If you sell a product online, whether it’s a cupcake or a kayak, or anything in between, you’re going to have to deal with getting it from place A (usually where you and your products are) to place B (where your customer is) at some point. So what’s the most efficient and cost-effective way to do that? It’s a question Tree Ring hears a lot. Let’s take a look at your options, and the pros and cons of each.

Popular Shipping Methods for Online Sales: The Big Picture

At Tree Ring Digital, our clients run the gamut of business varieties. While some offer services in a brick and mortar location, a lot of them sell products online – and that means they have to get those products to their customers somehow. Naturally, our clients want to integrate shipping options into the websites we design for them so that their customers can easily purchase the products they offer. We’re happy to oblige! But before we can do that, the client needs to assess their unique shipping needs.

What are the options?

The most basic decision to make is whether to use delivery/local pickup or a popular shipping method like USPS, UPS, or FedEx. If your products are extremely large and/or heavy (like furniture) and your customer base is primarily local, delivery and/or pickup may be your best option. That also may be the case if your product is highly regulated by law, like firearms or alcohol or CBD (hey, this is Colorado, after all!). But in most cases, you’ll need to use one of the big three shipping services. But how to decide which? There are several questions you’ll want to consider.

What are you shipping, and how big is it?

Do you sell a wide variety of products, or just a couple? Are most of your products roughly the same size (both in weight and dimension)? If they are, calculate their average weight and dimensional weight (DIM). If they’re not, determine what your most popular product is and do the same calculation for it.

Where are you customers in relation to you, and how fast do they expect their order to arrive?

Do you (or do you intend to) ship internationally or only within the US? Also, is speed of delivery a big factor for your customer base? If your product is highly specialized (for instance, made-to-order or otherwise personalized) your customers are likely willing to wait longer for delivery. Take those factors into account when choosing your shipping method.

What sort of order volume do you have?

If you’re just starting out or if you sell highly-specialized, expensive products, you may not have high-volume sales, and that will factor into what shipping method you choose. Lower-volume sales may mean your best option is to package your products at your location and drop them off at the shipping location of the carrier you choose.

An article at ShipBob.com explains another reason why your order volume matters. “If you’re shipping more than 100 orders per month, you may be able to negotiate shipping rates with carriers. The higher your shipping volume, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to negotiate lower shipping rates.”

Is flat-rate shipping the best choice?

That depends on the answers to the questions above. USPS, UPS, and FedEx each offer a flat-rate option, which means you utilize the boxes or envelopes that they provide, and as long as your package is under a certain weight, the pricing is fairly consistent (you may remember the old USPS slogan, “if it fits, it ships”). Flat-rate can be a great choice if your average (or most popular) product is small and heavy, but if it’s lightweight, flat-rate may not be your best option. You can find details on each carrier’s (USPS, UPS, and FedEx) flat-rate plans at their websites.

Considering the questions outlined here are the first step in determining which shipping method to use for your business. We recommend reaching out to each carriers (USPS, UPS, and FedEx) to ask for estimates of costs – and once you have the answers to these questions in mind, they’ll be able to give you a good idea of what to expect. Stay tuned for our next cheat sheets that will get further into the nitty gritty details of integrating online sales into your website.