All Things Shipping
Jan 8, 2016

Alternative USPS Shipping Methods


On January 17th, 2016, there will be a lot of changes happening to the USPS Postage rates and services. This is another update on how to optimize your shipping going forward this year.

In our last shipping optimization post, we touched on diversifying shipping methods across different carriers and service levels to take advantage of the services they are best suited for. In this post, we will dive deeper into some cost optimization suggestions for USPS domestic shipments.

For shipping non-urgent items under 16 oz, definitely use USPS First Class Parcels

This is by far the best way to ship lightweight items like swag and t-shirts. Provided that your package is under 16 oz, it’ll qualify for First Class rates.

First Class Parcels 2016
For packages under 5 lbs traveling to nearby areas, we’re glad to say that Priority Mail is still your best option.

Despite the price increases, no other carriers and services can beat the USPS for these packages. However, keep in mind that distance does matter when it comes to Priority Mail. Zones change depending on where you ship from. To find out which USPS zones you frequently ship to, enter your postal code in this zone chart to find out.

For instance, shipping a 3 lbs package using Priority Mail through Shippo to Zones 0-2 will cost $5.91, but to Zone 8 will cost $14.03. That’s quite the difference!

It’s also interesting to note that shipments going to Zones 0-2 using Priority Mail often will arrive within 1 day simply because the distance it’s going is much shorter. If you’re looking to improve on providing all your customers a more consistent delivery expectation, you can try fulfilling shipments going further away before those traveling nearby since they’ll arrive faster.

For those shipping more than 5 lbs or those going farther than Zone 2, we recommend taking a look at a few other services that USPS offers.

Flat Rate Packages
Since Flat Rate shipments will cost the same for up to 70 lbs across all zones, it’s the best option for heavy items traveling far away, so long as you use special USPS Flat Rate packaging. This can be ordered for free on the USPS website.

Flat Rate Packages 2016

Below we’ve compared where Flat Rate shipping can save you money over Priority Mail Commercial Plus rates. For most weigh/zones, if you can work within the box size restrictions, Flat Rate packages will be a better option.

Flat Rate vs Priority Mail

Regional Rate Packages
Like Flat Rate packages, these are specific boxes you’ll need to get from the USPS (for free). Their weight limits are lower, and their prices will vary depending on where they’re shipped.

In 2016, USPS will simplify Regional Rate packages by eliminating Box C – only offering Box A for parcels up to 15 lbs, and Box B for parcels up to 20 lbs.

Regional Rate 2016

To truly save on shipping with the USPS, focus on your packaging and optimize for USPS cubic pricing when possible.

For Priority Mail, USPS offers cubic pricing – taking into account package dimensions, instead of weight, to calculate the shipping rate. These “cubes” are then priced depending on which zones it ships to.

Cubic pricing only applies to packages up to 20 lbs with all dimensions measuring below 18”. USPS has five cubic levels (0.1 – 0.5) that are always rounded up when calculating cubic pricing.

Cubes are calculated: (H” x W” x L”) / 1728 = USPS Shipping “Cube”

For instance, a 8” x 5” x 6” package would equal 0.13 cubic feet – when calculated as above. When shipping this package out, it would be priced at 0.2 cubic feet. A good rule of thumb when exploring cubic pricing: the more you can tightly and safely package your items, the more savings you’re likely to see.

The Priority Mail rates you see in Shippo are based on a combination of cubic and weight/zone pricing. Since we take in both your package weight and dimensions, we automatically calculate both rates and show you the better rate of the two.

If you haven’t yet, let 2016 be the year for optimizing your shipping strategy! With rate increases and service changes, a one-size fits all shipping method just won’t cut it anymore. We want to be right beside you every step of the way, so if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.

Happy shipping!

Shippo is a multi-carrier API and web app that helps retailers, marketplaces and platforms connect to a global network of carriers. Businesses use Shippo to get real-time rates, print labels, automate international paperwork, track packages and facilitate returns. Shippo provides the tools to help businesses succeed through shipping.

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Shan Lian
was a product marketer at Shippo.

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