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eCommerce Tips & Trends

12 Shipping and Logistics Trends for 2021

2020 was a disruptive year for ecommerce and logistics. We took a look at our data to identify the key trends to watch for in 2021. Here's what we found.
12 Shipping and Logistics Trends for 2021
Jules

By Jules

 

February 19, 2021

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Though a most disruptive year, 2020 advanced existing trends in shipping and logistics. Most importantly, the pandemic accelerated the shift from physical shopping to eCommerce by five years, according to the US Retail Index from IBM.

Last year, consumers found themselves shopping online with greater frequency. Today, a growing number of people opt to shop online rather than in person. As lockdowns persist, habits are cementing around digital commerce.

Unsurprisingly, shipping and logistics remain in flux after last year’s upheaval. In 2021, the industry will further recalibrate around eCommerce. Supply and demand issues have impacted pricing and delivery times, but are expected to stabilize. This despite lingering uncertainties around public health, geopolitics, and new technology like commercial delivery drones.

For merchants, 2021 is a gold rush. With global eCommerce surging, those expanding into new markets will be rewarded handsomely. How best to navigate the transition, though, can be the difference between headaches and huge profits. The key to success is an effective growth strategy, empowered by reliable and cost-effective shipping solutions.

To provide this report, Easyship analyzed the data from over 10,000 shipping transactions as well as our website data. Split into three sections, we’ve gleaned the following insights about last year and 2021.

Easyship Shipping Data Reveals:

  1. Demand is increasing for affordable global shipping options
  2. Delivery times are normalizing
  3. The most popular US domestic couriers are USPS, UPS and FedEx
  4. The US remains the main service lane for international shipments
  5. The greatest share of new US shipments went to Brazil, Italy and Spain
  6. eCommerce buyers cluster in the US, UK and Australia
  7. The US represents nearly half (48.9%) of crowdfunding backers

Top Consumer Product Categories By Country:

  1. The US: Jewelry, board games and fashion products
  2. Hong Kong: Sports & leisure, health & beauty, and board games
  3. Canada: Nutrients & supplements, bags & luggage, and jewelry
  4. Australia: Nutrition products, sports & leisure and board games
  5. The UK: Health & beauty, board games and jewelry
  6. Singapore: Bags & luggage, fashion, and jewelry
  1. Commercial drone deliveries ready for takeoff
  2. Shipping goes green
  3. Small merchants gain momentum
  4. Shipping prices could climb
  5. Multi-courier solutions further enhance their offerings

Use this report to learn the trends impacting shipping and logistics in 2021, plus the best practices to enable your success.

1. Demand Increasing For Affordable Global Shipping Options

Global Shipping Options

What’s top of mind for eCommerce brands and crowdfunders around shipping and logistics? Unsurprisingly, it’s money.

The Cheapest Way to Ship Internationally” was the most popular article published by Easyship in the last year. This was one in a series of articles that discussed the cheapest way to send various products to different global locations. As global eCommerce continues to boom, demand for cost-effective global shipping options should increase to match.

Cost management will always be a top concern for businesses. This is why we pulled last year’s shipping data to help you identify the cheapest shipping options in your target market for 2021.

Use the four charts below to determine the best shipping company for your next cross-border shipment.

The Cheapest Cross Border Shipping Companies From the US

Package weight determines the most affordable domestic courier. The chart below shows that FedEx offers the cheapest rates on packages below 1kg (2.2 lbs), while UPS is cheapest for heavy packages, with several options in between.

CourierServiceWeight
FedExCross Border1kg and below
SkyPostalePacket1-5kg
DHL eCommerceParcel Direct5-10kg
UPSStandard10-15kg


You can find the cheapest, fastest, or best-value international shipping options with our free shipping rates calculator. Compare real-time rates from the US to anywhere in seconds.

The Cheapest Cross Border Shipping Companies From Australia

Like the US, shipping rates from Australia vary by package weight. The chart below gives you the cheapest cross-border shipping companies from Australia.

CourierServiceWeight
QuantiumInternational Economy1kg and below
Omni ParcelStandard1-5kg
Australia PostExpress International5-10kg
TollEconomy Parcel10-15kg

Compare rates from Australia to find the cheapest, fastest or best value by using our shipping rates calculator.

The Cheapest Cross Border Shipping Companies From Hong Kong

Affordable cross-border shipping from Hong Kong offers two options, seen below.

CourierServiceWeight
QuantiumIntl Priority AU1kg and below
SF ExpressDomestic1-15kg

Use our shipping rates calculator to find the most affordable cross-border rates from Hong Kong for your specific order.

The Cheapest Cross Border Shipping Companies From Singapore

Choose from the following two couriers below when looking for cost-effective shipping rates from Singapore.

CourierServiceWeight
Ninja VanExpressB2C1kg and below
JanioExpress1-15kg

You can compare rates from Singapore to find the cheapest, fastest or best value by using our shipping rates calculator.

2. Delivery Times Are Normalizing

In 2021, delivery lead times (DLT) should return to normal. Supply chains were disrupted by the pandemic as well as geopolitical events last year, including Brexit, shipping container shortages, and the budding trade war between the US and China.

Seen below, US domestic deliveries arrived in 3.2 days on average in 2020, up from 1.9 days on average in 2019.

Average Domestic vs International Delivery Times

Recent innovations in shipping and logistics promise to stabilize delivery times going forward. This includes the rollout of commercial drone deliveries, shipping container optimization, and increased automation.

We predict that DLTs will approach pre-pandemic times as operators adjust to these new systems. The table below shows the average predicted delivery times for domestic and international shipments in 2021, based on our analysis.

Predicted Delivery Lead Times in 2021
Domestic2 Days
International10 Days

For merchants, reliable deliveries are essential to happy customers. By contrast, delivery disappointments cause churn and diminish revenues. To avoid fallout, merchants must develop strategies to both mitigate the risk of delay and manage customer expectations. Shoppers appreciate transparency in shipping, and are more tolerant of delays when kept in the loop.

Here are a handful of best practices used by top brands to promote reliable delivery times:

  • Pay a premium for express solutions if customers expect quick delivery
  • Set transparent shipping policies and make them obvious on your site
  • Offer package tracking to foster peace of mind, when available
  • Provide shipping insurance, especially on higher price items

The following popular resources can help you create a shipping strategy that results in a positive customer experience:

US Most Popular Couriers

Our research shows that the most popular domestic US delivery services are the USPS, UPS and FedEx.

Historically, USPS is a trustworthy option for eCommerce merchants. This is largely due to its range of inexpensive shipping options, with First Class and Priority Mail being the most popular.

FedEx and UPS also continue to be popular for their mix of speed, reliability, and options like insurance and package tracking. Though courier rates went a bit wonky last year, as might be expected, rates and delivery times should be more predictable going forward.

Merchants can use our free domestic shipping rate calculator to access real-time shipping rates for 250+ shipping companies.

4. The US Remains The World’s Throughway

Despite steady advancement by China, the US remains the world’s largest consumer economy.

In turn, the US is the primary conduit for cross-border shipping, and hosts the greatest number of shipping channels, or service lanes, to other countries. For US-based merchants, this means that cross-border shipping prices should be relatively stable for the coming year.

Our research shows that the most popular service lanes for cross-border shipping are between the US and Canada, Hong Kong and the US, and Australia and the US.

As the graphic below shows, the top five service lanes for cross-border shipping are:

  1. US to Canada
  2. Hong Kong to US
  3. US to Australia
  4. US to UK
  5. US to Brazil
Top five service lanes for cross-border shipping

Notably, Brazil is now one of the largest recipients of US shipments. As high-speed internet becomes more widespread in this massive country, shipments should increase further.

5. Brazil, Italy and Spain Increase Share of US Shipments

The US supplies many of the world’s niche products and services.

In 2020, Brazil, Italy and Spain saw the largest uptick in US-based shipments, respectively. This suggests that these countries, amidst lockdowns, developed their tastes for products originating in the States.

Europe is historically the leading recipient of US shipments. As expected, our data shows that France, Germany and the UK also saw an influx of US-based shipments in 2020. Outside of Europe, the top three countries with increasing US shipments were Brazil, Russia, and Israel, respectively.

Though 2020 was an anomaly, our research indicates that merchants have opportunities to expand in these foreign markets. Confirming this, experts predict that eCommerce penetration will rise from 15% to 25% worldwide by 2025.

6. eCommerce Buyers Clustered In The US, UK and Australia

Cross-border commerce unlocks new levels of success for eCommerce brands. Savvy merchants used 2020 to expand their scope, and reaped the benefits accordingly.

Our research found that eCommerce buyers were primarily located in three countries:

  • The US
  • The UK
  • Australia

Leaders aside, more than three in four (77%) cross-border buyers live in 12 developed nations, seen in the graphic below.

Top 3 eCommerce Buyers

Merchants can use these insights to craft their international growth strategy. After all, it’s best to ship to where you customers are. As you consider scaling internationally, check if your web store analytics data shows buyers in these growing countries. If so, the likelihood of success is high.

Exempting the leaders, eCommerce buyers in 2020 were found in the following counties:

  • Germany (4.6%)
  • France (3.7%)
  • Brazil (3.7%)
  • Japan (2%)
  • Italy (2%)
  • Singapore (1.6%)
  • Israel (1.5%)
  • New Zealand (1.5%)

As eCommerce becomes more habitual, expect these markets to increase their share in purchasing, respectively.

7. US Contains The Vast Majority of Crowdfunding Backers

Unsurprisingly, our research finds that the US accounts for nearly half (48%) of global crowdfunding backers. The UK (7.96%) and Canada (5.7%) are the next largest crowdfunding markets.

Top locations for crowdfunding backers

More importantly, a full 52% of crowdfunding backers live in nine additional countries. This means that crowdfunders should consider their growing audiences in these markets. The emergent countries to focus on include:

  • Germany (5.6%)
  • Australia (4.8%)
  • Singapore (2.7%)
  • France (2.7%)
  • Netherlands (2.4%)
  • Japan (2.2%)
  • Hong Kong (1.4%)
  • Switzerland (1.4%)
  • Spain (1.4%)

If you’re new to crowdfunding, you can dive into the Crowdfunding 101 Guidebook. This comprehensive resource covers the basics of strategic planning, marketing, and shipping. It will also be your roadmap as you pivot into eCommerce once your campaign succeeds.

Favorite Product Categories In Top Consumer Countries

This section highlights the top purchase categories among buyers in top-spending countries. Use this data to determine which markets best suit your offerings, and identify opportunities for expansion.

That said, it’s important to remember that the US is the global spending leader in all product categories. The following data reflect the gross sales in product categories within a single country, not between countries.

The top six consumer countries are listed below in order of their gross spending power:

  • The US
  • Singapore
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Hong Kong
  • UK

US Buyers Prefer Jewelry, Board Games and Fashion Products

Top 3 most popular product categories with US buyers

In 2020, the most popular product categories with US buyers were jewelry, board games, and fashion. Heavy spending on jewelry and apparel is no surprise for the world’s richest nation, though these numbers dipped last year. Board games are a new favorite due to the lockdowns. Looking ahead, we predict a decline in board game purchases once lockdowns lift, with jewelry and apparel rising when warmer weather arrives.

Hong Kong Prefers Sports, Health & Beauty, and Board Games

Most popular product categories with Hong Kong buyers

For buyers in Hong Kong, the top purchase categories in 2020 were health & beauty, board games, and sports & leisure. Again, board games are an obvious inclusion. It’s reasonable to assume that sports & leisure spending is mostly for home-gym products. In 2021, board games and sports & leisure purchases should decline, while health & beauty stands firm.

Canada Opts For Nutrition Products, Bags & Luggage, and Jewelry

Most popular product categories with Canadian buyers

For Canadian buyers in 2020, priority purchases were bags & luggage, jewelry as well as nutrients & supplements. With travel restricted, bags & luggage purchasing is a surprise. However, this broad category includes backpacking gear as well as handbags. Spending on health-promoting products during covid is no surprise. In the year ahead, health products should remain top of mind.

Australia Buys Nutrition Products, Sports & Leisure and Board Games

Most popular product categories with Australian buyers

In Australia, buyers flocked to products that supported an active, healthy lifestyle both indoors and outdoors. Leading among purchase categories were sports & leisure, nutrients & supplements, and board games. Until lockdowns and pandemic worries subside, it’s safe to say that these categories will remain popular with shoppers.

The UK Shops For Health & Beauty, Board Games and Jewelry

Most popular product categories with English buyers

In 2020, the most popular product categories among shoppers were health & beauty, board games and jewelry. Unsurprisingly, safety and entertainment during lockdown is a priority. Jewelry spending was perhaps spurred by deep discounts from flagging retailers. In 2021, these categories should remain static, at least until life returns to normal.

Singapore Prefers Bags, Fashion and Jewelry Products

Most popular product categories with Singaporeans buyers

In Singapore, buyers showed an interest in bags & luggage, jewelry, and fashion. An apparel-driven approach to purchasing is somewhat inconsistent with world trends, though there’s no accounting for taste. Since these categories weren’t upset by a global pandemic, we expect them to remain dominant in the coming year.

The previous sections provided an overview of trends based on Easyship’s shipping data. This last section highlights five emergent trends shaping the world of shipping and logistics in 2021.

1. Drone Deliveries Ready For Takeoff

In August 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved low-altitude drone deliveries in the US. This means that commercial drones can fly over residences and roadways to shorten the last mile. This new technology promises to boost efficiency and cut costs on fulfillment.

Retail leaders like Amazon and Walmart, plus shipping companies like UPS, are fast-developing their own airborne fulfillment capabilities. In coming years, merchants may come to use commercial drones for deliveries as well.

2. Shipping Goes Green

Increasingly climate-conscious shoppers favor brands who share their values. Brands using sustainable shipping and fulfillment practices will garner valuable word of mouth from customers.

The easiest way to practice green shipping is to use eco-friendly packaging. Additionally, you can partner with shipping companies that use low carbon fuel and optimize delivery routes to slash emissions. With the US back in the Paris Climate Accord, top-down initiatives that reward companies for being green are expected. To refresh your shipping policy, check out the free shipping policy generator.

3. Small Merchants Gain Momentum

As omnichannel software becomes more accessible, small businesses are winning. According to Digital Commerce 360, US eCommerce businesses reported a 15% increase in growth last year, on average.

Platforms like Shopify help merchants reach audiences anywhere, then convert buyers with personalized shopping experiences. For example, 41% of shoppers saying they plan to increase the use of buy-online pick-up-in-store options this year. Could your business benefit from this offering?

Moreover, these all-in-one tools simplify complex logistical processes that, historically, are a major hurdle for growing retailers. Similarly, new tools like duty and tax calculators help you gain clarity on your shipping costs.

4. Shipping Costs Could Climb

The pandemic and subsequent pivot to eCommerce strained supply chains. This, in turn, increased shipping rates. As reported in Marketwatch, fees to ship containers from major Asian exporters have more than doubled in the past year.

Container shortages lead to port blockages and the compounding inefficiencies pushed prices upward. If demand for shipping containers continues to exceed supply, shipping costs could rise even higher, says economist Blerina Uruci, an economist at Barclays. This could lead to higher shipping prices for all parties.

To mitigate against cost hikes, monitor your shipping costs. Our free shipping rate calculator offers up-to-the-minute rates for all global couriers.

5. Multi Courier Shipping Solutions Enhance Offerings

Multi-courier shipping solutions are a cornerstone of a cost-effective shipping strategy. Moreover, using multiple shipping companies is the best way to offer the fast, reliable delivery shoppers expect.

This year, good service will keep getting better. Consider the following improvements from top couriers:

  • FedEx opened six new sorting centers in the US in 2020
  • UPS and FedEx now both delivery to residential addresses every day of the week

To explore the latest benefits of multi-courier shopping, check out the free courier comparison tool.

The shipping and logistics industry feels the growing pains of the evolving world economy. Equilibrium remains elusive for providers, but shifting practices and new technologies promise stability going forward.

Small businesses are the primary beneficiaries of 2020’s slide toward eCommerce. Every webstore now faces outward to a growing yet largely untapped global marketplace. Every day brings new data about which products sell best in which regions. Meanwhile, merchants have greater access to omnichannel tools and affordable shipping options to enable success.

For you, 2021 could be the best year ever. To access the cheapest rates on international and domestic shipping, plus a suite of powerful tools, sign up for Easyship.

Dowload the Report

Download the 2021 Shipping Trends Report

Provide your email and we'll send you a digital copy so that you can easily refer back to it later.