Your Guide to Surviving the Shipping Wars

The Shipping War

So you decided to start your own business selling to consumers online. Now you need to figure out how to get those orders out in the most effective and economical way possible. Welcome to the world of shipping. Have no fear! We are here to help. Well, at least provide you with some guidelines so you can make an informed decision that you won’t regret later on.

Your Shipping Options

Survive the Shipping War

In this guide I will do a quick run through of the different courier services available to you. Since I am located in Toronto, most of my knowledge base doesn’t extend to the courier services available in other Provinces and States. Forgive me in advance if this guide may seem slighted, but if you have couriers that you use and love, by all means comment below to let me know so I can add it on. After all, sharing is caring!

Related: Implications of a Poor Shipping Experience

Fedex (Local, National, International)

I am sure you are pretty familiar with Fedex. In case you are not, Fedex is probably among the biggest player in the shipping wars. They offer services to virtually everywhere with a multitude of different service levels. I am personally a huge fan of them, not only because their branding is pretty on point but also because they have very reliable services. They also offer free FedEx packing materials, even going as far as providing toner for certain machines so you can print your postage with ease and for free. They are definitely on the more expensive side, as they are a privately owned company. This is great if you deal with a high volume of packages as they offer package pick-up, both within the United States and Canada.

They offer various shipping solutions within Canada, and Internationally:

  • FedEx Next Flight – within hours (depending on availability)
  • FedEx First Overnight – 10 am next business day to most metropolitan areas
  • FedEx Priority Overnight – Morning, next business day to most metropolitan areas
  • FedEx 2Day – 1 to 2 business days by 5 pm to businesses and 8 pm to residences in most metropolitan areas
  • FedEx Economy – 1 to 3 business days by 5 pm to businesses and by 8 pm to residences
  • FedEx Ground – Most economical option
  • FedEx One Rate (Exclusively within the U.S.) – Arrives within 3 days by 4:30 pm*

*Rate varies by locations starting at $8.50 and go up to $10.50, which includes all related charges such as fuel, taxes etc. This service is similar to USPS’ Priority Mail, except FedEx only lets you fit up to 25 lbs of stuff into a One Rate Package.

UPS (Local, National, International)

Otherwise best known as the men in brown. Services offered by UPS are relatively similar to Fedex, however do note that UPS customer service (Canada) does not operate on weekends. Their pickup locations also do not provide service on weekends, and typically close as early as 6:30 on weekdays which could cause issues for your customers if they missed the delivery and need to pickup the package in-store. I have had prior bad experiences with them as a customer, so unfortunately based on my biased opinion; this is not a courier that I would recommend to people.

TNT (Local, National, International)

In terms of international shipping, TNT will offer the best shipping rate for specialized couriers. I have worked with them for one of my accounts, and never experienced any major issues. However, I have been told by accounting that their estimates differ from actuals significantly. It is recommended to speak to one of their account managers to setup an account with a rate tailored specific to your business needs. Shipping times are typically within 3-5 business days.

DHL (Local, National, International)

I’ve never personally worked with DHL, they seem to be on a smaller-side. I’ve heard that they are pretty good at handling with shipments from Asia to North Amrerica. For a list of their rates, click here.

Purolator (Local, National, International)

I’ve received a few shipments from Purolator and have experienced very reliable service from them within Canada. In terms of customer service they are wonderful to deal with, which is definitely a plus. Purolator also offer a special promotion – 30% off the first 12 months for new small business accounts. Again, they are not as big as FedEx or UPS, but this shouldn’t deter you from using their service.

Canada Post (Local, National, International)

Canada Post is typically good for shipping within Canada. When compared to USPS, Canada Post obviously falters in the value it provides for the amount of money you pay, due to a less robust infrastructure. However, for business owners who do not have access to third party services with the ability to take advantage of USPS, this would be a more economical way to ship internationally from Canada.

Here are some of their services:

  • Regular Parcel – Their most budget-friendly service. Shipments will take roughly 2-9 days to arrive. Although, it will take roughly 3-4 days when shipped within the same province. This method offers tracking number, which is often useful when protecting you against PayPal claims & fraud. Insurance coverage will cost you extra.

    USPS (Local, National, International) *

    USPS stands for United States Postal Office. They are probably my favourite shipping company out there. As you guessed it, the U.S. government funds them. Unfortunately you can only enjoy their amazing shipping rates if you are located in the U.S. There are some services you can use to bypass this, which I will go into later on.Their shipping rates are absolutely phenomenon, especially within the United States. You can get away with shipping via 2-Day Priority Mail with tracking number for up to 60 pounds for less than $10. They also offer free package pickup within the U.S. as well as free packaging supplies. USPS is definitely a good option for small business owners. If you purchase your labels online, you can save an additional 10% off than at the postal office too!

    They offer the following services, I’ve listed the most used. For more services you can take a look by clicking here:

    • Priority Mail – Comes standard in 1, 2, or 3 day depending on where the receiver is located. This also comes with coverage of up to $50 and a tracking number. You can ship using their Priority Mail boxes or use your own packaging. Rates will differ depending on what you use to ship with. You can use their flat rate boxes/envelopes and you can cram up to 70 pounds worth of product in there.
    • Media Mail – Handy little service if you are in the paperback, stationery business. Intended for educational purchases (i.e. books), but if you are shipping anything paper related, it could go with this option. It usually takes 2-8 days to deliver a package and you have the option of purchasing tracking for a minimal fee.
    • First Class Mail – Standard most economical option for envelopes & packages weighing up to 13 oz. Delivery is typically within 1-3 business days. With the option to combine additional services to confirm delivery.
    • Priority Mail Express – Guaranteed overnight delivery to most U.S. destinations with a money-back guarantee. The cost includes insurance coverage of up to $100, proof of delivery signature record, and tracking information. No surcharges for fuel or residential, rural and regular Saturday delivery.

    Goodfoot Delivery (Local)

    They are local delivery service offered within the City of Toronto. One of the reasons why I recommend them is because they are aiming to make a social change. The couriers they hire usually have a hard time obtaining employment due to their development disabilities. Goodfoot will hire and train them to provide financial independence. Their couriers are also the sweetest ones out there, always greeting you with a smile, or a shy nod. They are very fast and handle your parcel extremely well. They deliver on foot (hence the name) or via public transit, unfortunately within the city proper ( reachable via the TTC subway ). Here are Goodfoot’s delivery rates.

    Senditcourier (Local )

    There is a new breed of local couriers who has popping up on the scene. Senditcourier is one of them, but unfortunately as I have never worked with them I can’t offer more insights. Their rates are fairly reasonable and exist as a bike delivery service.Their service area is defined by the downtown Toronto core, extending north to St. Clair, south to the lake, east to the Don River, and west to Runnymede.

    Chitchat’s Express (None)

    Chitchat’s Express are not actually a courier company per say, rather they offer a service so that you are able to leverage the cheaper courier fees not usually offered to Canadians. For a small fee (depending on size and weight) they will deliver your package in a bonded and secure truck across the border so you can utilize USPS, FedEx, UPS U.S. rates, and potentially save up to 40% your postage fee. This is fantastic when you are shipping goods under $200 in commercial value. I’ve personally shipped many of my packages this way, as I love USPS (sorry Canada Post)! Most of my packages are below 5 pounds, so I only pay $1 in service fee for this package to be delivered to the border. Typically, depending on location, the most I have ever spent on an USPS label was $10 in postage. This also includes $50 worth of coverage, tracking number and uses the Priority service (typically 1-3 business days delivery). I would never be able to ship out a package at this rate if I shipped it with Canada Post. They have 3 offices in the GTA, Pickering, Markham (main office), and Mississauga, making them very convenient, even for people like me who work downtown. The only downside is, they are typically open 9 am – 5 pm, Monday to Friday, which coincides with the majority of people’s business hours. However, I would assume this won’t be a conflict for you if you are working on your business full-time and will be operational at the same time that they are. If not, their Markham location is open Sunday 10 am – 2 pm. They offer pick-up as well, but I am unsure if there is a minimum number of packages requirement. You can sign-up with them to start a manifest account, negating the need to fill out the package information when you arrive at the facility. If you do not sign up for a manifest account, you will need to fill out the manifest when you are at the facility as they will need it to declare your package at the border.

    Related: Shipping and Fulfillment 101

    Holy Ship!

    Survive the Shipping War
    So now, you must be a bit overwhelmed by the amount of information here. Don’t panic! Just take a moment, go get some coffee or tea, then come sit back down and create a list of your eCommerce business requirements. Rank them in terms of importance and see what courier matches up best for you. You can do it. I believe in you!

    P.S: If you have any great couriers that you use, which I may have omitted, please feel free to share in the comments below them and I will add them to my list. Especially if you use any courier in any other Cities/Provinces/Countries, I am sure our readers will appreciate it.

    Related: How to Create a Seamless Experience When Shipping to a Customer