Knowing the ins and outs of how to ship something in the U.S. can save on shipping costs, get your packages to their destinations quicker, and ensure safe delivery. For eCommerce companies, understanding eCommerce fulfillment shipping for specific products is crucial, but it’s not always easy.
Here’s our not-at-all-comprehensive guide for how to ship something from the U.S. to domestic and international addresses. If you’re unsure how to ship something specific, just click that “Contact Us” button at the top of the page for some help.
How to ship something fast
If you need to ship a package fast, you have two options: Send it from nearby or use expedited shipping. Expedited shipping options like Priority Mail Express, FedEx Express, and UPS Next Day Air can get a letter or package to U.S. addresses within a day or two, depending on the location and the service level you choose.
Another way to shorten package delivery times is to ship a short distance. ECommerce companies accomplish this by using national fulfillment warehouses that can reach most U.S. addresses in a day or two. Amazon can offer next-day and even same-day shipping in some locations because it has many warehouses near population centers.
How to ship something internationally
As you figure out how to ship internationally, your first question must be whether you can send it overseas. Different countries have restrictions on specific items, so check if your item can be shipped to that destination. In addition, shippers may place weight restrictions on overseas shipments.
Once you’re ready to ship internationally, the next step is to choose the carrier. FedEx, UPS, and USPS offer international shipping options, and DHL is a leader in overseas shipping. Check rates and delivery times (pro tip: international shipping with the United States Postal Service can be pricey and slow) before choosing the best carrier. If your eCommerce site ships a lot of orders globally, you may be able to get contract rates to reduce international shipping costs.
How to ship something heavy
The challenges of how to ship something heavy are avoiding weight surcharges (if possible) and delivering the item undamaged.
Most major carriers levy weight surcharges for shipping packages that weigh more than 50 pounds. You may have an additional surcharge if your box weighs more than 70 pounds. USPS won’t accept parcels over 70 pounds; UPS and FedEx have a cutoff of 150 pounds.
In general, package consolidation (putting multiple items into one box) reduces the shipping cost. However, if you can split a heavy shipment into two or more packages and avoid the surcharge, that might be how to ship the item more cheaply. If you regularly ship heavy merchandise from your eCommerce store, calculate all the shipping possibilities to find the optimal shipping option.
When you ship something heavy, the box is critical. A flimsy, thin cardboard outer box may get damaged during shipping, exposing the goods inside to potential damage and delivering a pathetic unboxing experience. Invest in heavy-duty packaging to protect heavy products during shipping. Send a test shipment of a heavy item to yourself (or from one 3PL warehouse to another) before you ship to customers to ensure that your box holds up.
And work with a 3PL services provider specializing in shipping heavy products (like Red Stag Fulfillment) for expert advice and help on shipping something heavy.
How to send oversized packages
A package is oversized if the box dimensions (height, width, depth) exceed a specific measurement. For example, USPS won’t accept parcels with a combined length and girth of more than 108 inches (length = the longest side of the box; girth is the measurement around the thickest part perpendicular to the length) for some services. When shipping domestically, FedEx ground shipping services will accept parcels up to 108 inches in length and 165 inches in combined length and girth, and UPS has the same restrictions.
However, oversized packages may be subject to dimensional weight pricing even if your package falls within the acceptable dimensions. Dimensional weight is calculated based on height x length x width divided by a number called the DIM factor. Your billable weight will be whichever is greater between the actual weight and dimensional weight.
For instance, if you ship a bicycle helmet weighing 2 pounds, your dimensional weight might be 6 pounds, based on the box size. You can reduce the pain of dimensional weight pricing by adding more items to the box. In the example above, you could include a pair of bike gloves and a cycling cap in the helmet box without paying for additional shipping.
At Red Stag Fulfillment, we specialize in shipping heavy and oversized items. We help our partners optimize box sizes to reduce dimensional weight charges and use package consolidation to lower overall shipping costs.
How to ship something fragile
The best way to ship a fragile product, such as a blown glass vase, is with extra packaging and infill. Pack delicate items tightly so they won’t shift during shipping but not so tightly that the packaging puts pressure on them.
You might want to put a breakable product in a box within a box. For example, if a package contains a ceramic mug, place the mug into a box that fits it snugly (or make it snug with kraft paper or another infill) before you add it to the package.
Custom packaging is an excellent choice for fragile items such as electronics. Consider molded package inserts to hold the product in place and brace the parcel against compression.
How to send something valuable
High-value shipping requires special handling because it will be costly to replace an item that gets damaged before it reaches its destination. Get insurance to cover loss, but start with careful packaging, as you would pack a fragile thing.
For eCommerce companies, valuable products require careful treatment in the warehouse to protect them from damage or theft. Choose a 3PL with a zero shrinkage guarantee (such as Red Stag Fulfillment) to protect your inventory.
When to use Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express
USPS Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express are often the best choices for shipping small packages, particularly ones containing heavy items. The Priority Mail flat rate packaging allows you to send anything that fits in the envelope or box, no matter the weight. A small flat rate box is often an excellent bargain. And standard Priority Mail can be the fastest option other than express shipping to send boxes cross-country: The service takes just three days to go from coast to coast, in most cases.
Priority Mail Express offers flat rate envelopes at two to three times the cost of standard Priority Mail.
Both FedEx and UPS offer some flat rate options. For individuals shipping from home, it’s hard to beat the convenience of USPS Click ‘N Ship, which lets you print Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express shipping labels at home and drop your package in any mailbox or Post Office. However, if you’re a volume shipper, check competitors’ rates to see if you can reduce the cost of sending a package.
How to keep shipping costs low
To keep your shipping costs low, balance delivery speed with package fees. For more favorable rates, ECommerce businesses should get commercial accounts with one or more delivery services.
Volume shippers may be able to negotiate even lower shipping rates. To reach the number of parcels to qualify, your business might have to send every order with a single shipping service. However, a 3PL can negotiate favorable rates with the major carriers. At Red Stag Fulfillment, we can pass on shipping discounts to our customers. We also have negotiated DIM factors to reduce dimensional weight charges and give you flexibility in your shipping methods while saving you money.
Shipping specific things
We’ve talked about how to ship something in general. Here are a few tips on sending specific items. Follow the links to read RSF’s how to ship guides for more details on shipping particular products.
How to ship sporting equipment
You can ship almost any type of sporting equipment, from a basketball arcade game to stand-up paddleboards. Many pieces of equipment will be oversized, overweight, or subject to dimensional weight pricing.
Bikes are very popular right now, but they require special handling. You might contend with dimensional weight charges when you ship a bike. You’ll need a special bike box, and you must partially dismantle the bike to fit it in the box. Consider adding accessories to the same package when you ship a bike.
E-bikes are even trickier to package because lithium batteries are sometimes considered hazardous materials. If you ship the battery unattached from the bike, you will likely incur a hazmat surcharge. However, if you attach the battery to the bike before shipping, you won’t be charged extra.
How to ship furniture
There are no one-size-fits-all instructions for shipping furniture because furniture comes in many sizes and shapes. Flat-pack furniture is easier to ship and less likely to be subject to dimensional weight pricing. Lamps need to be packed carefully because they are fragile. Oversized items, such as beds or pre-assembled sofas and chairs, should be sent by LTL freight.
How to safely send electronics
When you ship electronic devices such as computers, laptops, appliances, or anything that includes a processor, you’re shipping fragile and high-value merchandise. Add insurance and pay particular attention to packaging.
In addition, items like laptops that come with lithium-ion batteries need to adhere to the regulations for shipping those batteries.
How to ship musical instruments
Like furniture, musical instruments come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Expect oversized charges when you ship a tuba, and send stringed instruments with extra care because they are fragile. Always send musical instruments in their cases, and consider using a company specializing in shipping instruments to pack for you.
How to ship controlled substances
Before you mail a regulated product such as wine or a cannabis product, do your research. Rules for shipping alcohol and CBD vary from state to state, and each carrier has its own rules for handling these products.
How to mail food
Shipping food is highly regulated for the same reason that handling food and serving it are: If you make a mistake, somebody could get sick. The guidelines for shipping food include proper storage at the fulfillment warehouse before pick and pack fulfillment, insulated packaging, and coolant packs. In addition, food products may require expedited or air shipping because it’s not safe to leave them on the back of an unrefrigerated truck for several days.
Red Stag Fulfillment helps you ship everything, everywhere
You can figure out how to ship your products, or you could turn your order fulfillment over to the pros. At Red Stag Fulfillment, we send millions of packages every year, and we know how to pack and ship orders with care so that they arrive in pristine condition. We specialize in heavy, fragile, high-value, and oversized products.
If you need help handling your eCommerce orders, we have some suggestions. Give us a call.
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