The Big Players: Choosing a Carrier
When choosing a shipping carrier for your business, you want to select a reputable company with experience and solid customer support, and they’re not all created equal. You will want to select a company that offers tracking services, does not exclude your product type, supports your product size, ships within your market and offers competitive rates and delivery times. Picking the right carrier will ensure a better customer experience and solidify your reputation.
A well-known player and a large carrier, FedEx has the most planes and provides shipping in over 220 countries and territories. They are one of the best and most innovative, having been the first to introduce overnight shipping and tracking services. They also provide one-time, automated or on-call pickup services for your packages.
FedEx is one of the most reliable shipping companies there is and provides accurate and timely tracking information. They consistently deliver products on time and without damage. You can get a refund for any failure or damage that is caused on their end.
Price: If you’re shipping products that weigh over three pounds, FedEx is one of the cheapest options available, especially if you take advantage of their 15% business discount. They also offer flat rate shipping for items under 50 pounds. This can cost you extra or save you money depending on your package’s size and how much it would cost you without the flat rate, but it does save time in terms of measuring your packages.
Shipping Times: You can ship your products nationally and internationally. Nationally, you have various options for same day, overnight, 2 day, express and ground shipping. Internationally, you can choose between next flight, priority, economy, mail service, direct distribution and ground options.
Size Limitations: Weight and size limitations vary between services.
- FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery: Packages up to 150 pounds, 108 inches in length, and 165 inches in length and girth.
- FedEx Express US: Packages up to 150 pounds, 119 inches in length, and 165 inches in length and girth.
- FedEx Express International: Packages up to 150 pounds, 108 inches length, and 130 inches in length and girth.
- FedEx Express Freight: Skids of 150 pounds or more. Skids over 2,200 pounds, 70 inches in height, 119 inches in length or 80 inches width require approval, but they can reach 20,000 pounds.
Packaging: FedEx provides packing services and packing materials for purchase. Cold shipping supplies for perishable products are among the materials available. Perhaps best of all, they also offer a print service for custom branded boxes and marketing materials.
Returns: FedEx provides helpful return services nationally and internationally. They offer print and QR code return labels, plenty of locations, contactless options and return integrations with third-party platforms.
Ecommerce Integrations: The FedEx Fulfillment platform integrates with marketplaces like eBay, Etsy and Walmart; ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Magento and WooCommerce; and business tools like Square, QuickBooks and Xero.
Also servicing over 220 countries and territories, UPS is the oldest of all major carriers and was founded in 1907. UPS keeps shipping simple and maintains complete control over its shipping network.
You can always trust UPS to provide reliable tracking for your packages. On top of their reliability, they also allow you to apply for refunds in the unlikely case that something goes wrong on their end.
Price: UPS tends to be priced slightly higher than the rest, but it depends on the size and weight of your products. Typically, it makes more sense to use when shipping items over three pounds.
Shipping Class: With UPS, you have national options for ground, 3 day, 2 day and next day shipping. Internationally, they offer express, next day air, 2nd day air, worldwide expedited and standard options.
Size Limitations: Packages are limited to 150 pounds, 108 inches in length, and 165 inches in length and girth. If you have packages with large size-to-weight ratios, your products may fall under special pricing calculations. It’s important to note that these limits are per package and that there is no limit to the total weight of a shipment or number of packages. If you do ship packages over those limits, you can use their freight services.
Packaging: UPS has packaging materials for sale, including materials for protecting fragile items, coolants for perishables and insulated boxes. While they don’t mention branded boxes, they do offer print marketing materials.
Returns: UPS offers extensive Returns Management & Reverse Logistics Solutions. You can simply provide printed return labels in advance or go so far as to offer UPS driver pick-ups with UPS Returns Plus, or have a UPS driver deliver a replacement product in exchange for the returned item with UPS Returns Exchange. They also offer return options to customers missing the original box and label.
Ecommerce Integrations: You can perform a DIY integration with the UPS Shipping API, select a UPS Ready technology provider to integrate shipping and order management or choose a UPS Ready Application Provider that has UPS shipping already built in. These include Amazon, eBay, Shopify, Walmart and WooCommerce.
USPS stands for the United States Postal Service and is the only federally-run shipping service. Despite an expansive portfolio, USPS has a smaller range than the above two with service to about 190 countries.
It’s important to note that, on average, USPS is poorly rated in reliability when compared to other carriers. They also don’t guarantee any delivery date. To match their track record in reliability, the USPS tracking system isn’t always the most accurate or timely.
Price: If you’re shipping lightweight products under two pounds, USPS tends to offer the cheapest pricing.
Shipping Class: USPS’s most popular offers are first-class (2-5 business days), priority (2-3 business days) and express (1-2 business days). They also provide several international shipping options, the fastest of which include global express (1-3 business days), priority mail express (3-5 business days) and priority (6-10 business days).
Size Limitations: The largest size allowed for packages is 108 inches in length and girth or up to 130 inches at oversized prices. The maximum weight is 70 pounds but may be lower depending on the class of mail.
Packaging: While USPS offers a special handling service for fragile packages, they don’t insure articles against loss or damage. They also don’t provide refrigeration services or materials.
Returns: The Priority Mail Return Service and Ground Return Service are a couple of the return services available to businesses. For return labels, you can include one in the original package, use their cloud platform, integrate the return tools on your website or let customers print their own.
Ecommerce Integrations: With USPS Commercial Plus, at an additional cost, you can ship orders from several ecommerce platforms, including but not limited to Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, BigCommerce and Amazon.
Though founded in the US, DHL is headquartered in Germany and is one of the best carriers in international shipping. Ranking high in reliability, DHL is equally known for its efficiency and accurate tracking in real time. They also provide refunds for any service failure on their end, have no pickup fees, and offer great 24/7 international support.
Price: DHL offers fairly competitive pricing and becomes the cheapest choice on average when dealing with international shipping. This is especially the case as shipping needs become more urgent and time bound. They also provide impressive promotions, including some as high as 35% off services.
Shipping Class: When shipping nationally, you can choose between a variety of same day, express and domestic choices. International shipping comes with variations in same day, express and global mail options.
Size Limitations: For typical shipping, packages must remain below 154 pounds and 47 x 31 x 31 inches. When using DHL Express, multi-piece shipments can be up to 2,200 pounds with each piece up to 660 pounds and 118 inches long.
Packaging: A part of their great service is that sanitary inspections, quality checks, and temperature control, damage and quantity protections are considered standard practice. For those who need it, they also offer document preparation, prioritized space for perishables and prioritized handling. If you become a DHL Express holder, you gain access to free packaging services as well.
Returns: DHL offers return label printing and three primary return services to choose from: Easy Return Light, Easy Return Plus and Easy Return Ground.
Ecommerce Integrations: DHL services are compatible with Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento and PrestaShop.