All Things Shipping | Jun 29, 2022

Expedited Shipping: What It Is and Services Compared

Sarah Rickerd

Customers want fast shipping. As a matter of fact, expedited shipping one of the first aspects they look at when shopping online. According to our 2021 State of Shipping Report, 44% of consumers said the expected delivery date was the most important part of a product page.

What’s more surprising, according to a February 2021 survey conducted by Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights, 68% of the 1,047 shoppers surveyed claimed that expidited shipping speeds would lead them to place an online order.

Unless you’re Amazon, keeping up with this expanding appetite for expedited shipping can be tough. The following guide will help you understand what expedited shipping is, which services you should consider, and how you can offer quick delivery times without breaking the bank.

What is Expedited Shipping (and How Fast Is Expedited Shipping?)

On the most basic level, expedited shipping is any shipping solution that is faster than the standard service. For instance, if you offer two levels of shipping—say a ground delivery service that takes 5+ business days to arrive and an air-based solution that arrives in 2-3 days—the faster air service is your expedited shipping option.

However, expedited shipping can also refer to specific services from shipping carriers. UPS Worldwide Expedited®, for example, is one of the carrier’s international shipping services, with delivery in 2-5 business days to most destinations.

One important aspect to keep in mind is that expedited shipping does not necessarily mean the fastest shipping option from a carrier. Depending on who you’re shipping with, there can be service levels faster than expedited shipping.

Expedited Shipping vs. Standard Shipping vs. Express Shipping

To make things more confusing, the term ‘expedited shipping’ is often used interchangeably with the phrase ‘express shipping’. Unless carrier-specific services are being referenced directly, you can generally assume that:

  • Standard shipping refers to a merchant’s slowest (and often, its cheapest) shipping option. Merchants set their own standard shipping expectations—Amazon’s standard is 2-day shipping through Prime, while other retailers may offer 5+ business day ground shipping as their lowest-priced option out of several tiers. Some merchants may offer free standard shipping, only charging customers for shipping if they want to pay for faster shipping.
  • Expedited shipping refers to the faster of two or more shipping options. E-commerce sellers may offer expedited shipping services for free, at a flat rate, or using a variable rate that is calculated at checkout (or based on the customer’s specifications).
  • Express shipping can be synonymous with expedited shipping, but if both are used—when merchants offer 3+ shipping tiers, for example—express services are generally understood to be faster than expedited shipping.

5 Reasons Why You Should Offer Expedited Shipping

If the confusion surrounding these terms has you thinking about offering a single, standard shipping tier, think again. There are plenty of good reasons to offer your customers faster shipping services:

  1. Perishable or fragile items may require it. If you sell items that must be kept cool or frozen—or those that risk damage the longer they remain in transit—offering expedited shipping may be a necessity, not a choice. 
  2. To avoid lost sales. Shoppers will go elsewhere for faster shipping speeds. Offering expedited shipping keeps your business competitive and keeps customers coming back again and again.
  3. To increase participation in customer loyalty programs. Offering free expedited shipping to members of your VIP loyalty program is a great way to bring in new participants and their recurring business.
  4. The inclusion of extra services. Many expedited shipping services, such as USPS Priority Mail, come with perks including free packaging, free tracking, and free insurance (up to $100 for most shipments) that standard shipping solutions do not. Customers and merchants want these benefits, and obtaining them through expedited shipping solutions means that you don’t have to eat the costs or increase your shipping fees to cover them.
  5. Expedited shipping decreases transit time. When your packages get to your customers more quickly, you reduce handling fees and storage requirements, in addition to minimizing opportunities for items to get lost or damaged in transit.

How Much Does Expedited Shipping Cost?

As with any shipping service, your exact expedited shipping costs will come down to a number of different factors:

  • The carrier you use
  • The specific expedited shipping solutions they offer (including flat-rate services)
  • How quickly you need your packages to arrive (with same day services, overnight options, or within 2-3 business days)
  • The size of your packages
  • The weight of your packages
  • The total distance they’ll travel between your origin and your customers’ destinations (including domestic or international shipments)

Expedited Shipping Compared: USPS vs. UPS vs. FedEx

To see how these factors come together to impact postage fees and transit times, let’s look at real-world shipping costs for some of the top carriers’ most popular expedited services.

Imagine that you need to ship a 1-lb item in an 8” x 5” x 1” box from New York, NY (zip code 10001) to a business address in Los Angeles, CA (zip code 90210). You want to be able to offer your customers faster shipping times, but you also don’t want expedited shipping costs to eat into your profits. 

The following are the costs you’d need to be able to either cover or pass on to your customers to offer expedited services profitably:

Solution Service Transit Time Cost
USPS Expedited Shipping Priority Mail Express® 1 business days $42.15*
Priority Mail® 2 business days $9.68*
Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box® 1-3 business days $8.25*
FedEx Expedited Shipping Standard Overnight® 1 business day $116.44
FedEx 2Day® 2 business days $47.93
Express Saver® 3 business days $42.71
UPS Expedited Shipping UPS Next Day Air® 1 business day $36.21*
UPS 2nd Day Air® 2 business days $16.16*
UPS 3 Day Select® 3 business days $12.30*

 

* Starred items reflect Shippo’s discounted rates

In another example, let’s say your business also offers international shipping and you sell that same item to customer in London, England. Using the same size, weight, and shipping address, expedited shipping for your package traveling from New York to your customer would like this:

Solution Service Transit Time Cost
USPS Expedited Shipping Priority Mail Express International® 4 business days $70.98*
Priority Mail International® 8 business days $57.00*
Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box® 8 business days $38.90*
FedEx Expedited Shipping International First® 2 business day $218.26
International Priority Express® 2 business days $167.86
International Priority® 2 business days $163.14
UPS Expedited Shipping UPS Worldwide Express Plus® 1 business day $81.59*
UPS Express® 1 business days $41.59*
UPS Expedited® 2 business days $36.06*

 

While the first scenario may see USPS as having the fastest and most affordable option, the second sees UPS as the winner on those fronts. Comparing expedited shipping rates before purchasing them will allow your business to limit as much cost as possible while still meeting customer expectations.

How to Limit Expedited Shipping Costs

As you can see from the charts above, the service you select plays a major role in what you’ll pay to offer expedited shipping. Beyond choosing carefully, the following tips can help you further cut your costs:

  • If you plan to offer free expedited shipping, set a minimum order value to qualify that’s slightly higher than your average order value. This will encourage customers to add more to their carts and make the costs of quick shipping more manageable for you.
  • Consider using fulfillment centers that are strategically located near your customer base. Doing so may make it possible to speed up standard shipping services without having to pay for expedited solutions. 
  • Whether or not you use fulfillment centers, even extending expedited shipping times from same-day to 2-3 business days can reduce your expenses significantly.
  • Take advantage of any discounted rates available to you. Shippo, for example, offers discounted rates for services like UPS 2nd Day Air® and USPS Priority Mail®.

Another option is to have your customers take on the cost of expedited shipping at checkout. However, you’ll still want to do anything you can to help minimize the cost for them as well so they will still be willing to shop with you.

Compare Expedited Shipping Services Across Carriers with Shippo

With Shippo, you can access great expedited rates across carriers – simply input the dimensions and weight of your package along with its origin and destination, then compare discounted expedited shipping rates from the most trusted names in the shipping industry. 

Sign up for your free account to start saving on expedited shipping, and get packages delivered to your customers quickly and cost effectively.

Sarah Rickerd is a Michigan-based freelance writer covering business, marketing, and technology topics. She is also the owner of Content Conquered, a B2B-focused content marketing consultancy.

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