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June 04, 2019

What Are the Best Shipping Options for Online Merchants?

Having a quick and reliable fulfillment network is the backbone of any online merchant today. With customers expecting two-day, next-day, and even same-day arrival for their purchases, it's critical that you choose a shipping company that's able to deliver. Of course, there are plenty of options with more entering the market each day thanks to the growing demand. So, who do you choose? Here are some key considerations to keep in mind and a comparison of your top options.

Consumers Have Serious Expectations About Shipping

Today's culture is all about instant. People want things as soon as possible--they simply don't like waiting. And, with many merchants able to offer lightning fast shipping, many shoppers are willing to look elsewhere in order to avoid slow turnaround for their purchases.

With this growing demand for fast shipping, online merchants are beginning to scrutinize their shipping options. After all, offering fast shipping is one of the easiest ways to sharpen your competitive edge. One survey found that almost half of all shoppers consider convenient and personalized delivery to be a primary factor in their purchases.

Another survey from 2018 found that 43% of consumers expect online merchants to have "much faster" delivery times than they did in 2017. As we enter into 2019 and beyond, that expectation is continuing to increase. That's why you need to consider all of your shipping options carefully.

 

Option #1: USPS

 

  • USPS Priority Mail Express: Package delivered within 1 or 2 business days
  • USPS Priority Mail: Package usually delivered within 1, 2, or 3 business days
  • USPS First Class: Small package delivered within 1, 2, or 3 business days

 

USPS, or the United States Postal Service, is one of the top shipping options if you're an online merchant based in the US. It's the only way you can get your shipments into customers' mailboxes. However, because of the limitations of mailbox delivery, USPS isn't always ideal.

While USPS does offer package delivery, certain customers won't be able to enjoy the convenience of a package on their doorstep if they live in an apartment or condo unit. If it won't fit into a standard mailbox, other circumstances can also cause the USPS driver to leave a dreaded "pickup notice" in the mail, requiring the recipient to head to the local post office to retrieve their package.

A USPS driver will walk a large package to the door when possible, but in bad weather, bad neighborhoods, or cases of apartments/condos, that's not going to happen. This still makes USPS a viable option for small, mailbox-friendly deliveries, but it can be a hassle for customers if you're shipping medium or large packages.

Because of the convenience people expect, it could greatly damage your relationship with a customer if they have to drive to a pickup location in order to get their delivery. Plus, USPS is generally the slowest shipping option you can choose. Of course, that can help you save money.

Their Flat-Rate boxes, volume discounts, and lightweight item savings can make it a budget-friendly option. And, that could be a huge plus considering that up to 90% of customers are willing to wait longer if it means free shipping. Keeping that in mind, you might use USPS as your default free shipping option and offer it alongside a faster, paid upgrade.

Option #2: UPS

  • UPS Next Day Air Early: Package delivered the next business day in the morning
  • UPS Next Day Air: Package delivered the next business day
  • UPS Next Day Air Saver: Package delivered by the end of the next business day
  • UPS Second-Day Air AM: Package delivered within 2 business days in the morning
  • UPS Second-Day Air: Package delivered within 2 business days
  • UPS Three-Day Select: Package delivered within 3 business days
  • UPS Ground: Package delivered in 1-5 business days with guaranteed delivery date given at time of shipping


UPS is the largest US shipping company measured by annual revenue. UPS has more ground vehicles than FedEx, its largest competitor. It's a well-known name trusted by big-name suppliers like Amazon for its massive infrastructure and ability to bring packages of practically any size directly to a person's doorstep.

As a doorstep delivery company, UPS often has direct relations with condominiums and apartment buildings so they can get access to drop-off packages inside. This differs from USPS, which will typically only deliver mail to the boxes outside of the building.

Depending on how frequently you ship, UPS is flexible when it comes to arranging different pickup and pricing options. If you ship out packages one or more times a week, you can operate on a weekly billing schedule and setup pickups whenever you prepare a package for shipment through the online interface.

If you ship every day and/or send more than 25 shipments each week, you can setup both weekly billing and daily pickups with your UPS account. You'll also gain access to the shipping software and automated processes UPS offers to business customers. This includes a tracking dashboard with enhanced information and extra features, like the ability to change a delivery address with a few clicks.

 

Option #3: FedEx

  • FedEx Same Day: Cross-country delivery within a few hours
  • FedEx Same Day City: Cross-city delivery within a few hours
  • FedEx First Overnight: Package delivered first thing on the next business day
  • FedEx Priority Overnight: Package delivered on the next business day
  • FedEx Standard Overnight: Package delivered by end of the next business day
  • FedEx 2-Day Morning: Package delivered within 2 business days in the morning
  • FedEx 2-Day: Package delivered within 2 business days
  • FedEx Express Saver: Package delivered within 3 business days
  • FedEx Ground: Ground delivery to businesses
  • FedEx Home Delivery: Ground delivery to residences
  • FedEx SmartPost: Low-weight packages to residences

FedEx, or Federal Express, may not have as many ground vehicles as UPS but they have more planes in the air. They are another popular option for quick and reliable shipping, standing neck-and-neck with UPS.

Like UPS, FedEx is also able to offer doorstep delivery to most locations. They offer flexible billing and pickup options just like their competitor. In their Small Business Center, they emphasize ease of customer returns and their day-definite approach to speedy ground delivery.

FedEx also offers a long list of resources for a small business that needs help with shipping. From extensive guides on international shipping, to packaging advice, and even free phone consultations so you can figure out which FedEx business services are most cost-effective for your needs. With all of this in mind, it can definitely be an overwhelming decision.

How Your Shipping Options Impact Your Success

As you work to compare all three of these major shipping companies, keeping consumer expectations in mind is important. You know that they expect fast, cost-effective shipping.
Of course, as a business, you always have to be realistic when it comes to the numbers. So, how can shipping options impact your bottomline? The impact can actually prove much more direct and substantial than you may have once thought.

A Variety of Options Will Reduce Abandonment

One study found that more than 1 in 4 customers will abandon their cart because of shipping costs. That makes shipping the number one factor driving shopping cart abandonment, followed by forced account creation. Most consumers in the survey described the shipping options as "unacceptable" due to cost and/or delivery times.

Therefore, offering a variety of shipping options at various price points and delivery windows will make a direct impact on reducing shopping cart abandonment. You should offer a good mix of low-cost and high-speed options to give something acceptable for everyone.

Shipping Time Impacts Customer Relationships (and Ratings)

No matter what you're selling, part of a business' responsibility is to assure customers are happy after the sale. After paying for an order, slow shipping and lost packages will make a major impact on how your customers feel about your company before their items even arrive.

This is why enhanced tracking features, high reliability, and guaranteed delivery windows are always things to look for when choosing your shipping partners. Your customers should get automatic updates when their orders ships and when it's expected to arrive. This reduces shipping inquiries from customers and it helps keep them happy.

If you ignore the importance of reliability and communication during the shipping process, your customers are bound to end up disappointed and frustrated. While you may think it's not a big deal since their order is already out the door, the after-sale service you provide will have a direct impact on returns, repeat orders, and of course: reputation.

When customers aren't happy about shipping, they're going to complain. More often than not, those complaints take the form of public reviews. And, even if the shipping ordeal was a rare mishap, if word gets around to other customers, it's going to have an effect on how they see your business--and their likelihood of buying from you.

 

Free Returns Increase Consumer Confidence

Finally, your store's return policy is yet another way that shipping can impact a customer's experience before they even place an order. Offering free returns (regardless of upfront shipping costs) tells customers that you stand behind your product.

Plus, it costs your business very little. While all customers will appreciate the fact that you offer free returns, the average business will only deal with a handful of return requests. Advertising this will promote confidence in your products and trust in your business. This helps with building customer relationships at every stage.

For instance, a visitor who is on the fence about buying something from you is not going to care as much about free shipping as they are a guarantee of an easy return process in the event that they don't like their purchase. This can help increase conversion rates and help you gain an edge over competitors.

Choosing The Right Shipping Option

The best way to figure out which company will work best for your business is to sit down and think about what your average package will look like. While you might sell an assortment of different items, pull a box off the shelf that represents your average shipment.

Think about box dimensions and weight, and then compare similar services between these providers. For instance, if you think 3-day shipping will suffice for your customers, use the calculators on each company's website and what the same shipment will cost. For 3-day shipping, you should compare USPS Priority Mail, UPS Three-Day Select, and FedEx Express Saver.

This quick comparison will give you an idea of which service may best fit your needs. Remember: it's not just about finding the cheapest price, it's about balancing affordability, reliability, and speed for your customers' satisfaction.

About Eniture Technology

Eniture Technology specializes in helping e-Commerce merchants grow by providing useful information, digital marketing services, off-the-shelf apps that solve common problems, and custom programming services. Please contact us if you need help growing your online business or implementing the concepts presented in this blog post.

Interested in learning more?

A Beginner's Guide To E-Commerce Shipping

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