Everything You Need to Know

Setting up product shipping comes with several important choices. You need to factor in carrier options, rates, and the speed of delivery. But first, you should familiarize yourself with the standard methods of shipment for ecommerce.

To figure that out, you must consider:

  • Product size: What are the dimensions and weight?
  • Product type: Are you shipping perishable goods? Are you shipping regulated products? Can they get easily damaged?
  • Destination: Are most of your customers ordering from overseas or locally? Are these difficult to get to places?
  • Your business location: Do all the carriers pick up from your location? Can you partner with a regional carrier for lower costs for nearby customers?
  • Pricing: All carriers and shipment methods have different pricing, and you must also factor in additional costs like label printing and store integrations.

All of these elements come into play when choosing a method of shipment for ecommerce products. They also dictate the overall shipping time, carrier options, and price for shipping.

With those things in mind, keep reading to learn about the different methods of shipment, along with carriers for you to pick.

📚 Table of contents:

The different methods of shipment

For each method of shipment in ecommerce, we’ll explain:

  1. General price 💰
  2. Speed 🏎️
  3. Logistics 🚊

This way, you have a stronger idea of which one(s) to select.

Flat-rate shipping

flat rate methods of shipment

Often hailed as the fallback option for ecommerce, flat-rate shipping provides the simplest setup and potential for savings.

It’s rather easy to understand: Carriers charge a flat rate for certain box sizes, regardless of the variable costs that come with ecommerce shipping. Anything that fits in the box can be shipped for that price.


  • Less configuration and headache trying to charge the exact amount to ship products. Customers pay one rate every time.
  • If your products are similar (same size and weight) and shipping distances remain short, you should be able to calculate a flat rate that’s almost perfect to cover carrier costs.
  • As long as your flat rate is close enough to the average carrier cost, it’s okay if customers occasionally pay a little less or more for shipping.
  • Weight doesn’t matter. If it fits in the box, you get the flat rate.
  • Works well for standardized product lines.


  • It can be more cost-efficient to use another method if you sell large or oddly shaped products.
  • Expanding your product line means more variety in size, so the flat-rate system doesn’t work as well.

This method of shipment is best for:

Smaller, startup businesses, or any type of ecommerce store with similarly sized products. This way, you’re able to pick a flat rate box from the carrier and stick to the simplicity of that system.

Real-time carrier rates

real-time carrier rates

An alternative to flat-rate shipping—and potentially the most modern option—is called real-time carrier rates. This method of shipment is offered through many apps for WooCommerce, Shopify, and other platforms, where the app links to carriers like FedEx and UPS to deliver an immediate, and accurate, shipping rate.

This means you never overpay or underpay for shipping. Not to mention, you’re able to show multiple shipping types to the customer based on what’s delivered by the calculator.


  • You get the most accurate rates without having to make your own calculations.
  • Merchants generally save money.
  • Customers typically save money.
  • Customers receive several shipment types to choose.
  • You can tap into rates from multiple carriers, essentially allowing you to shop around for shipping.


  • You typically must pay for an app or extension on your ecommerce platform to activate real-time carrier rates.
  • You’ll be working with a more complex system when compared to flat-rate shipping.
  • It requires a wider range of packaging materials.
  • You may have to work with multiple carriers, making the process even more complicated.
  • Customers typically won’t have any idea about shipping costs until they start the checkout process. That is, you can’t advertise your shipping prices upfront like you can with flat rates because each shipping rate needs to be calculated based on the shopper’s final order.

Best for:

Growing businesses with the need for absolute precision in their shipping rates. It’s also excellent as you expand the product line for your store, since you’re not limited by the size of your products.

Standard shipping (ground)

standard or ground methods of shipment

Although the definition of standard shipping varies from carrier to carrier, it tends to involve ground shipping that’s affordable and gets products to customers within one to eight days, depending on the destination.


  • An economical choice for merchants.
  • Gives customers affordability, decent accuracy, and reasonable speed.
  • All carriers have some form of standard shipping.
  • The wider timeframe estimates make for fewer issues and complaints.
  • It’s one of the easier methods for offering free shipping.


  • Some customers may need faster shipping, or guaranteed delivery times, making it less useful for those situations.

Best for:

The vast majority of ecommerce sellers, at least as a starting method that’s complemented by other options like expedited or local shipping.

International shipping


To reach more customers, online stores may opt to offer international shipping to customers, but it all depends on whether your carrier offers that. So, we suggest partnering with a carrier that allows for international shipping, even if you don’t intend to use it yet.

In addition, international shipping comes with a variety of expenses and roadblocks, like taxes, regulations, and tariffs. That’s why it’s important to find a carrier with experience and seamless processes for cutting out the need for you to deal with these.


  • It expands your selling potential to customers in other countries.
  • There are reliable carriers that let you turn on international shipping when you require it.


  • There are more expenses and complications, like trade laws, taxes, and regulations.
  • You will most likely have to pass some, or all, of the extra costs to the customer.
  • It makes for a more complicated shipping process, which may not be suitable for smaller brands.

Best for:

Scaling stores in transition and looking for new revenue streams. The major carriers, like FedEx and DHL, are experts at international shipping so, as long as you have the resources for the upgrade, it should result in a boost in profits.

Local delivery or pickup

USPS local

Local delivery means that your carrier provides a shipping method that’s cheaper and faster for locals. The carrier then lets you choose a boundary cutoff for where you must live to get this type of shipment.

As an alternative, you may consider bringing products to local customers yourself, but that requires a logistical setup and your own vehicles. Finally, there’s the option to have local pickup as a delivery option, which is nice because it’s free, and it prompts customers to visit your store (if you own a retail shop).


  • It makes for a cheaper shipping option for merchants and local customers.
  • Locals may become loyal to your brand.
  • It’s much easier to offer free shipping with this method, or you have the option to do local pickup which, again, gives customers a price break.
  • Many major and regional carriers offer some sort of local shipping method.


  • Some carriers don’t offer local shipping, or any special discount for it.
  • It makes for a slightly more complex shipping configuration, since you might have to work with an extra regional carrier.

Best for:

Stores with an all-local, or partially local, customer base. It’s especially useful for stores managing their own local warehouses or retail shops.

Expedited shipping


Expedited shipping is a general term for faster shipping methods when compared to standard shipping.

Reputable carriers offer multiple forms of expedited shipping, where the packages spend less time at stops.

Merchants can use expedited shipping as an add-on method for customers who want their packages a little quicker. The “expedited” term takes the pressure off your business to meet specific demands, like “next day” or “overnight” shipping.


  • Provides a general term for faster shipping that tells customers they’ll get products earlier than usual, but without promising a specific date.
  • The main carriers all offer some sort of expedited shipping.
  • It provides an extra shipping option for customers to choose.
  • It can reduce shopping cart abandonment, especially if your shipments usually take a long time.
  • Popular with customers who buy internationally, since it gives them a more reasonable shipping timeframe.


  • You may have to shop around for expedited shipping, since rates vary drastically by carrier.

This method of shipment is best for:

Just about any online store that would like to cut back on cart abandonment, while giving customers more shipping options. But remember, this is a complementary method, not a replacement to standard shipping.

Overnight ecommerce shipping

overnight methods of shipment

Overnight shipping is a form of expedited shipping with specific phrasing.

It tells the merchant, and customer, that they can expect delivery one business day after the order was placed. Some stipulations typically apply, like having to place the order before a certain time.

Much like expedited or same-day delivery, overnight shipping isn’t your only shipping method, but rather an alternative to standard shipping.


  • Has more specific wording than “expedited,” giving the customer peace of mind.
  • It’s the most logistically reasonable “fast” method, seeing as how same-day delivery often requires a special carrier or your own delivery system.
  • Most major carriers offer an overnight option.
  • Overnight shipping works well if urgency is required, like if you sell materials to contractors, or for last-minute gifts.


  • It’s far more expensive.
  • It may add some complexity and, perhaps, complaints from customers who miss the overnight deadline.

Best for:

Shops with customers who are willing to pay for overnight shipping (because they consistently need it).

You may find, for example, that you have many B2B or international customers with overnight shipping needs.

Same day shipping

same day methods of shipment

The premise behind same-day delivery is simple: A customer orders and expects a delivery on the same day, usually needing to meet a deadline for a guarantee. Like expedited and overnight shipping, this is a complementary method for standard shipping.


  • Customers can get their products on the same day.
  • The merchant gains a strong advantage against competitors.
  • It’s an easy sell in your marketing.
  • There are a few major carriers that offer same-day delivery.


  • Not all the major carriers offer same-day delivery.
  • It adds extra stress to your inventory and fulfillment management.
  • It increases your risk of customer support complaints, for warranted and unwarranted claims.
  • Same-day delivery is expensive.
  • It’s often limited by location, like for customers in major metropolitan areas.

Best for:

Brands in high competition industries where same-day shipping may be warranted for a competitive advantage. Otherwise, you can remain competitive with one of the less demanding expedited methods.

Best ecommerce carriers (and their methods of shipment)

The methods of shipment you choose depend on your carrier. You may pick a combination of carriers (to get the cheapest/fastest shipping every time), or it’s possible one carrier works best (for simplicity and easier tracking).

In this section, we outline the major carriers and which methods of ecommerce shipment they provide.


UPS and its methods of shipment

UPS works best for medium to large packages, but it’s great for just about every type of shipping, from overnight to international.

Shipping methods

  • Ground shipping (one to five days)
  • Overnight shipping (next business day)
  • International shipping
  • Flat rate shipping

How to integrate with your ecommerce platform


Fedex and its methods of shipment

FedEx does it all, from international to domestic shipping. It’s also one of the few global carriers with a well established same-day delivery program.

Shipping methods

  • Ground shipping (one to seven days)
  • Flat-rate
  • International
  • Overnight
  • Same-day

How to integrate with your ecommerce platform


DHL ecommerce solutions

DHL specializes in affordable international shipping. It’s not the fastest carrier, but there’s always a way (and reasonable pricing) for shipping to other countries.

Shipping methods

  • Ground shipping (three to eight days)
  • Expedited (two to five days)
  • International
  • Same-day

How to integrate with your ecommerce platform


usps carrier

USPS is technically a US (domestic) carrier, but it actually offers global shipping through its many partners. It’s best for US-based stores, and although not as fast as UPS or FedEx, you can almost always expect the best rates.

Shipping methods

  • Ground shipping (two to eight days)
  • Expedited (one to five days; varying levels like 1st Class and Priority Mail)
  • Overnight (they call it “Next-day”)
  • International

How to integrate with your ecommerce platform

Regional and domestic carriers

regional carriers and methods of shipment

There are hundreds of regional and domestic carriers that are helpful for stores with local shipping needs.

Some larger domestic carriers have their own extensions for ecommerce platforms, such as:

If there’s no standalone app, it’s best to opt for a multi-carrier shipping app; this way, you gain access to most global and domestic providers, and can switch between carriers when necessary.

Apps to connect your store with multiple carriers

  • Shippo: 85+ major and regional carriers.
  • ShipStation: 100s of platforms and sales channels, along with around 60 carriers.
  • WooCommerce Shipping: A WooCommerce-only extension with support for USPS and DHL.
  • PluginHive: Multiple ecommerce platform plugins with support for dozens of carriers.

Summary 🏁

In this article, we explained:

  • The best 😎 methods of shipment
  • Carriers and their shipment 🚢 methods
  • Apps to connect 📱 with carriers and get rates for WooCommerce and Shopify

If you’re using WooCommerce to power your store, you can follow our 🦸 guide on how to set up WooCommerce shipping to get started with some or all of these shipping method.

Please, let us know in the comments if you have questions about ecommerce methods of shipment and the choice of carriers!

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