Shipping can be a complicated part of any ecommerce business—no matter the size. There are several different shipping methods for distribution services, but one of the most prominent is flat-rate shipping, which is widely offered by USPS, FedEx and UPS. Utilizing this type of shipping is ideal for some businesses, but for others, there are far more effective methods. There are a variety of things to consider when looking at this shipping method to determine if it’s the most cost-effective solution for you.
What is flat-rate shipping?
Flat-rate shipping means that the price of shipping is not connected to the weight or size of the item shipping. This can be advantageous if you have a heavy item that can fit into a smaller lightweight box, for example, but it might not be the best choice if you have very large, lightweight items to ship. Distance is also not taken into consideration for this type of shipping. This means it could be a good fit if you ship items long distances but might not be the best deal for closer destinations. This shipping method simplifies things quite a bit and can be a great option for some brands, but it’s important to do your research before deciding. Let’s dive into the advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of flat-rate shipping
Perhaps the biggest benefit of utilizing flat-rate shipping is that it creates predictable costs, allowing you to accurately forecast budget no matter how far the order is shipping or how heavy it is. This shipping method also allows you to avoid any surcharges that are typically imposed by UPS and FedEx like fuel and residential delivery fees, and dimensional weight doesn’t apply either. Dimensional weight bases the weight on the amount of space a package takes up, instead of physical weight. FedEx and UPS apply dimensional weight to all packages, but flat-rate shipping can help you avoid this. Another advantage is packaging. USPS and FedEx both offer packaging that merchants can order for free if they’re using flat-rate shipping while UPS offers the flexibility of using your own packaging. This can be helpful if you have packages that are nonstandard sizes and won’t fit into other carriers’ package sizes. If you decide flat-rate shipping is the best option for your business, keep in mind that each carrier has its own options, so it’s important to analyze each one and pick the best one for you.
Disadvantages of flat-rate shipping
Defaulting to flat-rate shipping may be easier, but it’s not always the best way to save on shipping costs. This is particularly true if you ship mostly light-weight items. For example, even if you sell an item that very easily fits into a small flat rate box, if it weighs under one pound, it would actually be cheaper to use USPS First-Class Package Service. It’s important to research every shipping option for your specific product to determine what the most cost-effective solution is. Another drawback of this shipping method is packaging. You are required to use the provided packaging for USPS and FedEx in order to use their flat-rate services. UPS does allow you to use your own packaging but still has size constraints, meaning if your package doesn’t fit the necessary dimensions, it won’t qualify. An additional disadvantage is that some options may not be available based on your delivery time frame. Only FedEx and USPS offer guaranteed overnight flat-rate services, and only FedEx ships boxes with these services. This means if you are trying to meet a strict delivery timeline, this may not be the shipping method for you.
Master shipping with ITS Logistics
Determining when to use flat-rate shipping to ensure you are utilizing the most cost-effective shipping is complicated—but vital to your success. It’s important to consider your product size and weight, shipping timeframe and carrier package constraints when comparing flat-rate shipping options to their counterparts and to each other. At ITS Logistics, we can help you determine the best shipping option for your specific products that will help you save money and keep your customers happy. Give us a call today!