Key Points:

  • As a merchant, you drop off your package to a carrier or have them pick it up
  • FedEx handles an average daily volume of 12 million packages to more than 220 countries across the world
  • USPS handles an average daily volume of 472 million packages to more than 190 countries and territories across the world

Starting an eCommerce store entails a lot of work and logistics. There are many moving parts that you need to consider in the planning stage. There's the exciting part where you collaborate with designers on building your brand identity and website, and then developing the perfect copy to describe your products, before uploading them start selling to your target audience.

Before you start selling though, you need to develop your shipping strategy, and a key part of that is determining how to choose your shipping carriers. There are key distinctions and variables you’ll need to understand before you make your choices, as each situation will require a different mix of shipping solutions.  

It’s important to know upfront that there is no one size fits all solution when it comes to choosing a shipping carrier, and you need to consider multiple options instead of relying on one carrier. At Easyship we believe a multi-carrier strategy is the smartest approach to meet the needs of your customers. With over 250+ shipping solutions, we can help you find the right mix to fit your specific needs.

In this article, we’ll provide you with the key variables to consider when choosing a delivery carrier, the major shipping carriers you can work with, and how Easyship can help you develop a shipping strategy and delight your customers with a streamlined shipping experience.

Table of Contents

What is a Shipping Carrier?

A shipping carrier is a company that delivers packages. As a merchant, you drop off your package to a carrier or have them pick it up. From here, the carrier transports the package to the receiving party. Shipping carriers charge a fee for their delivery services. The cost of service depends on the distance of the shipment, the package weight, its contents, as well as the delivery speed.

The Major Couriers: UPS, DHL, USPS, and FedEx

Major Couriers UPS DHL USPS and FedEx

In your quest to choose a shipping carrier, you need to be aware of the major couriers. Here, we give you a list of the major carriers as well as the best hybrid solutions that will enable you to send packages to any corner of the world.

This is one of the major carriers that is reputed for being the cheapest when shipping small, lightweight packages below 2lbs. USPS handles an average daily volume of 472 million packages to more than 190 countries and territories across the world.

If you want to ship lightweight packages that are less than 2 pounds, you can take advantage of USPS's cheapest shipping services for both international and domestic shipping. The only downside is that USPS doesn't guarantee the delivery date of your parcels. That means you can never predict when your customer will receive their packages. Also, the USPS doesn't offer elaborate package tracking.

FedEx is reputed for its fast delivery times for both domestic and international shipping. The company handles an average daily volume of 12 million packages to more than 220 countries across the world.

FedEx is known for their next-day delivery services that come at an additional charge, as well as their low-cost economy shipping offered via FedEx Ground service.

It is an excellent option for sending large and heavier packages that exceed 3 pounds. They offer detailed tracking of packages and package delivery guarantees. With FedEx, you can predict accurately when your buyers will receive their items.

UPS is another shipping carrier that you can use for both domestic and international shipping. Their shipping rates tend to be higher, but you can always negotiate for lower rates if you ship a large volume of packages per month.

Depending on your needs, UPS offers next day, 2nd day, 3-day, and ground shipping services. You can choose either of these depending on your need. Their shipping services tend to be economical when shipping packages that exceed 3 pounds. They offer a delivery guarantee for your packages and have one of the most reliable package tracking systems.

Although DHL doesn't offer domestic shipping within the US, it is one of the cheapest shipping carriers for global shipping services. They have more than 4000 offices in 220 countries. DHL may be your go-to carrier if you want to find cheap and fast shipping solutions for your international customers.

  • Hybrid solutions

Going it alone can be tough when it comes to choosing a delivery carrier for your business. One of the easiest ways to avoid the hassles of having to consult and talk to different shipping carriers and negotiate rates by yourself is to allow a hybrid shipping solution like Easyship to it for you.

Easyship easily and seamlessly integrates all the major carriers like FedEx, USPS, DHL, and UPS into a single interface where you can access their different shipping services at a discounted price and reduce your shipping costs significantly.

What's the Difference Between a Shipping Courier and a Shipping Carrier?

A shipping courier is a company that transports packages directly to the end receiver. Many couriers exist, from UPS to FedEx to USPS. Courier services deliver mostly small shipments and low-weight items.

A shipping carrier is a transportation company that delivers packages via air freight, sea freight, trucks, and rail. Carriers are large-scale logistics companies that deal in heavy loads of cargo, often between businesses, as opposed to smaller shipments to consumers.

Most courier services have operated as carriers and couriers, delivering both large and small shipments to different parties within their fulfillment network.

10 Key Variables to Consider

Shipping plays a key role in determining the success of your business because it is how you connect with your customers physically. Without reliable shipping, your customers will lose trust in your brand and it’ll be difficult to gain traction.

Therefore, it helps to spend some time and choose the best shipping carriers that will provide you with top shipping solutions and help you handle the delivery process successfully so that you can delight your buyers with a streamlined shipping experience.

There are several factors that you should consider when choosing a delivery carrier. This will not only help you save on shipping costs but also find the best shipping solutions that will help you offer your buyers impeccable delivery times and grow your business. You can use our Courier comparison tool to compare different couriers side by side based on different factors.

Here, we discuss the key variables to consider.

1. Cost

High shipping rates can devour your profits and erode your store's bottom line. Therefore, working with a carrier that helps you save on shipping costs matters. Shipping rates are calculated based on the size and the weight of the package. The larger or heavier your package is, the more you will pay to have it delivered.

That said, different carriers offer different shipping services and rates for the same package weight to the same destination. The easiest way to determine and compare shipping rates for the different services from different couriers is to use a shipping rates calculator so that you can choose the best option that will meet the needs of your buyers.

For example, USPS is by far the cheapest shipping option when mailing packages that weigh less than 2lbs within the US, but you may find that it is more economical to use FedEx or UPS when mailing large and heavy items.

Working with a carrier that provides free shipping supplies can also help you drive down shipping costs. These include boxes, envelopes, and shipping labels

2. Delivery time

Delivery time is another important variable that you need to consider when choosing a shipping carrier. This will largely be determined by your customer's shipping zones.

For example, if you are running a monthly subscription service where you ship to your customers on a predictable schedule, you have the luxury of choosing slower shipping services because you can schedule your shipments earlier to reach your customers at the right time.

But if you run an online retail business where you are competing with big-name retailers like Amazon and Walmart, then you need to understand that speed is important to online shoppers in this space.

Your buyer's shipping zone will determine how long your packages will be traveling to be delivered. This makes distance a big factor when determining delivery speeds.

The longer the distance, the longer the delivery time, especially when using economic delivery services. Longer distances also mean that you will have to pay more for fast shipping.

3. Weekend Delivery

Weekend delivery is also another thing to consider when choosing a delivery carrier. If your buyers require a weekend delivery, make sure you partner with a carrier that offers that. Also, enquire about their surcharges for weekend delivery and determine upfront who will pay for these -you or your customer.

4. Destination

Where do the carriers deliver? Do they offer both international and domestic shipping? Does the carrier you are considering to use offer delivery to the remote locations and do they charge additional fees for the same?

If you are considering selling to both domestic and international customers, then you need to choose carriers that incorporate both domestic and international shipping or work with multiple carriers to cater to your local and international buyers.

5. Type of Products

This is another top factor that you will need to consider when choosing a shipping carrier. Different carriers have size and shape restrictions, and you need to be aware of these when approaching various carriers. You may also encounter country restrictions and policies that serve as a hindrance when shipping your products to different countries.

For example, some carriers won't ship food supplements or perfumes to certain countries. Others may not offer shipping services for very expensive and fragile items. So make sure to consult with various carriers and enquire about their shape, size, products, and country restrictions. You can visit our country guide to learn more about the various regulations and taxes duties.

6. Fees

Additional fees should not be left behind when choosing a shipping carrier. You need to know upfront the type of fees you will be paying in terms of fuel surcharges, pick-up fees, residential surcharges for remote deliveries, or any handling fees you may be required to pay for shipping high-value and fragile items.

7. Tracking

Package tracking is very important in eCommerce when it comes to managing customers' delivery expectations. It helps lower delivery anxiety when there are some shipping delays. Working with a carrier that offers detailed tracking and/or delivery confirmations will go a long way in helping you offer a smooth shipping experience to your buyers.

8. Insurance

Here, you need to understand your average order value, and the extent to which your carrier's included insurance covers it. You also need to figure out how you will fund any additional insurance when required. Easyship can help you ensure your cargo is up to $5000.

9. Shipping Software

These days it’s critical that you utilize the best tools available to optimize your eCommerce store. A shipping platform like Easyship will help you optimize and streamline your shipping, saving you time and money. Our integrations allow you to seamlessly connect with the major marketplaces for omnichannel solutions, and make it easy to link your own courier account for your own negotiated rates.

10. Live rates

Shoppers want to see live rates at checkout and are increasingly demanding this feature from online stores. This entails automatic computation of shipping rates based on different product features such as weight, size, and destination. Easyship's Rates at Checkout feature enables you to do exactly that and show live rates at checkout.

How to Develop a Shipping Strategy with Easyship

As you can see, a lot goes into choosing the best shipping carrier, but if you want to develop a winning shipping strategy, you must take time to find top shipping solutions that will help you meet the needs of your business. Our courier comparison tool will help you remove a lot of guesswork from this process.

The best part is that you don't have to go it alone!

With Easyship, merchants have access to the leading turnkey shipping platform for eCommerce. Our network of over 250+ couriers provides you with the multi-carrier shipping solutions that your customers demand in a competitive marketplace. Through our platform, merchants can easily integrate with the leading eCommerce marketplaces, automate and optimize their shipping, and provide their customers with a seamless brand experience.  

Sign up for a free Easyship account today and gain access to a network of reliable, cos-effective couriers!

Shipping Carrier FAQ

What is the difference between a shipping carrier and a shipping line?

There is no difference. Both are terms for a company that transports cargo by sea freight.

Which Carrier is the Most Reliable When Shipping Fragile Items?

All express carriers like UPS, FedEx, and DHL are reputed to be protective of fragile packages. You can purchase additional insurance for packages, and all orders from these couriers come with tracking.

Does Amazon have its own carrier?

Amazon doesn't yet have its own carrier service, but it does have Fulfillment By Amazon. This service can handle all fulfillment needs for your business. Meanwhile, Amazon has its own fleet of delivery vans to support its Prime Delivery service.

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