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The Difference Between UPS, FedEx, and USPS

Many implementation issues and strategies should be considered if trying to run a successful e-commerce business. Like a retail store, management must decide which suppliers to buy from and how much inventory to have on hand. The retail website should ensure a great customer experience. There are several ways to support e-commerce customers and encourage brand loyalty, such as offering free or expedited shipments or providing quantity discounts on large orders. However, there is one element you may not have given much consideration to that can still make a huge difference, and that's e-commerce packaging.

The biggest thing that can ruin an unboxing experience is when the customer has to deal with frustrating e-commerce packaging that's difficult to open or damaged products delivered by a major carrier. It does not help in boosting brand loyalty without branding in or on the packaging. Send catalogs, flyers, or reasons for the customer to remember the company. It's also worth looking into sustainable packaging options to lessen environmental impact and attract shoppers who look for sustainability when deciding on an e-commerce vendor. Another great way to boost sustainability is enviro-friendly void-fill like recycled air pillows, biodegradable packing peanuts, or corrugated bubble wrap instead of tissue paper.

While frustration-free packaging is essential, delayed packages are another inconvenience that will keep from providing the best online shopping experience. When looking at the supply chain, make sure you're doing everything you can to get packages, mailers, and envelopes from fulfillment to the hands of shoppers as quickly as possible. Ensure you're working with the best carrier to get your products to customers in perfect condition and on time. Here are some of the most significant differences between the popular carrier choices to help make the right decision.

United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS)

UPS Shipping

UPS is one of the leading delivery service companies and is an excellent option for ground delivery. While UPS also operates as an air shipper for expedited services, its ground package business is its primary source of profit. According to the latest annual report on their services, UPS delivered roughly 24.7 million packages and documents per day, making it the leader in deliveries completed. UPS offers the shortest ground shipping times by two days over other options, though they can be more expensive than FedEx.

The UPS Store is a retail outlet that primarily supports its packaging and delivery business. They also provide office services, such as copying and printing. Franchisees own these stores, and UPS most commonly serves retail outlets and small businesses with small packaging needs, and naturally, this also applies to e-commerce shippers. UPS also offers competitive pricing on larger packages, making them a great option as an all-in-one shipping solution for e-commerce brands.

Due to COVID-19, the UPS Service Guarantee is largely suspended, although it will be adjusted on October 18th to reinstate commitment times for Next Day Air services. This is excellent news for you if you need rapid shipping for international orders, but if you operate on a smaller scale, you may be better served with other options. UPS has also enacted holiday peak surcharges as early as October 3rd for shipments that require additional handling or larger packaging options.

UPS does provide free package tracking options for up to 25 tracking numbers at one time. Small businesses may be interested in signing up for their UPS My Choice for Business program, which lets you track and reroute all shipments in real-time.

Shipping rates for business accounts are determined by shipping volume—the more a company ships, the better the rate. Using world ship, companies can quickly ship multiple packages in one shipment. The shipping interface is easy to use and better than FedEx and USPS for multiple package shipments. Any company desiring to ship products throughout the United States would be wise to look into setting up a UPS shipping account.


FedEx Shipping

The most significant advantage FedEx offers over other options is its commitment to time-sensitive express services. If your e-commerce shop ships to customers worldwide and you need to get shipments to them as quickly as possible, then FedEx is likely your best choice. FedEx moves over 18 million packages per day, and they boast 680 aircraft in their fleet.

Like UPS, FedEx also runs stores throughout the United States, although FedEx generally operates in larger locations with premium services, such as laser printing, image scanning, and design services, and even small-scale shrink wrapping supplies and services. If you need a digital print for your brand or are still coming up with custom labels to encourage customer loyalty, FedEx can provide you with the services you need.

Like UPS, FedEx has also announced its changes to holiday surcharges, beginning as early as October 4th, 2021. The surcharges are higher than last year's, but unlike UPS, FedEx has reinstated its money-back guarantee on most shipments from U.S. customers. FedEx ground services are slightly faster than USPS, but their price difference is minimally cheaper than UPS for regional shipments. Unless you can ship from a local FedEx fulfillment center, they may not be your best option for e-commerce shipments unless you're a large business that needs deals on international express shipping. International express shipping is expensive, but FedEx is dependable for timely deliveries. For light packages within the regional area, the prices and delivery times are lower. Once packages exceed 5-7 lbs. and ship out more than 500 miles away, FedEx loses pricing and delivery time advantages to other carriers.

United States Postal Service (USPS)

USPS Shipping

USPS is the most competitively priced provider overall for shipments in the United States. They also offer discounted rates for under two-pound packages, making them perfect for poly mailers, envelopes, bubble mailers, and other small containers.

Unlike UPS and FedEx, the USPS provides free pickup at all of their locations. They'll also deliver to PO Box and military addresses. While they may not be the fastest option, USPS does provide free packaging for priority and express shipments, making them the best chance to avoid additional charges. Overall, the USPS averages the best price for delivering small packages, but they have yet to implement a service guarantee. Like the other companies mentioned, they've also been implementing holiday surcharges since last year.

The USPS is also implementing new service standards for mail traveling long distances. Assuming your e-commerce business intends to ship items across the country, these new speeds may not be fast enough to keep your customers happy unless you offer more expensive shipping options as well. If package tracking is vital to you and your customers, then you may be pleased to know that USPS lets you track up to 35 shipments at a time, and you can sign up for a free business account to track even more packages. Tracking is only available for priority packages though. Be careful choosing the lower cost option only, because it will not allow customers to track packages.


No matter which shipping option you choose to go with, it's always essential to use the best packaging materials you can on your end. Shipping boxes will arrive eventually, but if your packages cause customers frustration, it's unlikely they'll order again, no matter your shipping speeds.

For companies getting started, the main factors in choosing a suitable parcel carrier are the size of the package, the speed of delivery, and cost. Once established, we recommend leaving all options on the table to provide a better service with lower-cost options and faster delivery options.


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