The wonders of having a package delivered to our doorstep! With packages expected to arrive less than 48 hours after placing the order, shippers are facing more pressure than ever before, as well as unrealistic expectations for consumers.
How exactly is that possible? When does the shipper send out the product? Does the package move across more than one mode of transportation? What are the risks of damage?
First, there is a related service called express shipping…
Background on express shipping
People place online orders at a constant rate. This sets an operation into motion that is serving millions of other orders. The pace is fast, faster, and fastest.
Overnight shipping service was the revolutionary way for 3 decades. It promised the best service that the industry had to offer. Any shipper that was moving your overnight freight had no other priority. They would not rest until a courier placed your package in your hands or on your doorstep.
Anything shipped overnight is usually synonymous with urgency. This includes documents and products for medical and business purposes. It could be as simple as somebody can’t wait to get their new coffee mug. Either way, this service was a game changer.
When selecting this service, an exact and guaranteed delivery date is usually issued. Since the client is paying the extra charge to have it as soon as possible.
The downside to express shipping
Being on the receiving end of an overnight shipment is an exciting experience, no matter how many times you do it. When your anticipated package is in your hands, it restores some faith in the service industry. Sometimes, turnaround times for products go from shipper to client in less than 24 hours.
Yet, the cost that factors into making that service happen is its primary downside. Unfortunately, overnight shipping is common for susceptible products.
Fred Smith, founder of FedEx remembers a quote from years past. “Nobody will ever pay that much to have a package delivered.” This was allegedly from a college professor he once knew. This birthed the motivation for Smith to build one of the top logistics companies in the world.
It is often not worth the costs to ship express, or overnight unless there are major returns coming your way. The price tag on express shipping can eat into a company’s profit margins quickly.
The Amazon Effect
Then a more reasonable promise arose in this century. This would again, change the transportation industry as a whole. Something taught in university textbooks is known as The Amazon Effect, or the expectation that companies must adapt to the more consumer-convenient model of e-commerce.
It altered the landscape of the entire industry, changing consumer expectations and competition between shippers into the stratosphere. People working from behind a desk can lose their jobs over missing freight from Amazon.
These two ideas molded the services now known as express and expedited shipping. Often times you may see both options available to you.
What is expedited shipping?
Expedited shipping is not to be confused with overnight shipping. 2-day or overnight shipping service can be expedited. Yet, expedited isn’t necessarily considered “overnight” shipping.
There isn’t a time stamp on expedited shipping; it is an umbrella term referring to faster-than-standard shipping timeframes. Under the umbrella, it is to be either same-day or next-day shipping.
The premise of expedited shipping is to reallocate resources to speed up the delivery process, increasing associated shipping costs. Consumers are paying for faster, more secure service.
Factors impacting shipping costs include distance to the mode of transportation, packaging materials, warehousing needs, and more.
When shipping internationally, transit time from Shanghai to Los Angeles takes around 18 days. But if there were to be another option reflecting less time, this is known as the expedited option. Expedited international shipments are usually moved via plane.
Shipping domestically, most of us have seen the standard option, usually labeled as “5-8 business days”. The other options listed may seem similar, but the price attached could say otherwise. Expedited shipping domestically is categorized as shipping in less than 3 business days. That could mean it arrives in 24 hours or it arrives in 48 hours. Meanwhile express shipping is only overnight. There are some cases where Overnight will give a specific delivery date as well.
Pros and cons of shipping expedited
There is a lower risk of damage to go along with the speedy service. Expedited orders make fewer stops and often do not involve more than one mode of transportation, meaning shipments do not go through as many hands. Less handling equals less risk of damage.
A major concern among shippers is storage space. Inventory levels are high across many sectors, especially retail, and shippers are fighting for warehousing options. Without a secured space, shippers must pay a storage fee at the port and rail. When a customer pays to have a shipment expedited, it allows shippers to clear excess inventory.
Consumer spending has pulled back in recent months amid inflation and higher costs. If you’re already paying a higher cost for goods, you may not want to think about the shipping and handling costs. These costs are trending to be more affordable.
Another downside is that not all shippers offer expedited shipping as a service. When buying directly from a supplier, expedited shipping may not be an option. But if it is an option, it will be much more expensive than what you see on Amazon.
Differences between shipping expedited and express
Some companies may say that they offer both expedited and express shipping options. The only difference beyond the price is the guaranteed delivery date. Most overnight or express shippers will communicate the exact delivery date and expedited shipping grants more of a delivery timeframe.
When your origin and destination are close, the standard shipping option is around three days, and your expedited option would then become your express option. This happens because the trip would fall more into the overnight category. It also explains why FedEx and UPS have a large number of distribution hubs around the country.
Demand for home delivery exploded during the pandemic. Though demand has slowed in the last year, the industry hasn’t looked back since. Both models have redesigned the roadmap for the freight industry. The processes involved take on a new form by setting an expectation for consumer demand, thus leading to a higher level of competition between competing carriers. Carriers must adapt and innovate or fall behind.
You have options on which type of shipping best fits your budget and your needs. Keep your expectations in check, but know that there are people working hard to get your package to you.