The Complete Guide to Expedited Shipping

Standard. Priority. Expedited. Express. Two-day. Next-day. Same-day. Now more than ever, ecommerce shipping options can seem as endless as the products available to online shoppers. One thing all shoppers can agree on, however, is that faster shipping is better.

One of the faster options ecommerce retailers can use to speed up shipping to customers is expedited delivery. Here’s what online businesses should know about this shipping option.

What is expedited shipping?

Expedited shipping is any delivery or shipping method that promises to get a customer’s order to them faster than standard methods would. Similar to expedited freight, expedited services apply to orders placed online by customers that want to receive their shipment ASAP.

The exact turnaround for expedited orders can vary depending on what the retailer’s standard shipping options are. For example, if 5-day shipping is the standard for an online retailer, then selecting expedited shipping will mean that the order will arrive sooner than 5 days after the order is placed.

How does expedited shipping compare to other fulfillment options?

Delivery methods and shipping costs vary depending on margins, ecommerce fulfillment strategy and how you handle logistics, customer locations, and more. One online store’s expedited shipping timeline might be standard to another. Here is how expedited services compares to other shipping and delivery times.

Expedited shipping vs. standard shipping

Standard delivery is usually the cheapest shipping option for both online stores and their customers. Depending on the fulfillment provider and carrier used, standard shipping within the US means between three and seven business days from the time the order is dispatched to the time it arrives on the customer’s doorstep.

Some companies boast two-day delivery as their standard, while others make it clear that standard delivery means you’ll need to wait a little while to receive your order. Stores in the latter category generally offer an expedited delivery alternative, such as 2-day or next-day delivery, for customers who need their orders sooner.

It’s important to note that most retailers count shipping time based on when the order is shipped, not when it’s placed. This means that if an order is placed with 2-day shipping selected, those 2 days don’t necessarily include order processing time — especially if that time falls on a weekend or holiday.

Expedited shipping vs. express shipping

Depending on the retailer and carriers involved, expedited shipping and express shipping can have a variety of meanings or used interchangeably. In general, when both express and expedited shipping options are offered, express shipping is faster, often meaning 2-day or next-day delivery, while expedited just means “faster than standard.”

Two-day (or next-day) shipping

For some retailers, expedited orders are shipped with a 2- or next-day turnaround time, while for others, 2-day delivery is standard. Like all shipping options, the way these terms are positioned varies from store to store.

The omnipresence of Amazon Prime makes offering 2-day shipping a necessity for ecommerce stores, whether as a standard option, a special perk, or something in between.

[Download: ShipBob’s 2-Day Express Shipping: How to Drive Revenue Through Ecommerce Fulfillment]

Why online stores should offer expedited delivery

Here are a few of the top advantages of offering expedited delivery options on your ecommerce store.

1. Reduce cart abandonment

45% of shoppers have abandoned a cart because of unsatisfactory delivery options. When your customers check out, are there a variety of shipping options available, including affordable and fast options?

Offering an affordable expedited delivery option can help prevent shopping cart abandonment and increase conversions for your online store. Take ShipBob client My Calm Blanket, who added a 2-day shipping option at checkout:

“With ShipBob’s 2-Day Express Program, we’ve seen an 18% reduction in cart abandonment.” -Founder, My Calm Blanket

2. Meet customer expectations around ship time

60% of online shoppers have chosen between competitors based on convenience of delivery options.

Today’s customers expect fast, affordable shipping everywhere they shop online. With big-box ecommerce companies offering two-day shipping and free shipping options, not offering expedited delivery options will hurt your conversion rates.

3. Build customer loyalty

The typical ecommerce store generates 43% of its revenue from repeat purchases. When customers get their delivery fast and on time, they may be more likely to purchase from you again in the future.

On the other hand, 38% of shoppers are likely to never shop with a retailer again following a negative delivery experience, and negative reviews based on transit times or shipping charges are likely to dissuade would-be buyers.

Which shipping carriers offer expedited shipping?

Just as different online stores define expedited shipping and delivery in different ways, each carrier has its own version of faster shipping options.

If you aren’t sure which carrier’s expedited shipping options are the right choice for you, finding a third-party logistics (3PL) provider to help you navigate and select the right shipping methods can be invaluable.

USPS expedited shipping

USPS calls their expedited shipping option Priority Mail Express, and describes it as their “fastest domestic service.” Packages under 70 pounds ship overnight through Priority Mail Express starting at $24.70. There are also Priority Mail Express options that guarantee delivery by 10:30 am the next day. Priority Mail Express includes things like USPS tracking with optional add ons like a certificate of mailing and sign-on-delivery.

UPS expedited shipping

For domestic deliveries, UPS offers a variety of expedited services and shipping options, including same-, next-, two-, and three-day shipping guarantees. All of these options are faster than the standard UPS Ground option which can take up to five business to deliver.

For international shipments, UPS Worldwide Expedited service offers fast, guaranteed deliveries to over 220 countries for small packages.

FedEx expedited shipping

FedEx has several ways to ship expedited orders that depend on the package’s size, destination, and urgency. These include FedEx Express Same Day, FedEx Express Saver, and FedEx Expedited Freight Services — just to name a few.

How much does expedited shipping cost?

The cost of expedited services varies based on the carrier, destination, and weight.

Here are some sample comparisons of domestic expedited shipping from each carrier, based on 3-day delivery*:

Carrier & Shipping Option Price
USPS Priority Mail $17.26
UPS 3 Day Select $37.69
FedEx Express Saver $41.51

And some sample comparisons based on overnight delivery*:

Carrier & Shipping Option Price
USPS Priority Mail Express Delivery (by 10:30 am) $38.49
UPS Next Day $95.70
FedEx Express Same Day $49.95

*These are for illustration purposes only. Shipping costs will vary based on carrier, seasonality, dimensional weight, package weight, products shipped, and a variety of other factors.

If you’re looking to streamline expedited shipping costs and save time on the complete order fulfillment process, consider partnering with a 3PL.

How to offer expedited delivery without killing your margins

Shipping expedited orders can be expensive — but it actually doesn’t have to be. Here are some ways to keep shipping fast and affordable.

Require a minimum spend threshold

One way to offer expedited shipping while staying profitable is by requiring a minimum spend threshold — especially if you intend to offer free expedited delivery. For this option to make sense, the amount of money a customer spends to qualify for expedited shipping must be greater than the average order value (AOV). Requiring a minimum spend to qualify for free expedited shipping can even help increase the AOV of sales:

“By encouraging customers to meet a spend threshold for free 2-day shipping, we’ve seen great results without harming our margins. Offering this shipping option to customers who live within ShipBob’s 2-Day Express coverage zone has increased our average order value in these zones from $75 to $148.”

Ryan Casas, COO of iloveplum

Distribute inventory to ship from multiple fulfillment centers

Because of how shipping zones work, the less distance a package has to travel, the faster and less expensive it will be to reach your customer. By distributing inventory to multiple fulfillment centers near your customers, you can reach more customers quickly with ground shipping.

And the more people you offer expedited ground shipping to — at a fraction of the cost of expedited air shipping — can ultimately help reduce abandoned carts.

“The more fulfillment centers we have inventory in, the more potential shipping addresses we can offer this 2-day option to. And the more people that we offer the benefit of free 2-day shipping to, the more conversions we get.”

Founder of My Calm Blanket

Outsource fulfillment to a 3PL

Outsourcing shipping and fulfillment to a 3PL can help ecommerce businesses leverage shipping options, discounts, and technology not available to those who fulfill orders in-house. ShipBob is a 3PL that helps ecommerce merchants meet customer expectations around expedited orders and grow their business.

When an order is assigned expedited shipping option, ShipBob’s fulfillment software automatically ensures that it is given priority and bypasses standard shipping. Our fulfillment team will then get it shipped quickly and efficiently.

ShipBob’s technology is already integrated with top ecommerce platforms, such as Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce. By connecting their ecommerce store to ShipBob’s technology, merchants can automatically push customer orders to a ShipBob fulfillment center to be picked, packed, and shipped.

Merchants can also distribute their inventory to multiple ShipBob fulfillment centers that are closest to their end customers to further compete by reducing shipping costs and speed. This lets merchants offer their customers affordable expedited services, such as the 2-Day Express Shipping Program for Shopify merchants:

“ShipBob’s 2-Day Express Program has been phenomenal for us. Because of Amazon, our customers expect 2-day shipping and we couldn’t find 3PLs that can provide that. If they do, you are going to pay a lot for it.”

Founder of My Calm Blanket

Learn more about expedited shipping

Expedited shipping is the new normal. To help you learn even more about offering faster, more affordable delivery options to your customers, we created “The Guide to Offering Affordable 2-Day Shipping.”

Download the guide for free and dive deep into:

  • Streamlining fulfillment across sales channels
  • Understanding shipping zones
  • Determining the best fulfillment center locations for warehousing logistics 
  • Creating a shipping pricing strategy

Ready to start meeting expectations around shipping speeds? Download the guide below.

Get Your Free E-Guide