Ecommerce Fulfillment: A Guide to Shipping Methods and Carriers - Simplified!
Updated: Aug 10
There are a ton of ecommerce fulfillment carriers out there and it can get pretty confusing when it comes to picking the right one. We’ll explain everything you need to know about shipping carriers from carrier types, carrier costs, and the pros and cons of several different shipping carriers. Let’s get started!
How do major ecommerce fulfillment carriers function?
Major carriers utilize just about every mode of transportation out there. Some carriers require different pickups for different services such as ground or express and others have their drivers pick up all packages and sort them at the distribution center.
How to Find the Best Shipping Carrier for Your Business
When choosing a shipping carrier, you need to consider a number of factors. Understanding how each type of carrier operates will help you make the best decision for your business. FedEx Ground routes are franchised and handled by local owners. They deliver packages to their closest hub where they are passed on to other route owners for delivery. FedEx Express is a corporate entity and operates under one corporate umbrella nationwide. UPS on the other hand operates all services under their single corporate umbrella. USPS is a government entity, and while they often offer the best pricing, tracking and customer service often leave something to be desired.
Most major carriers have a hybrid product in which they handle tracking and logistics and hand off their parcels to USPS for final delivery. UPS Mail Innovations is one of these products. It's affordable, but only offers one service with a wide estimated transit time window, typically one to eight days. FedEx offers a similar product called SmartPost and DHL has recently released a similar product as well. There are shipping consolidators who combine multiple services and help you to choose the best option for your business. A good 3PL will handle all of this for you in addition to letting you pick and choose which carriers you are most comfortable using.
2 Day Free Shipping
So I hate to break it to you, but two-day free shipping doesn't exist. I know, it's hard to believe, but someone is paying for the trucks, planes, delivery driver salaries, and fuel it takes to get your packages to where they need to go. Amazon has everyone fooled. If you decide to offer two-day free shipping, there are a few things to consider. If you want fast delivery times and highly trackable parcels, it's going to come at a higher cost than standard ground options. Using a ground service doesn't necessarily mean your package won't arrive in a timely manner if the destination is close to the origin, but there are no guarantees. If the destination is in a rural area, the carrier might wait until there are enough packages in the area to justify making a delivery. This isn't the case with an expedited, 2-day or 3-day service, but it comes at a higher cost. A good 3PL will choose the best carrier based on destination zip codes and the special rates they've negotiated with major carriers.
USPS and US Postal Service
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is a great choice for businesses that ship smaller packages on a regular basis. The nice thing about USPS is that is isn't designed to be a for-profit entity. USPS is designed to get parcels to their destination whether or not it's a difficult location to reach for a reasonable price. USPS is a government entity, so keep in mind that you might not get the same customer service as you would from a private carrier. Insurance claims can take a while to process and getting clear answers about lost parcels can be frustrating.
A good 3PL will help you find the best carrier and service for you and your business. If you want fast, reliable, trackable parcels backed by great customer service, expect to pay a bit more. There are far cheaper options out there, and while some are great services, it's important to have realistic expectations. A 3PL like Shipping Bros has multiple options that take into consideration factors such as your products dimensions and weight, transit times, your customer base, and cost. Ask lots of questions and you'll find the best service for your business at an affordable rate!