How to Choose a Shipping Carrier for Your Online Store

There are several things to consider when building your ecommerce site, ranging from product offerings to web design. Most of these decisions are fun and interesting, yet there are some logistical details that, let’s face it, aren’t very exciting. Choosing a shipping carrier may fall into this category for you, but avoid the temptation to skimp on the details when weighing your options—it can cost you a lot of money as your business grows.

For most online retailers, you have four main shipping providers: DHL, FedEX, UPS, and USPS. Ideally, you’ll want a fast, reliable, and affordable carrier that helps you streamline shipping activities. But to better guide your journey in picking the right shipping carrier, ask these seven important questions:

1. What kind of products am I shipping?

Consider any special requirements of your products. Some carriers can’t deliver items of certain sizes or shapes, while others charge different rates for such items. For example, if you ship mostly small products, consider using the US Postal Service’s (USPS) flat-rate shipping packaging. On the other hand, if your products are large, compare potential freight shipping charges.

2. Which providers are most reputable?

Most of your customers will prefer to receive their order from a shipping provider they’ve heard of, such as FedEx, UPS, or USPS. Customers enter their credit card information with greater confidence when they trust the carrier.

3. How will I get the packages to my carrier?

When comparing carriers, consider whether the carrier picks up the packages (and any related fees) for you, or if you need to transport the packages to the carrier’s drop-off location yourself. If you need to drop off packages, find out where the nearest drop-off location is, along with their hours of operation.

4. Will I be shipping internationally?

While you may not think about shipping globally at first, it’s an important option to consider. Be sure to compare rates and provisions for international orders up front, and check out carriers that are specific to certain markets and countries, such as Canada Post and Australia Post.

5. Should I offer more than one shipping carrier?

Many online businesses allow their customers to select from multiple shipping providers, such as UPS and FedEx. The decision to offer this option to your customers is totally yours, so factor in how much, if any, additional cost and human resources are required to do so.

6. Does my ecommerce platform support live rates for my carrier of choice?

Live rates are calculated based on product weight, destination, and what the carrier’s charging at the time of the order. Find out which carriers offer live rates and ask your ecommerce provider whether their platform supports live rates, and for which carriers.

7. What about price?

To compare prices, first look at the weights and sizes of your products and refer to the carriers’ websites to determine your average shipping cost for the destinations you’re selling to. While small price differences may seem irrelevant, they can quickly add up.

Choose your shipping carrier wisely. You’re essentially picking a business partner here, and your shipping provider plays an important role in customer satisfaction. Even if a late delivery isn’t your fault, your customers associate the bad experience with your brand.