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 of 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 shipper carrier 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 is one of the cheapest shipping services available but has run into trouble sometimes. However, of late, it has greatly picked up on reliability and on-time delivery.

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. You can, however, request a refund under certain circumstances. Still, USPS is great for shipping small parcels, under 13 ounces.

 

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After the raised rates in 2016, USPS still is the cheapest carrier to work with. 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. However, note that the rates may change after January 2020. You can see the 2020 rates here.

New Experiences At USPS

USPS has been working on innovations transforming the capabilities of mail by adding a digital dimension to the consumer experience. These include Informed Delivery, which allows residential customers to see a mobile preview of their mail and provides businesses with a new way to engage consumers and extract more value from their investment in the mail. Mail senders are using Informed Delivery to nudge consumers toward a website, coupon or connect directly with a business.

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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.

USPS Shipping Guidelines

  • 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. You can send everything over that number only via Priority Mail. On the bright side, Priority Mail’s flat rate options allow merchants to ship products of any weight across any distance, as long as it fits into a flat rate slab.
  • 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.

 

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  • Saturday delivery is free for regular packages as long as it isn’t a national holiday.
  • There is also a postage calculator as per the items you are shipping, both domestic and international, and the materials needed. Packages can also be insured.

For more specific guidelines, take a look here. USPS also has some great holiday shipping tips here.

The reliable shipper – United Parcel Service

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When it comes to reliability, secure and speedy delivery, as well as shipping large packages over 2 pounds in weight, 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 also offers volume discounts. UPS’s tracking system has also received several accolades, and for some of their services, they offer a money-back guarantee if the shipment is not delivered on time.

However, though there are no holiday peak-time surcharges, UPS is also the most expensive of the three carriers, comparing closely to FedEx. It does add fuel surcharges and extended area surcharges. 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 its 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.

UPS Shipping Guidelines

  • 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 to let them pick up the shipments, but there is a flat fee on scheduled pickups.
  • They have very specific guidelines about labeling and stacking. Some helpful images can be found here.
  • UPS has some good return policies that can meet your customers’ needs for fast and convenient returns.

FedEx for the best service

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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 discounts and rewards program, as well as the sheer volume of resources they have on the site for business success. You can also benefit from the negotiable pricing on large shipments.

  • 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.
  • You can do the packaging in-house, but the boxes need to be in great condition. For boxes larger in volume than weight, dimensional pricing applies.
  • Shippers calculate dimensional pricing differently for different addresses.

So is FedEx ideal for the holidays? It depends on what your priority is. Though they offer no money-back guarantee, they’re pretty reliable. They even offer Saturday delivery as part of their basic shipping package. You cannot hold them accountable for late deliveries during the holidays. They’re more expensive than USPS but offer great service.

FedEx also has convenient return options to suit your customers’ needs. With return labels and tags provided, you have great visibility with tracking packages on their way back to you.

Orders Fulfilled By Amazon

If Amazon is responsible for shipping and delivering your items on time, here’s what you should know:

  • For Black Friday and Cyber Monday, your inventory needs to reach a fulfillment center no later than 5th November 2019.
  • For Christmas orders, your inventory must arrive at a fulfillment center no later than 5th December 2019.
  • The inventory for 2020 needs to be sent to Amazon starting from 17th December 2019.

Lately, Amazon SWA, Amazon’s own logistics network, and end-to-end parcel delivery service have made a lot of news. Piloted in Los Angeles in 2018, Shipping With Amazon (SWA) is set to launch in the UK too.

Amazon Logistics is aiming to disrupt the entire courier network and is likely to offer seven days a week collections, options for evening collections, a spectrum of delivery options covering everything from home, office delivery, lockers, counter collection and so on.

If you are a small merchant, going the MFN way might be more economical. Here’s a great guide on whether FBA or FBM is the right option for you.

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Our Verdict

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 in the last minute, try looking for discounted prices from FedEx and USPS using this site.

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
  • evaluate how long it will take each partner to deliver items
  • assign a shipper accordingly on your retail management system.

If you have any or all of these partners, plus several other major shippers, Primaseller’s shipping integrations will enable you to have an incredibly smooth experience fulfilling your orders. For starters, you can get rates, fetch labels, and print in batches for easy order processing across online channels. For a full listing of Primaseller’s shipping integrations and order fulfillment support, click here.

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Armed with a degree and a pen, loves to tell stories. When not telling stories, she also works. Hard to decide which one she likes more.