What is Expedited Shipping? The Complete Guide

When your customers shop for products on your store, they typically expect fast shipping. Customers don’t want to wait for too long to get the products they’ve paid for. In fact, according to a survey cited by eMarketer, the most commonly-cited “acceptable timeframe” for order shipping was three days (by 24% of survey respondents). The next most acceptable timeframe for shipping was two days (19% of respondents).

Faster shipping means packages arriving sooner rather than later—which makes for happier customers. So, when many customers shop for items that they want to arrive as soon as possible, they look for an “express” or expedited shipping option.

What is expedited shipping? How much does expedited shipping cost? Can you offer expedited shipping to your customers without breaking the bank?

What Is Expedited Shipping?

Expedited shipping is an optional shipping service that some carriers offer that reduces the time it takes for a package to arrive at its intended destination—in exchange for some nominal fee. Different carriers may apply different names to this service, such as calling it “priority mail.”

Some carriers use the term “express shipping” synonymously with “expedited shipping,” while others use the terms to refer to different levels of service.

When comparing expedited shipping vs standard shipping, the two primary differences are delivery speed and the cost of shipping. Expedited shipping costs are almost always higher than standard shipping costs because of the extra measures the carrier has to take to speed up the delivery process. However, many customers are willing to pay the premium to get the expedited shipping time so they don’t have to wait for slower shipping methods.

The actual time it takes for a package to arrive via expedited shipping vs standard shipping can vary based on how far it needs to travel and whether it’s crossing any national borders. Even an “expedited” package may languish in customs between countries. Generally speaking, expedited shipping can take a shipment time of around five days and reduce it to two or three—however, this will vary from one carrier to the next and it may also depend on the shipping zones your expedited packages cross.

How Much Does Expedited Shipping Cost?

One of the biggest concerns when using expedited shipping options is the cost involved. So, a common question that ecommerce entrepreneurs and their customers have is: “What will expedited shipping cost me?”

Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer to this question. Why? Because there are too many variables, such as the specific carrier used, the weight of the package, the shipping zones the package needs to cross, and when the parcel is delivered (some carriers offer Sunday delivery at an additional cost).

Here are a few expedited shipping cost examples from different carriers:

Expedited Shipping Service

Minimum Cost

Maximum Package Weight

Maximum Package Dimensions

Priority Mail Express (USPS)

$26.35 (Post Office)

$22.75 (Commercial Base®/Plus®)

70 lbs.

Length/Girth of 108”

UPS 2nd Day Air (Daily Rate)

$19.30 (1 lb. package)

$219.00 (150 lb. package)

150 lbs. (heavier packages can be shipped using a multiplicative cost based on shipping distance)

Length/Girth of 165” (combined)

Maximum 108” Length

FedEx 2Day®

$19.11 (1 lb. package)

$219.00 (150 lb. package)

150 lbs.

Length/Girth of 165” (combined)

Maximum 108” length

This is not a comprehensive chart—it simply lists one of the express delivery options from each carrier. The minimum costs listed assume only a single “shipping zone,” so longer distance shipments may cost more than the rates stated here. Additionally, carriers may assess additional surcharges based on the items being shipped or other issues that may impact a package’s deliverability.

How to Offer International Expedited Shipping While Saving Money

Depending on the distance and package weight/dimensions, expedited shipping can be a major cost. Being able to offer fast shipping to customers may be well worth paying a premium, however.

How can you offer expedited shipping to customers without it putting too big a dent in your operating expenses? Here are a few options to consider:

  • Pass the Bill onto Customers. The simplest solution is to make expedited shipping optional for your customers and charge them whatever your carrier will charge you at checkout. It’s important to highlight that there will be a charge for expedited/express shipping from the carrier well before the customer reaches checkout if they opt for it. This may be the best option for packages with an especially high weight—and will likely be necessary for longer-range deliveries.
  • Limit Your Express Delivery Range. Making expedited or express delivery options only available to customers who would be in nearby shipping zones can help you limit the cost of expediting a package.
  • Offer Expedited Shipping on Lightweight Items Only. Instead of focusing on geography, try limiting expedited shipping to just your most lightweight products so the surcharge from the carrier isn’t too high. If you can, it may be helpful to create a list of “expedited shipping available” products that customers can order together.
  • Shop Around with Different Carriers. Different carriers have different express shipping options that you might want to use for your products. While many of the “broad strokes” of their expedited shipping services might be similar (for example, the UPS 2nd Day Air and FedEx 2Day services have similar speeds, costs, and dimension restrictions), there may be some differences in package tracking or other side services that may be better suited to you or your customers’ needs. Also, you may be able to negotiate a more favorable rate with one carrier in your region than another.
  • Consider Using Flat Rate Boxes if Available. Not every package you send via expedited shipping needs a custom shipping box. If you’re looking to save a bit on fast shipping, some carriers offer flat rate boxes that take some of the guesswork out of managing costs. However, the products you ship need to be able to fit in these boxes. Creating bundle deals of products that can neatly fit in your selected flat-rate box might be a good way to generate sales while making the most out of what you paid for the shipping!
  • Partner with an Experienced Fulfillment Center. Working alongside a professional fulfillment company can make a huge difference for your shipping speed and cost. Instead of having to work exclusively out of a single distribution center that may or may not be close to your customers, you can ship your products from the nearest fulfillment center (for example, The Fulfillment Lab has two domestic US and 12 international centers to help ensure fast delivery that doesn’t have to go through too many shipping zones). Fulfillment centers are also able to negotiate favorable rates with carriers to help you save on expedited shipping costs (which you can pass on to customers or add to your profits).

Do you want to conquer the market with fast, convenient fulfillment marketing and shipping options for your products? Do you want your products even faster to market with warehouse kitting services? Reach out to The Fulfillment Lab today to get started!


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