envelope).
- LSO Priority Next Day
Should you choose this package, you are guaranteed of a parcel delivery by 10:30 am – to up to noon in some rural areas.
- LSO Economy Next Day
If you want your client’s parcel to arrive by 3 pm the next day, then this service is for you. It makes the shipping process very easy for sellers with its Monday to Friday pickup.
- LSO Ground
If your customer is not in a hurry, then you could try the LSO Ground service. Packages are guaranteed to arrive within 1 to 3 business days.
- Swift next-day delivery services (by 8:30 am with LSO Early Next Day).
- Offers international delivery through the DHL network.
- No Saturday pick-ups.
- No Saturday delivery for the LSO ground service.
8. Pitt Ohio
Pitt Ohio is a supply chain solution company offering deliveries to Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. With a fulfillment rate of 99.98%, you can expect your Pitt Ohio parcels to reach the buyers promptly.
Pitt Ohio offers ground deliveries, enabling business owners to enjoy simple yet flexible pricing based on item piece and delivery zone. It also comes with lower assessorial fees, even a dedicated Account Manager to assist you with every need.
It also specializes in expedited fast-track deliveries, so your clients receive their packages by 5 pm the following day. You can even monitor these parcels through the freight’s real-time tracking and tracing program.
The Pitt Ohio service is not limited to the US, as it services most of Canada as well. If you have buyers in the Great White North, fret not as Pitt Ohio offers next-day service to 26 areas.
- You can call by 3 pm and have your packages picked up by 5 pm.
- Offers a $500 money-back guarantee on all expedited orders.
- Charges fees for fuel, freight, and assessors.
Dicom is a logistics company that was founded in 1968 as a single car and driver courier. From then on, it has expanded to cover deliveries in the Northeastern US and some parts of Canada. Although it transports more than 80,000 parcels a day, it can hand over parcels within 24 hours of shipment – 95% of the time.
Dicom’s offers a variety of delivery solutions for businesses. One is the MaxPak, a prepaid envelope that allows you to save a lot on shipping fees. Since it can carry up to 10 pounds, it’s a great option for industries that sell small, lightweight goods.
For bigger parcels, Dicom offers a DexPAK. Measuring 13.8 by 17 inches, it can fit slightly bigger products.
While most of its deliveries are done by ground, Dicom offers air deliveries as well. With this service, deliveries can be completed within 24 hours.
- Delivers packages weighing more than 300 pounds via Dicom Freight.
- Offers volume discounts.
- Does not deliver perishable food.
LaserShip is a regional last-mile delivery service covering the states of Ohio, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Florida.
For small businesses, LaserShip offers a Residential E-commerce package. It fits a variety of industries, including that of retail, apparel, cosmetics, office supply, even healthcare products. With this, sellers have the freedom to choose from same-day, next-day, or two-day delivery options.
LaserShip also provides a custom routed courier, which comes with a dedicated route delivery and fleet replacement. It can perform scheduled or on-demand same-day delivery, as well as next-day shipments for the local market.
While LaserShip is a regional service provider, it also offers worldwide critical delivery for the aviation, entertainment, automation, and healthcare industries.
- Long residential delivery times (8 am to 9 pm).
- Dedicated custom routed courier service.
- Limited allowable weight for delivery (50 pounds).
- Expensive accessorial charges for additional handling, address correction, over maximum limits, and return to sender packages.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are several things that you need to consider before you levy a shipping fee for your business.
a. Package Dimension or Weight
Most carriers base their prices according to the parcel’s dimensional package. You can derive this measurement by multiplying the length, volume, and width of your parcel. However, there may be companies that charge the fees according to your package’s weight. The company will bill you for whichever is higher in cost.
b. Shipping Destination
Shippers levy costs according to the zone destination. You need to be careful with assigning an international shipment fee as a wrong charge can affect your revenue.
c. Item Value
As mentioned, insurance is necessary for parcels, especially if you are shipping a high-value product. With that being said, you may need to increase the cost according to insurance value.
d. Delivery Time
If you want your products to arrive at a faster time, then you should consider the premium pricing for expedited shipping.
You can help lower shipping costs – and subsequently increase your profits – by doing the following:
a. Negotiate with several companies
If you ship a lot of packages, then you need to negotiate with multiple shippers. If one company knows you are dealing with another, chances are it will lower its prices – just to get you on its side.
b. Use carrier packaging
As mentioned, having your own parcel package can cost some money. Unless you want to have a personalized envelope or box, it’s more economical to go with the carrier’s parcel.
c. Opt for a regional carrier
If your products are usually purchased within the city or state, you should go with a regional carrier. These companies usually offer cheaper prices, however, deliveries are often confined in certain areas.
d. Try prepaid shipping
Availing of prepaid shipping can make for a good shipping discount, especially if your products have a uniform weight/shipping cost. By purchasing a preset number of shipping labels, you can get a 20% discount on certain carriers such as UPS and FedEx.
e. Take advantage of online shipping discounts
Some carriers offer discounts when booking online. Such is the case with USPS, where you are entitled to a 16% discount for priority mail and 60% savings for express mail. This also comes with other additional services, such as free pick-up and shipping supplies.
f. Go for association discounts
If you are part of some business chamber or association, then you should go ahead and inquire about industry discounts. In some cases, you can get as much as a 50% discount from companies such as UPS or FedEx.
With 90% of buyers considering free shipping as a primary driver, a small business would benefit a lot from this promotion. Fortunately, you can afford this – without losing profits – by following these tips:
a. Increase the price…a bit
The best way to offset your free shipping offer is to kick up the prices of your products. However, make sure to increase the cost in such a way that buyers view it as ‘tolerable’. For best results, calculate your shop’s average shipping cost and incorporate a good amount into each product.
b. Promote repeat purchases
Another way to recover the money you lost over free shipping is to make sure that your client purchases from your shop repeatedly. You can ensure this by e-mail marketing, promoting subscriptions, or starting a loyalty program.
c. Strive to increase the average order value
Apart from encouraging multiple purchases, another way to cover shipping costs is to increase a customer’s average order value. It could be as simple as granting free shipping for a minimum purchase – or whenever a client buys a product bundle.
Using certain services and apps can help a busy entrepreneur save time when shipping.
For one, you could try dropshipping. Here, the manufacturer is responsible for sending the product/s directly to the consumer. You don’t have to worry about storing the product/s or booking a shopping service. You just need to inform the dropshipper once an order has been placed.
As a business owner, you could also go for a third-party logistics provider. Also known as 3PL, it is responsible for storing your items, processing the orders, and sending them to your buyers.
Another option is to use a shipping software. With this, you can fulfill orders, print shipping labels, track parcels, and even negotiate the prices with shipping services. You can even integrate this software with your online store for easier processing.
While sticking with one company has its benefits, there are also many advantages to partnering up with several shipping services.
a. Best Rates
As mentioned, the competition will fuel companies to drop their shipping prices. If a shipping company knows you are working with another service provider, it will be more likely to offer more discounts – just to get you as a client.
b. Faster Deliveries
Your client may want to receive his/her package at an earlier date. Working with just one company often comes with limitations, especially for regional carriers. By enlisting the help of multiple companies, you can send your parcels at a faster rate – thereby keeping your customers happy, loyal, and more likely to buy again.
c. Better Reach
Some shipping companies may have limited services, especially in this pandemic. If you want to cover all area codes – and several other countries in the process – then you need to work with multiple companies.
Again, some courier services may be hampered because of the Coronavirus. If you want to keep your business up and running, then you should have several choices for shipping. In case one fails, another one can serve as a fallback.
The right shipping service can make or break any small business. After all, delivery times and return services largely affect the purchasing decision of many buyers. With many E-commerce stores out there, having a good shipping partner can ensure many sales – and better revenues.
When it comes to choosing a shipping service, you need to consider numerous factors, including product weight, shipping volume, speed, price, tracking service, reputation, complimentary packaging, safety, insurance, pick-up services, and international shipping options. Factoring all of these, you can get an affordable yet reliable delivery service for your small business.