Let's be real for a moment: For most people, ecommerce shipping isn't exactly the most exciting aspect of running an online business — especially when compared to sales, branding, and product development.
But never underestimate the importance of ecommerce delivery — a solid strategy is essential to success.
Customers won't stick around long if your packages arrive late, damaged, or containing the wrong items. Plus, ecommerce shipping costs quickly add up — so without an effective solution, your business could find itself in trouble.
However, navigating the world of ecommerce shipping isn't exactly straightforward.
I mean, there are countless ecommerce delivery services and tons of different shipping options — where should you begin?
This guide provides an overview of everything you need to know to create a successful strategy. In it, you'll learn all about ecommerce shipping methods, companies, best practices, and more.
But first, let's set the scene:
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What Is Ecommerce Shipping?
What is ecommerce delivery exactly? The term 'ecommerce shipping' encompasses everything it takes to get products into customers' hands after they make an online purchase. By working with the right ecommerce delivery partner, you can make this process simple and cost-effective while delighting customers.
Why Is Ecommerce Delivery Important?
Shipping for ecommerce is like railway tracks for trains — essential if you want to get anywhere.
In fact, 62% of US customers described "fast shipping speed" as the most important factor when defining positive experiences with digital brands — closely followed by an "easy delivery process" (54%).
What's more, consumers now have high expectations.
With services like Amazon Prime offering same-day or next-day delivery for no additional cost, many consumers have come to expect lightning-fast deliveries for free.
According to Statista, a whopping 63% of respondents said they'd abandoned online shopping carts due to the cost of shipping, and 36% abandoned shopping carts because the order would take too long to ship.
Plus, research by Deloitte found that 72% of consumers cite "free shipping" as one of their top reasons to shop online.
Bottom line? If you want to compete, your ecommerce delivery solution needs to be fast, reliable, and inexpensive.
5 Common Ecommerce Shipping Options
You might be wondering, "what types of shipping methods should I offer?" Most ecommerce businesses offer a range of ecommerce shipping options for customers to choose from.
In the image below, you can see that Allbirds offers customers 3 shipping options:
Here's an overview of 5 common ecommerce delivery options to consider offering to your customers:
- Same-day delivery: This highly ambitious ecommerce delivery option guarantees that customers' orders will arrive the same day they're purchased. If you want to offer same-day delivery, you'll likely need to partner with a leading fulfillment ecommerce shipping company.
- Overnight shipping: Overnight delivery has become more prevalent in recent years — and according to Statista, 18% of people want orders to arrive next-day. Many ecommerce shipping solutions and fulfillment services offer overnight delivery options at various price points.
- 2-Day Shipping: Although many brands offer same-day and next-day delivery, 2-day shipping is still considered fast. In fact, 44% of people stated they were willing to wait 2 days for their orders to arrive. So, if you're trying to strike a balance between speed and cost, 2-day shipping may be the way to go.
- Longer Shipping Times: Unsurprisingly, people want to receive items quickly. However, many are willing to wait a few days: 21% of people are willing to wait 3-4 days, and 10% of people are willing to wait 5-7 days. However, only 2% of people are willing to wait 1-2 weeks. So, it's best to keep ecommerce delivery times within one week if possible.
- International shipping: Many brands offer different ecommerce international shipping rates. Usually, these rates are more expensive to cover the cost of shipping products over such large distances.
5 Ecommerce Shipping Rates
There are many different ecommerce shipping rate structures that you can use to charge customers for their preferred delivery option. Here are 5 ecommerce shipping rate options to consider offering:
1. Flat-Rate Shipping
The term 'flat-rate shipping' refers to charging customers the same fixed rate, regardless of what they order. In the example below, Bittermilk offers $8 flat-rate shipping to customers.
Some ecommerce businesses offer multiple flat-rate shipping costs for certain order value ranges, weight ranges, or other classification types.
If you offer flat-rate shipping, make sure to charge the average shipping cost to ensure that you break even.
2. Real-Time Carrier Rates
If you integrate your website with ecommerce shipping services, it's possible to offer real-time carrier rates during checkout. This option allows you to charge each order's actual shipping rate based on the recipient's location and delivery preferences.
Doing this provides customers with full transparency and the freedom to choose.
3. Free Shipping
There are 2 main ways to offer free shipping and stay profitable:
- Increase your product prices to account for shipping costs
- Require customers to spend a certain amount to qualify for free shipping. As a bonus, this option can incentivize shoppers to purchase more than they originally intended. For example, Package Free Shop offers free shipping on US orders over $35:
4. Expedited Shipping
Offering expedited rates — including same-day or next-day delivery — enables you to meet the demands of customers who need (or want) their purchase fast.
So, it's a good idea to offer expedited shipping, even if you charge more for it.
5. Local Delivery
Many businesses offer special ecommerce delivery rates for local buyers within a certain radius or group of postal codes.
How to Calculate Shipping Costs For Online Businesses
You can find out how much it'll cost to ship your products to customers with Shopify's Shipping Calculator. To use it, input the relevant details about your package and where you want to send it.
Ecommerce Shipping Costs: 4 Things to Consider
Many different factors affect ecommerce shipping costs. Here are 4 things to consider when working out how much to charge customers for shipping.
1. Actual Weight vs. Dimensional Weight
Most carriers calculate their fees based on either the package's actual weight or something called the 'dimensional weight.'
The dimensional weight is calculated by multiplying the length, width, and height of the package and dividing the result by a specific rate:
(Length x Width x Height) / Rate = Dimensional Weight
In the image below, JayGroup illustrates the difference:
Sometimes carriers will also include the actual weight of the package in their calculation.
In essence, lightweight bulky items will usually be charged by dimensional weight, and small heavy packages charged by their actual weight.
2. Consider the Destination
Understandably, the further a package must travel, the more expensive shipping will cost.
As a result, an ecommerce business based in Los Angeles, California, may provide different shipping fees to customers in California, the rest of the US, and other countries.
3. Check Different Carriers' Costs
Ecommerce shipping companies will often charge different amounts for the same shipment. For this reason, it's worth shopping around for the best price.
4. Include Handling Fees
Many ecommerce shipping companies and fulfillment services charge handling fees. These fees cover the costs of picking and packing your orders, generating shipping labels, and moving packages between different modes of transportation.
Again, the longer the distance the package must travel, the more handling fees you're likely to incur.
4 Ecommerce Shipping Solutions
What is the best delivery partner for ecommerce? Well, it depends — after all, every business is different. However, there are some well-known ecommerce delivery solutions out there worth checking out.
If you'd like to package and ship orders yourself, here are 4 ecommerce delivery companies to consider:
- USPS is often the cheapest option for ground shipping in the US, thanks to its daily postal rounds. You can calculate USPS ecommerce shipping costs here.
- FedEx offers a variety of ecommerce delivery options at different price points. You can check FedEx ecommerce shipping rates here.
- DHL has premier ecommerce international shipping capabilities. You can get an ecommerce delivery quote here.
- UPS is another popular ecommerce shipping solution. The company also runs a small business program that provides shipping resources. Check out UPS ecommerce shipping rates here.
Now, if you want to avoid the hassle of setting up business accounts with different providers, check out Shopify Shipping.
Shopify Shipping works with USPS, UPS, and DHL in the United States and other carriers in different countries.
This service allows you to purchase shipping labels for your orders from within your Shopify dashboard. You can also schedule a time for UPS or DHL to pick up your shipments.
Learn more about Shopify Shipping here.
3 Fulfillment Ecommerce Shipping Solutions
If you'd like to outsource the ecommerce shipping process, you can partner with a third-party fulfillment service.
These services will store your inventory in strategic locations. Then, whenever you receive an order, they'll package and ship the order to your customer for you.
Fulfillment services often provide cheaper shipping rates, as they're able to capitalize on economies of scale. Plus, they're able to provide faster shipping times by storing your products in different warehouses around the country.
Here are 3 fulfillment services to consider using:
- Shopify Fulfillment Network keeps ecommerce delivery simple and allows you to control your data and your branding.
- ShipBob is a popular third-party fulfillment service that integrates with top ecommerce platforms like Shopify. To find out pricing information, you'll need to request a quote.
- Easyship is another large ecommerce delivery service that integrates with other platforms. Easyship's starter plan is free for up to 100 orders per month.
4 Ecommerce Shipping Best Practices
Now that you understand the mechanics let's finish with a few essential ecommerce shipping best practices.
1. Make Shipping Costs Clear
When shoppers checkout and encounter unexpected shipping costs, they're more likely to abandon their cart and not complete their order.
So, make sure to highlight your ecommerce shipping costs before shoppers checkout. For example, Kylie Cosmetics highlights their shipping rates at the top of the website:
The site also has a page that explains the brand's shipping policy:
2. Display Expected Delivery Times
Shoppers like to know when they can expect their order. So, make sure to highlight how long each shipping option will take in the checkout, like Beardbrand:
3. Enable Customers to Track Packages
Ideally, you don't want to leave customers in the dark after they make a purchase, so provide a way for them to track their order.
Thankfully, many ecommerce shipping solutions provide tracking services. Plus, third-party services like AfterShip allow you to create branded tracking pages.
4. Provide a Good Returns Service
Check this out: 95% of consumers who are happy with a company's returns process say they'll shop with the same retailer again.
On the other hand, shoppers who are unhappy with the returns process are 3 times more likely to never shop with the same brand again!
So, create a returns service that's straightforward, efficient, and friendly.
For example, HELM Boots covers the return shipping costs on all US orders over $50:
Summary: Shipping for Ecommerce
An effective ecommerce delivery solution is an essential part of every online business — especially as consumers are increasingly expecting speedy shipping that's either free or inexpensive.
Remember, there are five common ways to charge customers for ecommerce delivery:
- Flat-rate shipping
- Access to real-time carrier rates
- Free shipping
- Expedited shipping
- Local delivery
There are numerous ecommerce shipping services to choose from. If you want to manage order fulfillment yourself, consider:
You can also simplify the delivery process with Shopify Shipping.
If you're considering partnering with a third-party fulfillment network, check out:
Finally, to calculate your shipping costs, visit your carrier of choice's website or use Shopify's Shipping Calculator.
How do you ship orders to customers? Let us know in the comments below!