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2023 Guide for Ecommerce Shipping Carriers - UPS, USPS, Fedex, DHL

2023 Guide for Ecommerce Shipping Carriers - UPS, USPS, Fedex, DHL

January 5, 2023
Posted By
Olexiy Shapowal
Title asset to the "Summer Shipping" blog post from Atomix Logistics. A small green 3D truck with a small sun floating above it portrays the hot summer sun during order transport. KW: Ecommerce, 3PL, order fulfillment, fulfillment center, summer order fulfillment, new orders, new customer, temperature, protection, packaging, eco-friendly, sustainability

When choosing a shipping carrier for your ecommerce business, you'll want to consider factors such as the size and weight of your products, the speed of delivery required, and the destination of your shipments. You'll also want to consider the cost of shipping, as well as any additional services that may be offered, such as tracking, insurance or sustainability.

Rest assured, the leading fulfillment service providers have worked with the 4 major carriers for years and can teach you their ways and what to look out for. If you're already working with Atomix, then you're probably familiar with their shipping analysis tool, volumetric weight calculator and the average zone of your shipments (hint: there's pros and cons to single coast warehouses!)

Let’s dive into understanding the different carriers and services available for your business.

Table of Contents

  • Which Carrier is Best?
  • What Services Does Each Carrier Offer?
  • Comparison Analysis of Major Carriers
  • How Does Carrier Tracking Work?
  • The History of Each Carrier

The Best Carrier

When deciding between USPS, UPS, DHL, and FedEx to ship your ecommerce products, there are several factors that you should consider:

  • Shipping rates: Each carrier has its own rates for shipping, and you'll want to compare the cost of shipping with each carrier to see which one offers the best deal for your business. View a Live Analysis of Your Shipping Rates Here.

  • Delivery speed: Depending on your business needs, you may need to prioritize faster delivery times. Consider the delivery options offered by each carrier and how they align with your needs.

  • Package size and weight restrictions: Each carrier has its own size and weight restrictions for packages, so you'll want to make sure that your products fall within these guidelines.

  • Destination: Some carriers may offer better service to certain destinations, so you'll want to consider where you'll be shipping your products when deciding on a carrier.

Additional services: Consider any additional services that each carrier offers, such as tracking and insurance, and whether they are important to your business.

Services Offered 

Fulfillment services have close relationships with carriers so the plethora of options for different speeds and price points make the decision easy when determining the right packaging to use and how their negotiated carriers rates can save thousands a month.

USPS (United States Postal Service) offers a variety of shipping services, including:

  • First Class Mail: This service is used for small packages (most often under 16 ounces) and envelopes weighing up to 13 ounces. First Class Mail is the most affordable option for small, lightweight packages, and delivery typically takes 1-3 business days.

  • Priority Mail: This service is used for packages weighing more than 13 ounces. Priority Mail offers faster delivery than First Class Mail, with delivery typically taking 1-3 business days. Priority Mail also includes free insurance up to $50 and free delivery confirmation.

  • Priority Mail Express: This is the fastest shipping option offered by USPS, with delivery guaranteed within 1-2 business days. Priority Mail Express includes free insurance up to $100 and free delivery confirmation.

  • Parcel Select: This service is used for larger packages weighing up to 70 pounds. Parcel Select is a ground delivery service and delivery times can vary depending on the distance between the origin and destination.

  • Media Mail: This service is used for shipping books, CDs, DVDs, and other media items. Media Mail is a slower, more affordable option for shipping media items and delivery typically takes 2-8 business days.

  • International Shipping: USPS offers a variety of international shipping options, including First Class Package International Service, Priority Mail International, and Priority Mail Express International.

UPS (United Parcel Service) offers the following shipping services:

  • Next Day Air: This is the fastest shipping option offered by UPS, with delivery guaranteed the next business day.

  • 2nd Day Air: This service guarantees delivery within 2 business days.

  • Ground: This is the most common delivery method for UPS and is a ground delivery service. Delivery times will vary depending on the distance between the origin and destination.

  • UPS Surepost: This service is an economy, residential-bound ground service designed for small, lightweight business-to-consumer (B2C) parcels. This delivery network combines UPS ground trucks and hubs with the local delivery infrastructure of the United States Postal Service (USPS) for last-mile logistics. Built for daily, local deliveries, USPS brings hundreds of years of service that make it an ideal UPS partner for residential deliveries.

  • International Shipping: UPS offers a variety of international shipping options, including UPS Next Day Air International, UPS 2nd Day Air International, and UPS Standard.

FedEx offers the following shipping services:

  • FedEx First Overnight: This is the fastest shipping option offered by FedEx, with delivery guaranteed by 9:00am the next business day.

  • FedEx 2Day: This service guarantees delivery within 2 business days.

  • FedEx Ground: This is a ground delivery service and delivery times will vary depending on the distance between the origin and destination.

  • International Shipping: FedEx offers a variety of international shipping options, including FedEx International First, FedEx International Priority, and FedEx International Economy.

DHL offers the following shipping services:

  • DHL Express: This service is used for time-sensitive shipments and offers delivery within 1-2 business days.

  • DHL Global Mail: This service is used for ecommerce shipments and offers delivery within 2-7 business days.

  • DHL eCommerce: This service is used for ecommerce shipments and offers delivery within 2-8 business days.

  • International Shipping: DHL offers a variety of international shipping options, including DHL Express Worldwide, DHL Global Mail International, and DHL eCommerce International.

In addition to the above shipping services, all four carriers also offer additional services such as tracking, insurance, and signature confirmation.

Comparison Analysis of Major Carriers

Overview 

There are several advantages to each of the major carriers (USPS, FedEx, DHL eCommerce, and UPS), and the best carrier for your business will depend on your specific needs and priorities. Here are some of the advantages of each carrier:

USPS:

  • Affordable rates for small, lightweight packages

  • Widely available, with retail locations in most areas

  • Offers a variety of delivery speeds, including First Class Mail, Priority Mail, and Priority Mail Express

FedEx:

  • Wide range of delivery speeds, including same-day delivery options

  • Extensive international shipping network

  • Offers a variety of additional services, such as freight shipping and white glove delivery

DHL:

  • DHL Express - Cost-effective option for international shipping of small packages. Wide range of international destinations.

  • DHL Ecommerce - U.S. Domestic shipments, more cost-effective, longer shipping times. Learn more about DHL Ecommerce.

  • Offers a variety of delivery speeds, including standard and express options

UPS:

  • Wide range of delivery speeds, including same-day delivery options

  • The most popular carrier for standard ecommerce businesses

  • Extensive international shipping network

  • Offers a variety of additional services, such as freight shipping and white glove delivery

When choosing a carrier for your business, which we detail below, it is important to consider factors such as delivery speed, package size and weight restrictions, destination, and cost. It may also be helpful to consider any additional services that each carrier offers and how they align with your business needs.

DHL vs. USPS

DHL eCommerce and USPS are both shipping services that are designed for ecommerce businesses. Here is how they compare:

  • Rates: USPS and DHL eCommerce both offer discounted rates for ecommerce businesses. USPS offers discounted rates for First Class Package International Service, Priority Mail International, and Priority Mail Express International. DHL eCommerce offers discounted rates for all of its international shipping services.

  • Delivery speed: USPS offers a variety of delivery speeds, including First Class Mail (1-3 business days), Priority Mail (1-3 business days), and Priority Mail Express (1-2 business days). DHL eCommerce offers delivery within 2-8 business days, depending on the destination.

  • Package size and weight restrictions: USPS has size and weight restrictions for packages shipped via First Class Mail, Priority Mail, and Priority Mail Express. DHL eCommerce has its own size and weight restrictions for packages.

  • Destination: USPS offers service to most addresses in the United States and its territories, as well as to over 190 countries worldwide. DHL eCommerce offers service to over 220 countries and territories worldwide.

  • Additional services: Both USPS and DHL eCommerce offer a variety of additional services, such as tracking, insurance, and signature confirmation.

Ultimately, the best shipping service for your business will depend on your specific needs and priorities. Ask your dedicated fulfillment expert at Atomix. Factors to consider may include delivery speed, package size and weight restrictions, destination, and cost.

FedEx vs UPS

FedEx Ground vs. UPS Ground

  • Both services would take the same amount of time to deliver our cross-country package. If you are a volume shipper or use an order fulfillment company, you may be able to negotiate better rates with one or both carriers.

  • The range of services offered by each company is slightly different, so price isn’t the only factor to consider. On one hand, FedEx has more express options than UPS. On the other hand, UPS guarantees delivery time, so it might be more reliable. 

UPS Options

UPS Ground vs. UPS Surepost 

  • UPS Ground delivery times may be shorter than UPS Surepost. 

  • UPS Ground is in control of UPS the entire route, while with UPS Surepost there is a hand off to USPS for last mile delivery. UPS Surepost is perceived to have longer delivery times compared to UPS Ground.

UPS vs USPS

UPS Ground vs. USPS Priority Mail

UPS takes four days to deliver cross-country; Priority Mail takes just two. And UPS Ground can’t deliver to PO box addresses. For the 10 pound box in our comparison, UPS Ground is cheaper than USPS Priority Mail: $29.63 vs. $39.55.

USPS Priority Mail vs. USPS First Class Mail

USPS Priority Mail and First Class Mail are similar. Both can reach PO box addresses. Both are brought by mail carriers who will not be stopped by “snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night.” 

USPS Priority Mail is faster than USPS First Class Mail. The time to send a package across the country was twice as long by First Class Mail as by Priority Mail. The services don’t overlap in terms of weight, although you can ship lighter packages by Priority Mail. For packages under 13 ounces, First Class Mail is generally the less expensive option.

Carrier Tracking

For detailed information see how the 4 major carriers tracking works!

All major carriers offer tracking for packages as a way for customers to track the progress of their shipments from the time they are shipped until they are delivered. Carrier tracking typically works by assigning a unique tracking number to each package, which can be used to track the package on the carrier's website or through a third-party tracking service.

Tracking information is typically updated in real-time as the package moves through the carrier's network, and may include details such as the date and time the package was shipped, the date and time it was delivered, and the location of the package at various points during transit.

Tracking may be different for each carrier, as each carrier has its own tracking system and processes in place. However, all carriers generally offer similar tracking information and updates.

  • USPS, you can use the tracking number provided on your shipping label or confirmation email and enter it on the USPS website or through a third-party tracking service.

  • UPS, you can use the tracking number provided on your shipping label or confirmation email and enter it on the UPS website or through a third-party tracking service.

  • FedEx, you can use the tracking number provided on your shipping label or confirmation email and enter it on the FedEx website or through a third-party tracking service.

  • DHL, you can use the tracking number provided on your shipping label or confirmation email and enter it on the DHL website or through a third-party tracking service.

In addition to tracking through the carrier's website or a third-party tracking service, some carriers also offer tracking through mobile apps or by sending tracking updates via email or SMS.

History of Carriers

Here is a brief history of the each of the carriers:

 

UPS

UPS is a global package delivery company that was founded in 1907 in Seattle, Washington by James E. Casey. The company was originally known as the American Messenger Company, and it provided local messenger and delivery services in the Seattle area.

  • In 1913, the company changed its name to United Parcel Service and began offering delivery services to a wider area. In the 1920s, UPS began using trucks for delivery and started expanding its services beyond the Pacific Northwest.

  • During the Great Depression, UPS faced financial difficulties and was close to bankruptcy. However, the company was able to turn things around by expanding its services to include package delivery and by implementing new technologies such as barcode scanners and computerized routing systems.

  • In the 1950s and 1960s, UPS continued to expand its services and began offering international shipping. In the 1970s and 1980s, the company went public and continued to grow, expanding its services to include freight shipping and logistics management.

  • Today, UPS is a global company that delivers millions of packages every day to customers in over 220 countries and territories around the world. The company offers a wide range of delivery speeds, including same-day delivery options, and a variety of additional services such as freight shipping, white glove delivery, and logistics management.

FedEx 

FedEx is a global delivery company that was founded in 1971 in Little Rock, Arkansas by Fredrick W. Smith. The company was originally known as Federal Express, and it was the first company to offer overnight delivery of packages.

  • In the early years of the company, FedEx faced many challenges, including financial difficulties and competition from other carriers. However, the company was able to overcome these challenges by expanding its services to include international shipping and by implementing new technologies such as computerized tracking and routing systems.

  • In the 1980s, FedEx went public and continued to grow, expanding its services to include ground delivery and freight shipping. In the 1990s, the company began offering same-day delivery and introduced its signature purple planes, which became a well-known symbol of the company.

  • Today, FedEx is a global company that delivers millions of packages every day to customers in over 220 countries and territories around the world. The company offers a wide range of delivery speeds, including same-day delivery options, and a variety of additional services such as freight shipping, white glove delivery, and logistics management.

DHL eCommerce

DHL eCommerce is a shipping service that is specifically designed for ecommerce businesses. It is a hybrid service that combines the resources of a traditional carrier with those of the local postal service to offer cost-effective delivery for small packages.

  • DHL eCommerce is a division of DHL, which is a global delivery company that was founded in 1969 in San Francisco, California by Adrian Dalsey, Larry Hillblom, and Robert Lynn. The company was originally known as DHL Worldwide Express, and it was the first company to offer international door-to-door delivery of packages.

  • In the 1970s and 1980s, DHL continued to expand its services and entered the Asian and European markets. In the 1990s, the company introduced new technologies such as online tracking and electronic billing, and began offering ecommerce-specific services such as DHL eCommerce.

  • Today, DHL eCommerce is a global company that offers delivery to over 220 countries and territories worldwide. The company offers a variety of delivery speeds, including standard and express options, and a range of additional services such as tracking, insurance, and signature confirmation.

USPS

The United States Postal Service is a government-owned carrier that is responsible for providing postal service in the United States. It was established in 1775, making it one of the oldest government agencies in the country.

  • In the early years of the USPS, the main function of the organization was to deliver mail and newspapers between cities. As the country grew and the population expanded, the USPS began to offer additional services such as mail delivery to rural areas and the delivery of packages.

  • In the 20th century, the USPS faced increasing competition from private carriers such as FedEx and UPS. In response, the USPS began to modernize and expand its services, including the introduction of new technologies such as computerized tracking and routing systems.

  • Today, the USPS is a large, multifaceted organization that provides a wide range of services, including mail delivery, package delivery, money orders, and passport services. The USPS delivers to every address in the United States and its territories, as well as to over 190 countries worldwide. In addition to delivery services, the USPS also offers a variety of additional services such as tracking, insurance, and signature confirmation.


Conclusion

Choosing the right carrier for your ecommerce logistics can be a complex decision, with factors like shipping rates, package dimensions, delivery speed, and additional services playing a crucial role. At Atomix Logistics, we leverage our years of experience and deep industry knowledge to guide you through this process, ensuring you find the best fit for your specific needs. Whether you are new to shipping or looking to optimize your existing operations, our tools and insights are designed to provide significant savings and efficiency. To explore how we can help your ecommerce brand thrive with the most suitable carrier options, reach out to us today.

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2023 Guide for Ecommerce Shipping Carriers - UPS, USPS, Fedex, DHL
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