Your Guide to Ground Shipping

Share this post
ground shipping
Scott Riddle - ShipNetwork
Scott Riddle
Get expert shipping advice delivered straight to your inbox.
Share this post

Most eCommerce store owners have an ambivalent feeling toward ground shipping. On the one hand, they know it’s a cost-effective delivery option for fulfilling customer orders. But on the other hand, there’s the worrying feeling that ground shipping may be too slow to meet the fast delivery expectations of modern customers.

Considering that 41% of global e-shoppers expect to receive their orders within 24 hours, while 24% wish to get their orders within two hours, you wouldn’t be out of line if you share the same feeling. However, ground shipping transit time has significantly improved thanks to the rapid development of eCommerce infrastructure fueled by resourceful fulfillment companies like ShipNetwork. 

In this guide, we discuss how ground shipping works, its advantages, and how you can optimize ground service to meet or exceed your customers’ fulfillment expectations.

What Is Ground Shipping & How Does It Work?

Ground shipping is delivering your customer orders by road using delivery trucks and vans or by rail freight transport. It’s the most viable and cost-effective option for domestic shipping compared to air freight, the other mainstream delivery alternative. 

You can make ground shipping work for your eCommerce store in three ways:

  1. Build your domestic fulfillment infrastructure from scratch.
  2. Choose a shipping carrier to work with.
  3. Partner with a well-established eCommerce order fulfillment company.

The first option is mainly out of reach for most eCommerce businesses unless you’re a deep-pocketed business that can spend over $70 million building a fulfillment center like Amazon does. 

The other two options are the most efficient ways eCommerce store owners use to operationalize ground shipping. We discuss these two options below.

Choosing a Shipping Carrier Offering Ground Shipping Services 

Shipping carriers offer a unique advantage to eCommerce stores — they have the delivery infrastructure countrywide and internationally that eCommerce entrepreneurs need. In the U.S., four major shipping carriers offer ground shipping services. These are:

  • UPS
  • USPS
  • FedEx 
  • DHL

Depending on the nature of your products, one carrier’s ground service may be more appealing than the next. To get perspective, let’s explore each carrier’s ground shipping service offering:

Ground Shipping UPS

UPS Ground Shipping delivers to homes and businesses in all 50 states and Puerto Rico within 1 to 5 business days. With UPS, you can ship packages of up to 150 lbs. and 108” long. This makes it ideal for ground shipping large items such as television and office furniture. UPS ground shipping rates vary depending on a package’s destination, origin, shipment date, and weight. 

USPS Ground Advantage, Formerly USPS Retail Ground 

United States Postal Service (USPS) Ground Advantage delivers to destinations in all 50 states, U.S. military bases, territories, possessions, and Freely Associated States within 2 to 5 business days. It’s the most suitable option for shipping hazardous materials (HAZMAT), such as flammable liquids and explosives that can’t be transported by air. 

Ground Advantage pricing tiers are based on your package’s weight and postal shipping zone (i.e., how far your package goes). You must also utilize your own packaging and measure all your shipping items to ensure they meet the required size standards.  

FedEx Ground Shipping

FedEx Ground delivers to all business addresses in all 50 states. FedEx takes 1-5 business days to deliver within the contiguous United States and 3-7 business days within non-contiguous states (i.e., Alaska and Hawaii). The maximum package size allowed is 150 lbs., 108” in length, and 165” in length plus girth.

Additionally, the FedEx Home Delivery® option delivers orders daily, reaching well over half of the U.S. population on Sundays. FedEx International Ground® also facilitates international shipping between Canada and the U.S. and within Canada. FedEx’s pricing rate is based on the shipping zone, packaging, weight, and date. 

DHL Ground Delivery

DHL partners with USPS to offer domestic shipping services covering over 165 million U.S. addresses. This enables DHL to offer eCommerce businesses multiple service levels, a reliable network spanning 19 distribution centers across the U.S., and postal expertise in handling packages. 

Factors To Consider When Selecting a Carrier 

When selecting a shipping carrier for your ground shipping, you’ll want to consider the shipping rates and service quality. Thankfully, most carriers offer online shipping rate calculators you can leverage to figure out the estimated shipping costs. 

Across all carriers, two main factors influencing shipping costs are ground shipping zones and package weight. Thus, you should know each carrier’s package weight and zone rate shipping regulations to select the best-fit shipping carrier. 

carrier factors to consider

Partnering With a 3PL Like ShipNetwork 

Partnering with a third-party logistics company is the third option for actualizing ground shipping. It’s the most convenient method because a 3PL offers end-to-end order fulfillment. This means a 3PL will:

  • Receive and store your inventory in warehouses closest to your customers.
  • Process customer orders (i.e., pick and package products).
  • Ground ship orders to your customers.
  • Process order returns

3PLs simplify the entire shipping process by doing all the heavy lifting required to fulfill customer orders. With shipping carriers like USPS, you shoulder the extra tasks of ensuring your packages meet their size and weight standards. This ties up your time and resources and becomes a significant productivity drain, particularly if your eCommerce store is scaling fast. 

That’s why a thoughtful 3PL partner like ShipNetwork should aim to optimize your ground shipping experience by reducing your average transit time and shipping costs. And this is what our Xparcel platform offers eCommerce businesses.

The Xparcel Ground Experience

eCommerce retailers enjoy the following growth-critical advantages from ShipNetwork’s Xparcel Ground:

  • Average cost savings of 16.2%.
  • Transit times of 3-8 days.
  • Package tracking
  • Reliable delivery

Xparcel Ground analyzes your package’s weight, dimension, point of entry, and destination when searching for the best shipping rates available. It also factors seasonal surcharges and extra carrier charges and automatically selects the carrier with the best price and service quality to manage your last-mile delivery. Xparcel Ground’s primary goal is optimizing your shipping speeds without increasing shipping costs.  

The Advantages of Ground Shipping  

Whether you choose a carrier like UPS or a 3PL like ShipNetwork to manage your ground shipping, you’ll enjoy the following benefits:

Cost Effective Delivery 

While air shipping is the fastest delivery option for fulfilling long-distance domestic orders, it comes with a steep price tag compared to ground shipping. Here’s a good example: 

Say you’re shipping one medium-sized package with a declared value of $100 from New York to Texas City through UPS. If you select UPS Next Day Air Saver, your package will spend 1 day in transit, and you’ll pay $60. But if you choose UPS Ground service, your package will stay 3 days in transit, and you’ll pay $24.50. 

However, ground shipping can be quicker than air freight. For instance, say you operate from Carlstadt, New Jersey, and you get an order from Anaheim, California, but you have inventory in ShipNetwork’s Anaheim distribution center. In that case, ShipNetwork would ground ship your order faster and more cost-effectively than air freight.

Eco-Friendly Shipping

Cargo trucks and vans used in ground shipping have a lower carbon footprint than cargo planes used in air shipping. The carbon footprint of a 2-kilogram package transported by air over 1000 kilometers is equivalent to 4.42 kilograms CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents). The same 2-kilogram package transported by road over 1000 kilometers generates a carbon footprint equivalent to 0.21 kilograms CO2e. 

Ideal for Delivering Hazardous Items

Hazardous materials like explosives, compressed gas, flammables, and certain biological products are restricted from air shipping. Due to the significant changes in pressure when the plane is in the air, such hazardous items can ignite and cause grave harm to the terrain and the people below. Ground shipping is less risky, making it the main domestic shipping option for delivering hazardous products to customers. 

Less Affected by Weather Changes

In case of bad weather, air freight experiences prolonged delays as planes wait for the weather to clear up. But in most cases, cargo trucks and vans will maneuver through lousy weather as long as the roads are undamaged. With ground shipping, you’ll worry less about missing promised delivery dates because of weather changes. 

Can You Leverage Ground Shipping in International Shipping?

Yes. Most eCommerce stores utilize ground shipping as their last-mile delivery option when shipping orders to foreign customers. Fortunately, shipping carriers like FedEx and DHL have set up delivery infrastructure in many countries worldwide. You only need to confirm the shipping carrier or 3PL with a dominant delivery network in the foreign countries you’re shipping products to and partner with them. 

Ground Ship Your Way to eCommerce Success with ShipNetwork 

best ground shipping delivery network

With our nationwide delivery network, you can reach 98% of the U.S. within 1 to 2  days via ground shipping. No more paying sky-high rates for expedited shipping to serve your domestic customers. This is the ShipNetwork advantage that many U.S.-based eCommerce stores leverage to scale their companies locally and abroad. 

With 11 fulfillment centers strategically located across the U.S., ShipNetwork has a big-enough delivery network to support your ground shipping efforts countrywide. When you partner with us, you can promise your customers fast ground shipping delivery at affordable prices, knowing we have your back.

Request a quote today or call us at (866) 983-7447 and let us make ground shipping work for you and your customers.