By the end of 2021, retailers both online and in-store saw a significant increase in holiday spending, which rose 8.5% compared with the year-earlier period. Despite higher prices due to inflation and supply chain challenges, shoppers bought in-store sales up by 2.4%, while online sales surged 61.4% compared to pre-pandemic 2019. But what does this all mean for small and medium-sized businesses
Given this continuing trend in consumer demand, businesses will need to ship out plenty of goods — especially if they’re operating online. Whether it’s during the holiday season or not, customers dislike late shipments, and long delivery times are often cited as one reason to shop at brick-and-mortar stores. It’s essential, then, to have a reliable shipping partner that can satisfy your customers. But how do you choose between major providers like DHL, FedEx, UPS and USPS, or even small parcel carriers? Here are a few things to consider when choosing a shipping partner:

Fulfillment rate and speed

A track record for timely deliveries is key when choosing a shipping carrier. You want to choose a partner with consistently fast shipping speeds, especially if your customers are keeping delivery times in mind. Case in point, the elevated parcel volumes that inundated FedEx thanks to online shopping have led to longer delivery times, service blunders, and upset customers all around. FedEx lost a number of customers due to surcharges, volume thresholds, and a lower-than-average delivery time rate compared to other providers. If possible, choose a shipping carrier that offers end-to-end shipment tracking. This helps your customers build trust towards your business, and reduce the number of follow-up messages that your team has to handle.


Cost is another strong factor in shipping. Based on consumer opinion on shipping prices, consumers will do just about anything for free shipping. Around 82% of consumers prefer free shipping over paying a fee to have their shipments expedited. Because today’s prices are dictated by weight and distance, you should take a cue from the latest business trends being taught at the country’s top universities. Advanced business administration programs are now focused on how companies can leverage existing data with analytics and predictive modeling, allowing your business to stay ahead of the curve. The curriculum that covers these areas is widely available online, and you can use these insights on strategy and risk management to improve your profits. Partner with a carrier that offers multiple shipping options, special programs, and discounts. If possible, integrate their live rates and shipment estimates onto your eCommerce website.

Area coverage

Are you only going to ship domestically, or do you plan to have international customers as well? If you’re going to offer both, be sure to incorporate international and local shipping options with your shipping providers. For domestic shipments, rates are set based on the eight US shipping zones, as well as the distance between the origin (your location) and the recipient. Ideally, your carrier should offer a free daily pickup at your warehouse, business, or home for the fastest turnaround time, or else dropping packages off will be inconvenient for you. If possible, try to find a provider that offers an eco-friendly ground shipping model as well. Trucks and trains that transport goods tend to emit gases and particles that threaten human health and the environment, so it helps if your carrier enforces regular truck fleet maintenance and focuses on green initiatives.

Additional services

Not all carriers offer the same services, so you need to find one based on your unique business needs before committing to a provider for the long term. Signature delivery, for instance, is particularly important if you’re selling high-value items because it increases security and reduces the risk of fraud. Other carriers offer shipping insurance so you can get compensation for lost, damaged, or mishandled packages. While no one provider is perfect on all counts, the goal is to find one with a solid reputation for excellent service, so your customers can place their orders with confidence.

Specially written for by Jodi Blake

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