Shipping is an integral part of life, not just for businesses but for consumers also. It is vital to pick a shipping carrier assessed based on the different reasons companies use them for. However, it is just as vital to understand what your business needs are. Is cost a major driver in choosing a shipping service for your business? Or is it the quality of service that is more vital? Do you ship heavy packages to customers or lighter but maybe higher-value goods? Is the speed of delivery more important to your business?
Whatever the business needs maybe drive that decision-making, we look at the major drivers of choosing a shipping service. We also explore some of the unique differences between the top three options, United States Postal Service (USPS), FedEx, and UPS. Based on the review of the entities and their unique offerings, business owners can decide regarding one shipper or a combination of them.
Cost is a unique aspect of shipping where there is no clear winner in offering the best pricing. Our analysis found that small businesses may have to choose a carrier based on the size of packages they ship. Also, many business owners may choose a combination of shipping services matching the best pricing based on package sizes; you may be shipping via USPS for small packages and UPS for heavier ones.
Although USPS is most often the cheaper option among the three carriers, there are specific segments of shipping services that each courier thrives on. The most competitive rates offered by USPS are for shipping small packages, with the sweet spot being for items weighing under 13 ounces. USPS also has flat rate shipping for specific box sizes. These flat rate boxes do not take into account weight or distance, just a flat rate for that box as long as the product fits in it.
Heavier shipments are often more affordable via UPS. The company offers more peace of mind as UPS delivers packages much quicker and more securely given their safe packing assistance, more on that later. UPS also offers volume discounts and giving your overall shipment volume may also entitle you to a more concierge-level service by assigning the business a dedicated Account Manager.
Tracking is a great tool that businesses have used to allay a lot of anxiety among customers around tight delivery deadlines. USPS has struggled over the years with its tracking given its overall reliability around delivery. Tracking isn’t of much help when the package is delayed or is lost in route. This has also led to a lot of issues around customer service at USPS.
Merchants have complained about not getting a clear understanding of whether a late delivery is simply a delay or a package lost. This has also resulted in lower customer satisfaction with USPS shipping.
FedEx has a great tracking system showing delivery progress throughout the shipment. The company’s delivery manager option lets customers schedule a delivery during a specific hour of the day, for an additional fee. Customers can also request a package to be held at the facility for pickup.
Ultimately, the tracking service crown goes to UPS. The company offers the traditional tracking service where customers can track in real-time their package and change delivery destinations mid-route along with scheduling deliveries at specific times or requesting a pickup.
UPS also offers a specially curated service for businesses to track large volumes of shipments, called Quantum View. The services give visibility on all international and domestic ground and air shipments, allowing companies to incorporate shipping and tracking data within merchants’ own information systems via dashboards and additional customization functionality.
Accessibility via store locations and drop-off facilities is a big determinant of how often clients use a particular carrier. While FedEx offers nearly 2,500 offices and services centers worldwide, UPS has nearly 6,500 UPS Stores and Customer centers. USPS has over 31,000 locations and offices throughout the US.
Having more locations accessible for a specific courier helps as customers prefer to ensure that they are using the right packaging, delivery options, and, surprisingly, packaging. UPS can help merchants professionally pack any fragile goods so that they arrive safely at their destination.
This is a culmination of all the other points highlighted above, where each shipping carrier brings together all of the other major factors of customer service, pickup and drop-off options, the ability to track shipments in real-time, and the overall internal operations to execute on the shipping a package.
UPS has a worldwide logistics network that utilizes both ground and air delivery operations that the company has worked to perfect for nearly four decades. Unlike FedEx, which only in early 2020 announced that it would start bringing the company’s air and ground operations closer together, UPS has always used ground operations interchangeably with its air operations. The company has been efficiently handing off some of the Air shipping packages to the Ground operations for both the last mile or the full journey of the delivery, depending on the distance.
This is a toss-up between USPS and UPS. Both have a great logistic network that can deliver anywhere in the US and worldwide. However, UPS can offer delivery within two days, the next day, or even the same day. Even for 3-day shipping, UPS is much more reliable for timely delivery than USPS.
Businesses have enough arduous strategic decisions to focus on as it is. Choosing the right shipping service for their business should not be one of those strategic endeavors. We’ve reviewed the various factors that are often a pain point for businesses in deciding on a shipping carrier and advise the business to look at their business needs and the areas of strength of all, USPS, FedEx, and UPS. There really is no reason that merchants should be reliant on a single carrier service for all their shipping needs. How much of its resources a business allocates to any specific provider should be gauged by which carrier meets those needs based on the most appropriate mix of quality and value for money.