Shipping Smarter in the UK: Evaluating Alternatives to Royal Mail

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Being the UK’s most used postage and courier service provider, Royal Mail is usually the first service that comes to mind.

But with supply chains becoming more complex and more pressure to meet customer expectations, partnering with just one courier provider is a risk.

Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives to Royal mail for shipping throughout the UK. Many of these services offer unique services at different cost tiers to meet the needs of difference businesses.

In this article, we explore and compare alternatives to Royal Mail that offer services for ecommerce businesses.

Understanding the couriers landscape in the UK

Selecting the right shipping alternative to Royal Mail for ecommerce can enhance operations and customer satisfaction. It’s crucial to consider factors such as:

  • Delivery options
  • Pricing
  • Reliability
  • Ecommerce integration
  • And other special services your business requires

Different situations require different courier options. For instance, if you are shipping fragile items or liquids, you might want to choose APC overnight.

Whistl works well for finance and healthcare businesses, as it offers bespoke fulfilment services for these industries. And UPS MyChoice is preferred by retailers that seek up-to-date delivery alerts and the ability to track multiple deliveries at once.

Want reliable shipping but to save on some costs with free shipping supplies? FedEx offers just that when you have an account with the company.

Having different couriers to choose from also allows you to partner with several of them, so you can diversify your shipping strategy and meet the needs of your customers.

Comparing 10 alternatives to Royal Mail

Below is an overview of the alternative service options to Royal Mail. Each courier has a set of pros and cons. By comparing these services, you’ll be able to make a better decision for your business.

MyHermes (now known as Evri)— Affordable delivery
— Trusted for delivery within the UK
— 7,000+ local businesses across the UK and 3,000 lockers
— Print parcel labels in the shop
— Courier tracking 
— Signature on delivery
— Access to an account manager
— Next-day delivery
— Two-hour delivery window and up to three delivery attempts
Low degree of trust in the services by customers 
— Not as reliable for international deliveries
DPD6,000 DPD pick-up points across the UK
— Best suited for deliveries within Europe
— Ideal for delivery of higher-value or physically heavier/larger orders
— Delivery on Saturday and Sunday
— Includes parcel tracking (from ship date to delivery) and proof of delivery within the shipping costs
— Very trusted service
— One-hour delivery window for customers
— Services are not cheap
— Not as well-resourced to manage international deliveries
Collect+— Access to a network of  local shops for delivery or pick-up, so that you can avoid crowded post offices
— Online tracking of the parcel or letter
— Affordable shipping
— No delivery to or pick up from the doorstep
— Slow delivery time of 3-5 working days
ParcelForceTrusted as it is owned by Royal Mail
— Allows customers to pick-up parcels from 11,000 Post Office branches or 54 depots
— With a ParcelForce account, gain access to an account manager and tracking and payment dashboard
— Saturday delivery
— Extra cost for Saturday delivery
UK Mail— Built to meet business’ unique needs
— Sustainable services
— Next-day collection
— Contract-free pay as you go service
— Ties up with iPostParcels for its reliable and cost-effective parcel posting services 
— Does not support parcel and letter delivery for individuals
YodelDirect— Free printing of labels in-store
— Avail of customer rewards scheme
— Two-hour delivery window
— Access to thousands of drop off centres across the UK
— Standard £50 cover
— Integrate with top ecommerce platforms
— More affordable than Royal Mail
— Not very trusted by customers, leading to bad reviews
FedEx — Access to 240,000 worldwide drop off locations
— Sustainable packaging
— Free FedEx shipping supplies with account
— Integrates with BigCommerce, Magento, and WooCommerce
— Less coverage in the UK as compared to Royal Mail
UPS— Offers step-by-step tracking
— Up-to-date delivery alerts
— Track multiple deliveries at the same time
— Ideal for international and local deliveries
— Less coverage in the UK as compared to Royal Mail
— Does not link to ecommerce accounts
InPost— Lockers are used to send and receive packages, 24 hours a day
— Ideal for within-UK shipping
— Affordable shipping options
— Less reliable as compared to Royal Mail
— No doorstep pick up or delivery service
— Not suited for international shipping
DX— Best services in the UK and the Republic of Ireland
— Fast and secure next day delivery service for items under 24kg
— Specialized shipping of legal and commercial documents and medical specimens
— Not as effective for international shipping
— Not as well-known or trusted as Royal Mail

1. DPD

Dynamic Parcel Distribution (DPD) is considered Europe’s largest parcel delivery network and the best parcel delivery in the UK. Of all the royal mail competitors, DPD is one of the providers better suited for the delivery of expensive, international, or physically heavier/larger orders. 

Perfect for urgent orders, it offers delivery on the weekend. It’s also very trusted by customers and partners alike.

When comparing DPD vs Royal Mail, know that DPD might be a good fit for your business if you extensively ship internationally and don’t mind paying extra for a premium shipping experience. Whereas, Royal Mail may be better for shipping small packages, within the UK.

Also, its shipping costs include parcel tracking and proof of delivery for tension-free shipping.

2. Collect +

Operated by PayPoint, Collect+ doesn’t deliver to or pick up from the doorstep, but allows for it to happen at a designated point (which is usually a local shop).

You can also track the movements of the parcel or letter online. Its delivery time is not the fastest at 3-5 working days. But its offerings are quite affordable at  £3.99 for a  ‘Light Parcel’ of up to 2 kg. 

3. ParcelForce

This is not a competitor of Royal Mail but an offshoot of it. It offers a few features that the parent company doesn’t. ParcelForce is great for the delivery of high-value goods at discounted rates.

And if you ship goods frequently, avail of the ParcelForce account. This offers you access to an account manager and tracking and payment dashboard.

You can also enjoy Saturday delivery at an added cost.

ParcelForce integrates with ecommerce platforms such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Magento, WooCommerce, Shopify, PrestaShop, and CSV.

4. UK Mail: a DHL subsidiary (and iPostParcels)

Previously known as Business Post, UK Mail is a DHL subsidiary that offers next-day collection, delivery parcels, and contract-free pay as you go service.  They also support Royal Mail’s last-mile delivery.

It ties up with iPostParcels for its reliable and cost-effective parcel posting services offering labels, free office collection, etc. 

When comparing Royal Mail vs DHL, it’s worth noting that DHL’s courier services are more expensive than Royal Mail overall.

5. Yodel Direct

You can send couriers with doorstep pick and drop or use one of the thousands of Yodel Direct stores across the UK.

With Yodel, you can enjoy free printing of labels in-store, a customer rewards scheme, and a two-hour delivery window.

Owing to its poor track record of delivery delays and misplaced parcels it has received a lot of negative reviews online.

6. FedEx Express

Being one of the global leaders in shipping, FedEx offers reliable and trusted services. It has 240,000 worldwide drop off locations.

Also, you can avail sustainable packaging and free FedEx shipping supplies with a FedEx account.

FedEx Express is a great option for both shipping within the UK and shipping internationally. Rates for domestic shipping start at £6.95 and can reach customers as soon as same day.

International shipping rates across Europe start at £28.20.

7. UPS

UPS is one of the largest courier services in the world. It offers step-by-step tracking, up-to-date delivery alerts, and the ability to track multiple deliveries at once.

The company promises standard delivery in 1-2 business days and a slightly cheaper option of morning delivery (before 10:30am the next business day or by 12pm).

8. Evri

The biggest dedicated parcel delivery company in the UK, Evri’s services are cheaper than Royal Mail. It offers great bulk shipping deals for international couriers.

Its 7,000+ ParcelShops and 3,000 lockers, across the UK, make shipping so much more convenient. With Evri, enjoy courier tracking, signature on delivery, access to an account manager, and next day delivery.

They also increase flexibility for your customers by offering a two-hour delivery window and up to three delivery attempts.

9. InPost

With InPost, you do not get door-to-door package delivery and pick up. Instead, you use lockers located across the UK.

Once you pack and label the ordered goods, scan the label and deposit the package at your nearest locker. The order will then be sent to the locker closest to the recipient, and a message will be sent to them to pick it up.

This is not as convenient as doorstep delivery and pick up, but much more affordable.

10. DX

Delivered Exactly (DX), primarily services the UK and the Republic of Ireland. However, DX allows businesses to send parcels to other corners of the world. It boasts fast and secure next day delivery service for items under 24 kg.

And, DX is known for specialized shipping of legal and commercial documents and medical specimens.

What to look for in an alternative

When shipping from UK, here are some important aspects to look for in a shipping partner:

Delivery options and speed

Each carrier offers different speeds and delivery options. For instance, UPS delivers in 1 to 2 days (standard), while Collect+ takes 3 to 5 days. Many courier companies also offer same day, weekend, and next day delivery options. 

Here is another example of varied delivery options: InPost doesn’t have doorstep pick-up and drop, while FedEx does. 

Ultimately, you need to choose what vendor and delivery option works best for your retail operations. 

Pricing and cost-effectiveness

As a whole, brands like FedEx and DHL tend to have more expensive shipping options than Evri. But, the latter is considered less reliable.

Also, if you want packages to be handled in a particular manner (say fragile or perishable goods) you must weigh the costs against the value-addition to see if the price-tag is truly worth it.

Always make sure to compare similar services, such as FedEx’s next day delivery to Evri’s next day delivery to decide on the cost-effectiveness.

Reliability and customer satisfaction

DHL, FedEx, and UPS are some of the world-renowned courier partners.

They are known for their reliability and ability to deliver customer satisfaction. But newer or local players, such as Collect+ or InPost, do not have as much goodwill or encouraging track record.

Though cost is a big consideration, the most important factor to consider is reliability as it will keep customers happy, increasing profit in the long run.

Ecommerce platform integration

DPD, Whistl, and UPS do not offer ecommerce platform integration.

Meanwhile, ParcelForce, FedEx, Yodel, and DHL do allow for seamless exchange of data (and avoid data redundancy) with your ecommerce portal. 

Customer service

In a recent survey, Evri and Yodel were ranked worst-performing parcel firms in the UK, in terms of customer service, parcel problems, and accessibility.

Meanwhile, Royal Mail topped the performance leaderboard with the highest overall score. 

Special features and services

Some courier companies offer industry-specific shipping services. For example, DX has a special service for businesses that wish to send legal and commercial documents and medical specimens. 

Most courier companies also offer mobile apps or AI integrations for digitally managing and tracking couriers. 

Also, be sure to pay attention to the insurance cover options for each shipment.

Niche use cases: finding the best fit for your needs

Your business might sell something that requires extra handling care or specific courier service to meet customer needs.

In this case, here are some unique needs to consider and which courier service to choose.

Reliable returns service: If your business needs multiple payment return options, multiple drop-off locations, and tracking, choose DPD.

Pre-sort business letters: UK Mail’s high-speed sortation machine can be relied on to sort and process your mail before final mile delivery. 

Label printing: With Yodel Direct’s print in store service, you can get the labels printed for free, when dropping your parcels off at any Yodel Store. 

Personalisation: With Evri Video makes it easy to send a personalise note along with a customer order.

Eco-friendly: FedEx and DHL both have sustainable fulfilment and packing options. These brands are also good if you want to transport high-value goods reliably.

ShipBob’s winning carrier network in the UK

It can be a lot of effort for online retailers to identify the right courier company. Comparing shipping services and making the best decision for your business can be time-consuming.

Fortunately, ShipBob can help you save time and money on all your fulfilment and shipping needs. ShipBob offers a global fulfilment network and partners with leading shipping couriers across the globe.

“Before ShipBob, we were fulfiling all of our UK orders out of our Oxford office, with one person in charge of picking and packing orders and taking them to Royal Mail daily. This solution was not scalable, especially if we wanted to continue expanding our business into new countries and demographics.

We knew we needed a partner with a global presence, who could handle fulfilment for us wherever we go.

Thankfully, ShipBob has fulfilment centres in strategic locations not just across the US, but all over the world. We’re able to store inventory on both coasts of the US and in the UK and Poland, which cuts our average shipping costs and shipping times considerably.”

Natalia Lara, CMO of Oxford Healthspan

ShipBob’s advanced fulfilment platform also identifies the optimal route for your customers’ orders, which helps your business optimise shipping to reduce shipping timelines and cost.

To learn more about ShipBob’s services, click below to receive more information.

Royal Mail alternatives FAQs

Below are answers to common questions about alternatives to Royal Mail. 

What are the key factors to consider when choosing a mail service for my business?

Delivery options and speed, pricing and cost-effectiveness, customer care, special value-added services, ecommerce platform integration, and customer satisfaction are some of the key factors to assess when choosing a mail service.

How can I determine the best mail service based on my shipping needs?

Every online retailer and customer has different shipping needs. You should compare services, costs, and reliability by reviewing customer reviews. However, this can be time-consuming, which is why many online businesses partner with a fulfilment provider like ShipBob to help make the best shipping decisions.

How does ShipBob enhance the shipping process for ecommerce businesses?

ShipBob distributes your stock across its fulfilment centres so that you have inventory located closest to the end customer. This will help reduce transit time and costs. Our cutting-edge platform also collects and analyses inventory and shipping data to ensure improved fulfilment efficiencies.

Order fulfillment services

You omnichannel fulfillment partner that's an extension of your brand, from unboxings to 2-day shipping.

Warehouse management

Have your own warehouse? Get ShipBob WMS to reduce mis-picks, save time, and improve productivity.

Global scalability

Grow into new geographies with ShipBob's international presence in the US, UK, EU, Canada, and Australia.

Written By:

Kristina is the Sr. Director of Marketing Communications at ShipBob, where she writes various articles, case studies, and other resources to help ecommerce brands grow their business.

Read all posts written by Kristina Lopienski