11 Different Types of Shipping Methods

6 Minutes Read

Shopping online is now the norm. Customers today choose where to buy based on how fast and affordable the shipping is. They want quick, reliable, and cheap delivery, which creates tough competition for online stores and small businesses. In this guide, we'll explain different shipping methods to help you stand out and improve both customer satisfaction and your profits.


The Basics of E-Commerce Shipping

As online shopping continues to grow, shipping and delivery have become crucial aspects of the e-commerce business. The shipping process begins with fulfillment, where the ordered items are gathered, packaged, and labeled for shipping. The process then moves to the shipping stage, where the carrier and shipping method are selected, and the package is shipped to the customer. The carrier will most likely scan and update the tracking information during shipping. Finally, the package is delivered to a hopefully happy customer. 


Shipping Carriers

Shipping carriers such as FedEx, UPS, DHL, and USPS all have different strengths and limitations. Similarly, each carrier offers different rates and delivery times depending on the destination, package size, and weight. 

Choosing the carrier that best suits your business needs is important. For example, FedEx may be a good option if you require fast, reliable shipping for time-sensitive products, while USPS may be a better choice if you often ship lightweight items. 

By carefully considering these factors, your e-commerce business can select a shipping option that meets your specific needs and ensures that your packages are delivered on time and in good condition. 


Understanding Shipping Methods and Delivery Methods

Shipping methods focus on package transportation from seller to buyer, while delivery methods focus on the final delivery to the customer’s location. Shipping methods include options such as ground, air, and sea, as well as different carriers and speeds. Delivery methods involve the final leg of the shipping process and include options like doorstep delivery or delivery to a secure locker. 

Choosing the right shipping method is critical for your business because it directly impacts customer satisfaction and loyalty. On the other hand, offering your customers a choice of delivery method is a less common practice among online retailers and will provide your customers with a higher level of customization than many, if not all, of your competitors.


Types of Shipping Methods

Understanding the various shipping methods is just as important as understanding the process. Here’s a brief overview of the most common types: 

  1. Ground shipping: Ground uses trucks to transport packages by land. This is the most prevalent and cost-effective shipping method, however, it does result in longer transit times compared to other methods. 
  2. Expedited shipping: This shipping method offers faster delivery than ground, often within two to three days, which your customers will appreciate. The downside is that the price tag does carry additional fees. 
  3. Same-day shipping: As the name suggests, this method guarantees that the order will be fulfilled, sent, and received the same day the order is submitted. It’s the most expensive option, but it can be helpful for urgent and emergency shipments.
  4. International shipping: This method involves the transport of packages across borders and often includes additional fees, regulations, and customs clearance requirements. 
  5. Freight shipping: This shipping option is used for large and heavy items that cannot be shipped through regular ground or air transportation, such as furniture and automobile parts.
  6. Free Shipping: Offering free shipping can attract more customers and encourage larger orders. While it may reduce your profit margins, it can boost overall sales and customer loyalty.
  7. Overnight Shipping: This method ensures delivery by the next business day. It's ideal for urgent shipments, providing a fast but more expensive option for customers who need their items quickly.
  8. Two-Day Shipping: A popular choice for customers who want quick delivery without the high cost of overnight shipping. It balances speed and affordability, making it a competitive option for many online retailers.
  9. Local Delivery: This service is used to deliver packages within a specific geographic area, often on the same day. It's perfect for businesses that serve a local market and want to offer quick, convenient delivery options.
  10. Flat-Rate Shipping: This method charges a single rate for shipping regardless of the package weight or distance traveled. It simplifies shipping costs for customers and can be beneficial for budgeting and predictability.
  11. Table Rate Shipping: This option calculates shipping costs based on various factors such as weight, dimensions, and destination. It allows for more customized pricing, which can help optimize shipping expenses and provide fair rates for customers.


Choosing the Right Shipping Method for Your Business

As we’ve mentioned, choosing the right shipping method for your business can significantly impact your overall customer experience. But how do you know which shipping option(s) are best for your business?

If you’re shipping large or heavy items, or shipping internationally, the choices are less varied and more obvious. On the other hand, if you’re like most online retailers, you are probably shipping items with fewer shipping requirements and significantly more choices in terms of shipping options.

When deciding what types of shipping options to offer your customers, consider that shipping costs vary greatly depending on the shipping method, carrier, package size, weight, and destination. Shipping calculators or outsourcing your shipping can help manage these variables.

Other important considerations include the level of tracking and insurance offered, as well as specific requirements or restrictions for the product being shipped. For instance, if your business is shipping valuable or fragile items such as jewelry or glassware, you may want to select a shipping method that offers additional protection like insurance coverage and tracking options to minimize the risk of loss or damage.


Dimensional Limitations

Carriers have different dimensional limitations, meaning they have specific package sizes and weight restrictions. For example, USPS has a maximum package weight of 70 pounds, while UPS has a maximum weight of 150 pounds. It’s important to consider these limitations when selecting product packaging and shipping methods to avoid additional charges or delays due to oversized packages. 


Fixed Rate Shipping Advantage

Fixed-rate shipping is a flat-rate shipping method with a fixed cost regardless of weight or destination. This method can be particularly beneficial for small or lightweight products, as the fixed rate provides cost certainty and can simplify operations.


FedEx One Rate Advantage

FedEx One Rate is a flat-rate shipping option that offers a predictable cost based on package size and destination. You can ship packages at a fixed rate regardless of weight, providing cost certainty and convenience for bulky or heavy items. 


USPS Flat Rate Comparison

USPS flat-rate shipping is a cost-effective option for small, heavy items as they can be shipped at a flat rate without additional charges based on weight or destination, making it a convenient and budget-friendly choice for shipping. 


Packaging, Insurance, and Tracking

Proper packaging is crucial to ensure products arrive safely and intact. The type of packaging required changes depending on the type of item you ship. For example, fragile items such as glassware require extra padding to prevent damage, while clothing or books can be shipped in a standard box or envelope. Additionally, insurance is essential for businesses to consider because it can protect you from any damage or loss during the shipping process. And providing tracking information is vital to consumer confidence in their purchase. 


Shipping Software for Small Businesses

Shipping software services can help small businesses manage their processes more efficiently by automating tasks such as package tracking, order tracking, and label printing. While these software services can be a valuable tool for small businesses, a full-service solution that includes both order fulfillment and shipping might be an even better choice.


Shipping Rates for Small Businesses

The cost of shipping can vary depending on the carrier used, the shipping method, the package’s weight and dimensions, and the destination.

For example, FedEx ground shipping rates typically start at around $7 per package, while UPS ground shipping rates usually start at around $8. However, these rates can fluctuate depending on a variety of factors, including fuel prices, demand, and seasonal fluctuations. 

Carriers use sophisticated algorithms to determine the most cost-effective and efficient shipping routes. This process takes into account a range of factors, including the origin and destination of the shipment, the package’s weight and dimensions, and the carrier’s available capacity. 

In addition to the carrier’s base shipping rates, there may be additional fees for services such as expedited shipping, insurance, and signature confirmation. 

To keep shipping costs down, you might want to consider negotiating rates with your preferred carriers based on shipping volume. If you don’t have a large enough shipping volume to negotiate better rates on your own, you could benefit from outsourcing your shipping to a 3PL to take advantage of their bulk rates. Not only does this method solve your shipping problem, but it also takes another task off your already very busy plate. Win-Win! 


Related Reading: 8 Signs You Need a 3PL


Getting the Best Shipping Rates for My Small Business

Carriers use a variety of pricing structures and formulas to determine shipping rates, as mentioned above. However, you can go “shipping shopping.” Here are a few strategies to get the best rates for your business: 

  • Negotiating rates with carriers can reduce costs, especially for high-volume shippers.
  • Flat-rate shipping options can be cost-effective for shipping smaller packages.
  • Optimizing packaging reduces package weight and dimensions, leading to lower rates. 
  • Shipping software can help businesses compare rates and choose the most budget-friendly option for each shipment.
  • Working with an order fulfillment partner like Ship My Orders can result in significant cost savings through our discounted rates AND you don’t have to keep up with these dizzying logistics! 

Related Reading: 9 Tips to Lower Shipping Costs for Your Business


The Benefits of Offering Shipping Incentives and Discounts

When it comes to shipping, you can optimize your strategy by offering free shipping, incentives, and discounts as a first step. Providing free shipping can be an effective way to increase sales and customer satisfaction, as customers are more likely to purchase if they know they won’t have to pay for shipping. However, it can be costly for businesses so it’s important to carefully consider the impact on profit margins and adjust prices accordingly. We recommend testing and assessing different scenarios such as free shipping with orders over $50.


Partner With Ship My Orders For Your Fulfillment 

Whether you're shipping small items or larger packages, it's essential to compare different options and carriers to find the one that works best for your business needs and budget. Using shipping software, negotiating rates with carriers, and optimizing your packaging can help you save on costs and streamline your operations or you could leave it to the experts and let us do that! We live and breathe fulfillment and shipping so you can focus on what you do best! Find out how Ship My Orders can alleviate all your stress around shipping logistics. Get a custom quote today.


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Dan R.