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The basics of eCommerce shipping: benefits, factors and management

ecommerce shipping guide

Every customer touchpoint matters in e-commerce. But many business owners treat shipping as an afterthought when really it’s central to the success of their online stores. 

If you sell products online, you can position your business for long-term success by creating a smooth delivery system your customers will love.

This guide explains all the benefits of an effective ecommerce shipping strategy.

Why e-commerce shipping should be a top priority

E-commerce shipping is the process of getting your products from a customer’s online shopping cart to their doorstep. It includes everything from securely packaging items and selecting reliable carriers to providing real-time order updates.

Here’s why you should prioritize this element of your ecommerce business

  • Increased conversions: Affordable shipping reduces expenses during checkout and can be the tipping point that turns a prospect into a buyer.

  • Competitive advantage: Unique options like same-day delivery or eco-friendly packaging can differentiate you from competitors and attract customers who value these benefits.

  • Improved brand perception: Timely deliveries build trust with your customers and improve their perception of your online business.

  • Improved customer lifetime value: Customers are happy when their orders arrive quickly, safely and exactly as promised. Satisfied customers are more likely to return.

  • Brand advocacy: When you consistently deliver a positive shipping experience, you gain loyal customers who are more likely to recommend your brand to others.

  • Customer service efficiency: According to Project44, “where is my order?” (WISMO) inquiries account for half of customer service calls. A good shipping strategy can reduce such calls, which means your support team will have more time to address other concerns.

Ecommerce shipping: what to consider

Now that we’ve established the importance of e-commerce shipping, let’s look at the key factors you need to consider when crafting your strategy. 

Speed vs. cost

Modern online shoppers now expect fast and low-cost (or free) shipping as a standard, mostly because e-commerce powerhouses like Amazon offer these benefits. According to Ware2go, 42% of shoppers expect two-day shipping, while up to 66% want free shipping.

However, research reveals that cost has an edge over speed. Approximately 32% of consumers say the cost of shipping is the most important factor they consider when shopping online, while 22% choose speed. 

Offering both—i.e., fast and low-cost shipping—would be a smart move. But understandably, this might not always be feasible due to financial or logistical constraints. In some cases, it might not even be necessary.

The ultimate solution? Understand your customers’ preferences and the nature of your products. This will help you determine what to prioritize or how to find a suitable compromise.


Making sure shipments reach customers safely protects both your reputation and your bottom line. A large part of this entails investing in secure packaging materials and reliable shipping carriers.

Keep in mind that security doesn’t end when a carrier delivers products to your customer’s doorstep. Porch piracy is a real problem, with over 119 million packages stolen in 2023. 

To avoid such issues, offer your customers real-time tracking and delivery notifications. You can also allow them to set specific delivery timelines so their packages can arrive when they are available to receive them. A report by UPS shows that 74% of consumers value real-time package tracking, while 72% want the ability to choose delivery dates.


According to a ShipStation survey, one in 10 consumers say that the carbon footprint of their delivery is a top purchase consideration. Offering sustainable packaging and delivery options can attract eco-conscious customers and help your brand stand out.

ecommerce shipping - sustainability

Types of eCommerce shipping methods

There are several shipping methods you can incorporate into your e-commerce shipping strategy. Here are the most common options. 

Same-day delivery

As the name suggests, this means delivering products the same day a customer orders them. It’s perfect for urgent purchases and customers who value instant gratification. 

Roughly 88% of customers are willing to pay more for same-day delivery. So, if ecommerce logistics aren’t an issue for you, consider incorporating this delivery option into your shipping strategy. 

Expedited shipping (overnight, two-day)

Expedited shipping options like overnight and two-day delivery balance speed and cost. They’re great options for customers who want their items delivered quickly but don’t need same-day service or don’t want to pay the high cost associated with it.

International vs. local shipping

International ecommerce shipping gives you access to a global audience and could boost your revenue. But it comes with its own challenges, including higher costs, longer delivery times and customs-related hurdles.

On the other hand, local shipping is faster, more affordable and has fewer complexities. The downside? It limits your customer base and, thus, your earning potential.

Learn more:

Eco-friendly shipping

Eco-friendly shipping reduces the environmental impact of the shipping process. This can include using biodegradable or recyclable materials and choosing carriers that prioritize sustainability. This shipping method aligns with customers’ growing preference for sustainable eCommerce and appeals to those who are searching for eco-friendly products.

ecommerce shipping - eco friendly products

Hybrid shipping

Hybrid shipping combines multiple shipping methods to optimize cost and efficiency. For instance, you might use an international courier like UPS for long-distance transportation and then hand over the package to a local courier for last-mile delivery. 

Tracked shipping

Tracked shipping gives customers real-time updates on their orders. It brings peace of mind to you and your customers—they can monitor their orders, while you can identify and address potential delivery issues.

Freight shipping

Freight refers to any package or shipment that’s more than 150 pounds or larger than 30 × 30 × 30 inches. This shipping method involves hiring specialized freight carriers that transport bulky goods via planes, ships or trucks, both domestically and internationally.

How to create an eCommerce shipping program

01. Dial in the right shipping speeds 

It’s true that today’s customers generally expect their shipments to arrive quickly, but that doesn’t mean you should jump straight to same-day or next-day delivery.

Here’s how to determine the most realistic delivery timeline for your e-commerce business:

  • Research your customers’ preferences: Use surveys and other feedback avenues to ask your customers about their preferred delivery timelines. Find out if they’re willing to pay extra for expedited shipping. You can use Wix’s form builder to create questionnaires for your business. 

  • Understand your products: Some goods (e.g., food) can be delivered on the same day, while for others (e.g., electronics), such a fast turnaround might not be practical. Luckily, many customers understand this and will shift their expectations accordingly.

  • Consider your brand identity: If a bargain price is your unique selling proposition (USP), then your customers will appreciate low-cost shipping. You might need to prioritize affordability over speed to maintain your USP.

02. Select shipping service providers

Gone are the days when the postal service was the only shipping option available to small businesses. Today, there is a wide range of carrier options to choose from. Let’s break down the most common.

Traditional freight carriers

The “big three” carriers—FedEx, UPS and USPS—dominate the shipping industry in the U.S. While they offer an extensive reach and reliable delivery services, their rates can be high unless you’re a high-volume shipper.

As an alternative, you can use other service providers like DHL or even smaller regional carriers. 


Some manufacturers or suppliers offer dropshipping services, whereby they deliver products directly to customers on your behalf. Once a customer places an order on your dropshipping website, simply pass the details to the manufacturer or supplier, and they will handle the rest. Dropshipping helps you speed up deliveries by eliminating the need for an intermediary.

Create a dropshipping website with Wix.

Learn more:

Third-party logistics (3PL)

3PL providers take care of warehousing, order fulfillment and even shipping for your business. But unlike dropshipping, you’ll still be responsible for sourcing inventory and sending it to the fulfillment center. This option is ideal if you’re struggling to manage fulfillment costs and expectations or if you experience rapid growth that requires outsourcing fulfillment.

Marketplace programs

Some online marketplaces offer special shipping programs that can help you streamline the order fulfillment process. For example, Amazon provides in-house ecommerce fulfillment services, while Etsy offers discounted shipping.

Store-based shipping

Store-based shipping entails shipping orders from the closest store to your customers. This shortens the delivery distance, potentially saving you time and money. When using this method, you can partner with local couriers for same-day delivery or even start your own courier service.

In-store and curbside pickups

With in-store pickups, customers can buy items online and pick up at a nearby store. But with curbside pickup, they don’t even have to set foot inside the store—your staff will deliver the packages to their cars once they arrive. These shipping alternatives eliminate high carrier costs and lower the risk of misplacing items. 

ecommerce shipping - curbside pickup

03. Calculate your shipping costs

Understanding your shipping costs helps you set competitive prices and stay profitable. The main factors to consider when calculating these costs include:

  • Packaging materials: Consider the size, weight and sturdiness of the packaging materials.

  • Carrier rates: Directly contact carriers for estimates or use the shipping calculators on their websites.

  • Insurance: Offering insurance for high-value items protects you from potential losses due to damaged or misplaced packages.

  • International shipping fees (if applicable): Calculate customs duties, taxes and other fees associated with international shipping.

04. Decide how to charge for shipping

When setting your shipping fee, find a balance between customer satisfaction and business profitability. Here are some of the most popular ecommerce shipping options. 

Free shipping

This is the holy grail of shipping. It reduces cart abandonment rates. So, you’ll want to figure out how to offer free shipping in some form. 

Consider limiting free shipping to returning customers, specific time periods, orders above a certain threshold and customers in regions where you can leverage delivery from local stores. Whatever you choose, make sure it doesn’t erode your profit margins.

Real-time carrier rates

Provide customers with dynamic carrier rates based on factors like order quantity, item weight and delivery location. Many e-commerce platforms offer tools to integrate real-time carrier rates into the checkout process.

For example, if you build your eCommerce store with Wix, you can easily set up variable shipping rates by product weight, price and delivery type via your admin dashboard. Alternatively, you can use third-party shipping apps to set and manage rates.

ecommerce shipping - real-time carrier rates - wix app market

Flat-rate shipping

Flat-rate shipping simplifies the checkout process by charging a fixed shipping fee for all items regardless of weight or distance. This is ideal if you primarily deal in one type of product or if your customers come from one geographical region. Otherwise, consider offering a tiered flat rate based on product weight and distance to remain profitable.

05. Establish your packaging, insurance and tracking devices

The next step is to order your packaging materials, choose the right insurance coverage and set up a tracking system.

For ecommerce packaging, choose sturdy materials that are appropriate for your product size, weight and fragility. Consider internal cushioning materials like bubble wraps or air pillows for extra protection. Be sure to use your brand logo and colors on the packaging to create a memorable experience.

As for insurance, most carriers offer different plans to choose from. Similarly, many carriers offer tracking application programming interfaces (APIs) you can integrate into your online store.

06. Incorporate your ecommerce shipping label

Shipping labels contain crucial information that facilitate the delivery process. Make sure your labels are clear, accurate and have necessary details such as destination and return addresses, barcodes and tracking numbers.

07. Verify customs declarations and taxes

Accurately filling out customs declarations and understanding tax requirements are essential for international shipping. They ensure eCommerce shipments move through customs smoothly, reducing the likelihood of delays and returns. So, you’ll need to complete all necessary paperwork and stay informed about regulations in different countries.

eCommerce shipping FAQs

I've run the numbers and i'm discouraged. I just can't compete with the big retailers on shipping price and speed. What can I do?

Big retailers have significant resources to negotiate lower shipping rates. However, you can still compete with them by focusing on aspects like customer service and guaranteeing the best shipping experience possible. Respond quickly to inquiries, swiftly address any issues and offer unique perks like guaranteed safe delivery or delivery scheduling.

How can I most effectively add regional carriers to my shipping options?

What's the cheapest shipping company for eCommerce deliveries?

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