Come holiday season, and you’re swamped with orders. This is a good thing, but only if you have a plan in place for how you intend to fulfill all off them. Having products in stock is one half of the equation while the other is made up of choosing the right shipping partner.
A good way to determine who should be your shipping partner during Christmas is to go with who made you happy last year.
But if you’re reading this, you’re probably shipping for the first time during holidays, or maybe you’re not happy with your current shipping partner.
In this post, we compare three major carriers in the United States- USPS, UPS, and FedEx, and show you which one is good for what purpose. We also discuss any specific guidelines and dates they may have for shipping during the holidays.
Cheapest Shipping Partner – United States Postal Service – USPS
USPS is one of the cheapest shipping services available, but it runs into trouble sometimes. The greatest issue with USPS is that, unlike the other carriers on the list, it doesn’t offer a money back guarantee if its stipulated delivery time is not met. This can be a bummer during the holidays.
After the raised rates in 2016, USPS still is the cheapest carrier to work with. In some categories, it beats FedEx by a $20 dollar difference for each standard package sent via Priority Mail. If you’re expecting to ship a lot of boxes, it may be a good idea to plan very well in advance and ship well before the first week of December with USPS.
What do you do with last minute orders? Here, you just have to accept the fact that a service guarantee could be more important than the price and ship with a more reliable carrier, even if they’re much more expensive. On the brighter side, customers may be willing to bear some of the extra shipping charges if it means a last minute order will be delivered on time.
Here are a few shipping guidelines to keep in mind for USPS:
- USPS always rounds weight up to the nearest pound or ounce. You need to calculate postage accordingly.
- There is a weight limit of 13 oz. for First Class parcels. Everything over that number can only be sent via Priority Mail.
- For packages traveling over several zones, you need to account for the dimensional weight. You can understand this better by scheduling a free consultation with USPS.
- Saturday delivery is free for regular packages as long as it isn’t a national holiday.
For more specific guidelines, take a look here.
United Parcel Service – UPS
When it comes to reliability, UPS tops the chart. With their Time and Cost calculator, you can simply enter origin and destination and see how much different kinds of services will cost you, and by when you can expect delivery. UPS’s tracking system has also received several accolades, and for some of their services, the offer a money back guarantee if the shipment is not delivered on time.
However, UPS is also the most expensive of the three carriers, comparing closely to FedEx. For most services, both FedEx and UPS charge a variable price for dimensional weight. Dimensional weight accounts for those shipments that travel long distances, and take up more space in a consignment. Each carrier has a different formula for calculating it based on their in-house logistics.
For last minute shipments that absolutely must reach on time, it may be wise to opt for UPS, with their easy tracking and delivery guarantee. If you choose them, here are a few guidelines to follow:
- UPS can provide you with packaging material at an extra cost. It also accepts your own packaging material.
- With features such as On-Call pickup and On-Route pickup, it may be less of a hassle for you to get your shipments picked up by them.
- They have very specific guidelines about labeling and stacking. Some helpful images can be found here.
FedEx gets brownie points for service. Most importantly, you as a retailer can manage everything you want to from their website. From guidelines to ordering supplies and paying bills, you can do everything by logging into your business account. Small businesses can benefit from their rewards program, as well as the sheer volume of resources they have on the site for business success.
- FedEx does not offer the money back guarantee during the sale season for most of its services.
- For the Ground service, FedEx may be able to deliver the day after Thanksgiving, but offers no guarantees.
- Packaging can be done in-house, but the boxes need to be in great condition. For boxes larger in volume than weight, dimensional pricing applies.
- Dimensional pricing is calculated differently for different addresses.
So is FedEx ideal for the holidays? Depends on what your priority is. Though they offer no money back guarantee, they’re pretty reliable. You cannot hold them accountable for late deliveries during the holidays. They’re more expensive than USPS but offer great service.
Orders Fulfilled By Amazon
If Amazon is responsible for shipping and delivering your items on time, these are the dates they insist on for them to seamlessly get your parcels across to customers.
- For Black Friday and Cyber Monday, your inventory needs to reach a fulfillment center no later than 9th November 2016.
- For Christmas orders, your inventory must arrive at a fulfillment center no later than 2nd December 2016.
- The inventory for 2017 needs to be send to Amazon starting from 19th December 2016.
If you own a small business, shipping well in advance with USPS is the best way to save money on shipping. For express shipping and to get parcels through last minute, try looking for discounted prices from FedEx and USPS using this site. PostPony is USPS approved.
Also, if you’re shipping fairly heavy items at cheaper rates, UPS and FedEx may sometimes have prices quite close to USPS! If you’re looking for insurance even for the cheaper services, FedEx is the way to go.
Before you decide on one shipping partner, prioritize what your requirements are for each different product and assign a shipper accordingly.