What Is Expedited Shipping? The Ultimate Guide


Today’s online shopper wants their order. Fast

Big names like Amazon have changed the game when it comes to expedited shipping and convenience. (You may have heard this referred to as the Amazon effect.) Customers have come to expect their packages to arrive in days — sometimes even hours. It can be tough for small businesses with less infrastructure and resources to keep up with these demands, but it’s not impossible.

In this article, we will look at the ins and outs of expedited shipping. You’ll learn about a few options you have to speed up delivery to your customers, as well as the top considerations when looking to implement expedited shipping into your business model.

What is Expedited Shipping?

Expedited shipping is a delivery method that drastically reduces the time it takes a package to reach its intended destination. It comes at a higher price than standard shipping and is usually the quickest service of courier companies. Different couriers may use different names for this service, such as “same-day shipping” or “priority mail.”

As a brand, you can make higher profits by offering expedited shipping to customers who want it. The process involves researching different shipping carriers to see whose pricing and technology best meets your business needs. With expedited shipping, you also save on the cost of inventory software, as products spend less time in transit.

How Fast Is Expedited Shipping?

Delivery times for expedited orders vary depending on the shipping zone and logistics methods used by the carrier. On average, here’s how long it takes for packages to be shipped:

  • US domestic zones: same-day or next-day
  • International destinations: 2-4 days

That’s pretty quick in our view.

But how fast is expedited shipping compared to other delivery options? Let’s find out:

Standard Shipping vs Expedited Shipping

Standard delivery services are the most affordable option for customers and online stores. Usually, depending on the logistics methods used and fulfillment provider, standard shipping will deliver a product within 3 to 7 business days from the time the order is dispatched. 

With deliveries like Amazon Prime, two-day shipping is considered the standard option. But for most shipments, standard delivery means your customers will need to wait a little longer to receive their package. 

Expedited delivery is an option that allows customers to pay a premium to accelerate the delivery process. When customers want to get their hands on a product fast, they’re more likely to choose expedited shipping over standard delivery. 

Express Shipping vs Expedited Shipping

The terms “express” and “expedited” shipping can either have different meanings or be used interchangeably, depending on the carriers and retailers involved. When a single retailer offers both express and expedited shipping options, the “express” method is usually faster. 

Express shipping may refer to shipping methods offering next-day or two-day delivery, while expedited shipping may simply mean a product will arrive faster than it would with standard shipping.

Two-Day or Next-Day Shipping

Some retailers ship expedited packages with a two-day or next-day turnaround, while others offer standard delivery with a two-day delivery time. Generally speaking, the way these shipping options are used will vary from seller to seller.  

Due to services like Amazon Prime, two-day shipping is now a must for ecommerce stores to offer, whether as expedited shipping, standard shipping, or something in between.

Which Shipping Carriers Offer Expedited Delivery?

To keep up with customer expectations, a number of shipping carriers now offer expedited shipping around the globe. You can use:

USPS expedited shipping

USPS offers Priority Mail Express as their fastest domestic delivery service. This expedited shipping option allows retailers to ship packages under 70 pounds overnight for a price starting at $24.70. Priority Mail Express also guarantees delivery by the next morning (10:30 am). Other popular USPS shipment options include First Class and Standard Priority Mail, which typically require two to three days for delivery.

UPS expedited shipping

UPS offers a range of expedited shipping options for domestic deliveries, including next-day, two-day, and three-day shipping guarantees. In some cases, you may be able to get an order delivered on the same day. For international shipping, there’s the UPS Worldwide Expedited service for fast, guaranteed deliveries to more than 220 countries. 

The price for expedited shipping and how quickly they’ll arrive at their destination will depend on where you’re shipping to. Compared to the UPS ground delivery service, which takes up to five days to get an item to a customer, these expedited shipping options offer faster shipping times.

FedEx expedited shipping

There are several ways to ship expedited orders through FedEx. Your options will depend on how quickly you need to ship, the size of the package, and the destination. For instance, FedEx Same Day delivery can ship products to customers on the same day within your city.

There’s also FedEx Express Saver for expedited shipping, which can get the order to your customer in two days, and FedEx Expedited Freight Services for bulk shipping. 

DHL expedited shipping

DHL offers expedited shipping with time-based differences. Called DHL Express, the 9:00 am, 10:30 am, and 12:00 pm slots deliver the package on the next business day for domestic US zones. For international destinations, DHL Express Worldwide and Express Easy offer fast shipping with a one to two-day delivery time.

What Kind of Products Are Suitable for Expedited Shipping?

Any product can be delivered via expedited shipping, but some products are better suited to this rapid fulfillment process than most. These include: 

  • Medical supplies. Medical and pharmaceutical products often need to be delivered fast, as they play a significant role in providing healthcare to patients. Some supplies require quick delivery to maintain the integrity of the product (such as items that need to be kept in refrigerated storage). 
  • Seasonal products. Though not as urgent as medical products, seasonal products are something people want to be shipped fast. If your customer needs to receive an item before a specific date like Easter or Halloween, they will often prefer the option to get it delivered as quickly as possible. 
  • Food products. Perishable products like food and drink can often lose their value when they take a long time to reach their destination. Even if you’re using specialist vans and freight vehicles to keep products in good condition, most customers prefer expedited shipping.
  • Floral products. Similar to food products, floral products have a limited shelf-life. Bouquets and wreaths need to be shipped quickly to ensure they don’t wilt or lose their appeal during shipping. Expedited shipping ensures your customer can get the product in the right conditions to thrive as quickly as possible.
  • Industrial products. B2B manufacturers operate at an incredibly agile speed. When a factory decides to manufacture a product, it often needs quick access to machinery and equipment. Offering expedited shipping can be an effective way to reduce the risk of downtime for B2B brands and earn their repeat business. 

How Much Does Expedited Shipping Cost?

Expedited shipping always costs more than standard delivery. However, the exact price of this shipping service depends on the weight and dimensions of the package, the destination address, and the courier service. Here are some expedited shipping cost examples from different couriers:

Courier Service Starting Price for packages
USPS Priority Mail Express (Next-Day to 2-Day) $26.95
UPS Next Day Air Saver $31.54
UPS 2nd Day Air $21.23
FedEx 2-Day $21.02
FedEx Priority Overnight $34.14
FedEx First Overnight $65.14

Note: These expedited shipping rates assume only 1 pound weight for packages and 1-2 shipping zones. Heavier and longer distance shipments may cost more than the prices mentioned here. 

How to Offer Expedited Shipping in Ecommerce

Offering expedited shipping to your customers requires a few considerations. Since the delivery will be accelerated, most third-party logistics (3PL) providers will demand a higher fee for this shipping service. To keep it fast and profitable, consider taking the following steps:

Use a minimum spend threshold

If expedited shipping is costing you more, you can set a minimum spend threshold that requires customers to spend a certain sum in order to qualify for this shipping option. Just make sure the minimum spend for accelerated shipping is more than the average order value from sales — especially if you intend to offer free expedited shipping.

Consider outsourcing fulfillment to a 3PL

Keeping on top of expedited shipping can be a complex process. When numerous customers buy from your ecommerce site, the influx of orders can make it challenging to identify which products require priority shipping. Outsourcing shipping and fulfillment to a 3PL makes things easier by providing access to shipping technology, discounts, and solutions not attainable otherwise.

The best 3PL companies offer software that automatically ensures expedited orders are given priority over standard delivery orders. You can partner with a 3PL whose software integrates with your ecommerce platform and lets you push customer orders to their fulfillment center for packing and shipping.

Pro tip: If your ecommerce store is hosted on Shopify, you can visit the Shopify App Store for shipping and fulfillment solutions that integrate with your website.

Select a 3PL with multiple fulfillment centers 

The shorter the distance a product has to travel, the faster and less expensive it will be to ship. By using a third-party logistics provider with fulfillment centers near your target audience, you can reach your customers faster with expedited shipping.

Expedited shipping is more attainable than you might think

Expedited shipping can seem like a tall (and intimidating) order, especially if you’re running a startup or small-to-medium size business.

But even if you’re struggling to keep up with the big retailers, there’s still hope when it comes to keeping your customers happy. It all starts with doing your research, making strategic decisions, and being bold where you need to.



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