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Best shipping service for small business 2021

Flexible, affordable shipping solutions that grow with your small business.

2020 was a record year in holiday sales, totaling $789.4 billion. In 2021 retail e-commerce sales have already totaled more than $222 billion by just the second quarter, and it is only expected to continue. In a new FedEx report, 53% of North American buyers said that the pandemic has changed the way they will shop going forward. What's more, over 95 million consumers stick to online shopping exclusively for their shopping needs. For small businesses, that means huge demand. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought an enormous rise in e-commerce, significantly increasing the amount of shipping that businesses do. Suddenly, small businesses are doing far beyond normal shipping levels, and it can be a struggle to keep up. 

Big business requires a fast, reliable shipping service, and while we all know the big names, which shipping services are best for small businesses? 

Shipping services compared

Service

Best for

Domestic Delivery Time

International shipping

Freight shipping

DHL 

International shipping

Next-day available

220+ countries and territories

FedEx

Fast deliveries

1 to 5 business days 

220+ countries and territories

Sendle

Eco-friendly shipping

1 to 4 business days 

220+ countries and territories

ShipBob

Fragile items

2-day delivery 

55 countries

UPS

Large items

1 to 5 business days

220+ countries and territories

USPS

Small shipping volume

2 to 8 days

190+ countries and territories

DHL Express

Best for international shipping

dhl-express.png
DHL

At a glance

As the inventor of the air express business in 1969, today, DHL is a powerhouse. It is equipped to successfully work with multiple sectors, including the most sensitive ones, like chemicals, energy, healthcare, and technology. With over 431 million shipments each year to over 220 countries, DHL manages 84,000 DHL service points and over 360 TAPA-certified facilities for cargo safety with over 260 aircraft, 36,300 vehicles, 3,200 aircraft and over 3,200 flights per day. DHL also offers green logistics to reduce emissions, thereby minimizing your footprint through eco-friendly shipping solutions.

DHL works with customers and packages of all sizes. Businesses with less than 250 people are considered a Small or Medium Enterprise (SME), perfect for small businesses in need of domestic and international shipping services. DHL has shipping solutions with available air, ocean, road, and rail services. If you need freight shipping, DHL can accommodate all cargo types, including pallets and containers. There is end-to-end tracking so you can keep tabs on your shipment every step of the way.  Businesses can also enjoy popular digital integrations, including Shopify, Adobe Commerce, WooCommerce, and PrestaShop, allowing seamless transition from sales to shipping. For even more support, several exporting resources are available through DHL's joint partnership with the U.S. Commercial Service (USCS) from the Department of Commerce.


Pros:

  • Services over 220 countries

  • Multiple freight shipping options

  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce partnership for educational resources 

Cons:

  • Several fees and surcharges may apply

  • Limited U.S. presence

  • Pricey shipping costs


Estimated shipping timelines

Pricing for shipping is based on several factors, including shipping destination, export or import rating zone, and weight of your shipment. However, a DHL Express business account can receive up to 30% off regular shipping prices. 

There are several plans available for small business shipping needs:

Plan type

Maximum weight

Estimated shipping times

Domestic

Express

154 lbs.

Next possible business day

International mail

4.4 lbs.

4-8 days

International

DHL Packet International

4.4 lbs.

4-8 days

DHL Parcel International Standard

44 lbs.

Canada & Europe: 4-8 days

Worldwide: 8-14 days

DHL Parcel International Direct

44 lbs.

3-10 days

FedEx

Best for fast deliveries

fedex.png
FedEx

At a glance

Established in 1973, FedEx is one of the largest shipping services in the U.S. It ships to more than 220 countries and territories with over 570,000 team members and more than 40,000 convenient drop boxes. In fact, FedEx makes it very easy to ship your packages with several locations that can assist with packing and international shipping. You have your choice of the local FedEx Office, FedEx Ship Center, FedEx Authorized ShipCenter®, Office Depot and OfficeMax. There are also self-service options that include FedEx drop boxes, as well as one-time and recurring pickup services.

For international shipping, you can calculate quotes online, plus benefit from virtual customer support. When you open a new FedEx account, you can receive up to 60% off eligible shipments with flat-rate shipping for smaller packages. FedEx has a simple system for returns with customizable return labels and print or email distribution. You can also use the FedEx International Shipping Assist tool to streamline your shipping logistics with a tool to calculate duties and taxes.


Pros:

  • Additional member discounts

  • Multiple chat support options

  • Easy online account management

Cons:

  • Pricey for small shipments

  • Prone to shipping delays

  • Charges for pickups


Estimated shipping timelines

FedEx has several shipping options that you can choose from:

Delivery type

Service type

Estimated shipping times

Domestic

FedEx Home Delivery

Ground deliveries to residences

1-5 business days, up to 70 lbs.

FedEx Ground

Commercial deliveries

1-5 business days, up to 150 lbs.

FedEx Express Saver

Third-business day delivery

Third-business-day delivery by 4:30 p.m. or 8 p.m., depending on the area

FedEx 2Day

Second-business day delivery

Second-business-day delivery by 4:30 p.m. or 8 p.m., depending on the area

FedEx Priority Overnight

Early next-business-day delivery

Second-business-day delivery by 10:30 a.m., noon, or 5 p.m., depending on the area

FedEx Standard Overnight

Afternoon next-business-day delivery

Second-business-day delivery by 3:00 p.m., 4:30 p.m., or 8 p.m., depending on the area

International

FedEx International Ground

Day-definite delivery to Canada

2–7 business days

FedEx International Economy

Faster international shipping 

Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico: 2–3 business days

Other areas: 2–5 business days

FedEx International Priority

Fastest international shipping

Canada and Mexico: 1 business day

Europe, Asia and Brazil: 2 business days Other areas: 1–3 business days 

Freight

FedEx First Overnight® Freight

Domestic 

Next-business-day delivery by 9 a.m. or 10:30 a.m.

FedEx 1Day® Freight

Domestic

Next-business-day delivery by 10:30 a.m.

FedEx 2Day® Freight

Domestic

2 business days by noon

FedEx 3Day® Freight

Domestic, except Alaska and Hawaii

3 business days by 3 p.m. 

FedEx Freight®Priority

Fast-transit domestic delivery of LTL Freight

10:30 a.m. or 5 p.m.

FedEx Freight® Economy

Cost‑effective domestic delivery of LTL Freight

10:30 a.m. or 5 p.m.

Sendle

Best for eco-friendly shipping

sendle-logo1.png
Sendle

At a glance

Sendle is a newer service, having been established in 2014, but it has grown quickly, thanks to an all-in-one approach to its shipping service. Because it partners with so many shipping services, Sendle is able to offer bulk discounts commonly reserved for high-volume companies. However, as a company based in Australia, Sendle does not offer international shipments from the U.S. Instead, you can ship across the U.S., as well as Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Shipments are also available to P.O. Boxes and domestic military bases.

Sendle offers simple management for all of your shipments. To calculate pricing, you can use the online quoting tool for easy estimates. There is also the ability to schedule and book online, as well as label printing and scheduling for free pickups. Several integrations are available, including Shopify, eBay, WooCommerce, Etsy, and ShipStation for advanced management and tools. Pricing begins at $2.45 for flat-rate domestic shipping that is also carbon neutral. Sendle claims that its prices are up to 79% off normal retail rates. There is also the added benefit is Sendle Cover -- a free insurance protection that covers lost goods up to $150. 


Pros:

  • Partners with multiple services

  • Free shipping pickups

  • Carbon-neutral shipping

Cons:

  • Based in Australia

  • No international shipping from the U.S.

  • Smaller service


Estimated shipping timelines and pricing

Sendle offers three plans, Standard, Premium, and Pro, which feature special rates based on total volume. There is upfront, detailed rate information based on size and destination. Regardless, there are no contracts, hidden fees, or membership requirements.

Plan

Starting price

Minimum order quantity

Sendle Standard

$4.14

No minimum

Sendle Premium

$3.45

20

Sendle Pro

$3,40

200

ShipBob

Best for fragile items

shipbob.png
ShipBob

At a glance

Like Sendle, ShipBob was established in 2014. Over 900 employees service ShipBob's headquarters and fulfillment centers with over 5,200 e-commerce business accounts. It partners with companies like UPS, FedEx, DHL, and USPS to ship worldwide. By using ShipBob's services, the company claims you can increase your average order value by 97% while saving your team an estimated 120 hours per week. It also claims to reduce cart abandonment by 18% while reducing your bottom line with 13% savings.

ShipBob works differently than most other services because it combines fulfillment services with shipping. It has taken a page out of Amazon's book by combining inventory management with order fulfillment and shipping services. As a global logistics platform, it can store inventory so that when your customers place an order, ShipBob can fulfill them, packing them with 99.95% accuracy before shipment. It also boasts a 99.96% success rate for on-time shipments. With this support, the staff is free to focus on other parts of the business. ShipBob will even track the order until it is received so any issues can be handled immediately. There is also available order management software, allowing you to manage subscriptions, adjust orders, and change shipping options.


Pros:

  • Flexible rates

  • Additional inventory tools

  • Easy integration with Amazon

Cons:

  • Confusing price structure

  • Customer service outsourced

  • Lengthy resolution process


Estimated shipping timelines and pricing

ShipBob ships worldwide to over 220 countries and territories with international fulfillment centers in Canada, the UK, Australia, and Europe. ShipBob's algorithm searches ground, air, and regional carriers to find the best delivery rates to meet your schedule. For domestic shipping, there is ShipBob's 2-Day Express Shipping Program, which offers a standard 2-day shipping for your orders. Returns incur a $3 processing fee for every returned order. Labels are additional and may be provided independently or purchased from ShipBob. 

Task

Type

Estimated timeline

Cost

Fulfillment

Receiving inventory

Flat rate

3 business days

$25 first 2 hours

$40 per man hour thereafter

Storage

Monthly 

N/A

$40/pallet/month

$10/shelf/month

$5/bin/month

Pick and Pack

Per order

N/A

$0 Up to 4 picks

$0.20 ea. for 5+ picks

Standard packing

Per order

N/A

Included with free packing supplies

Shipping

Per order

N/A

Varies

Receiving 

Flat rate

N/A

$25 First 2 hours

$40/hour after 2 hours 

If you prefer a self-service program, the Growth plan is available for shipments of 400 or less each month.

UPS

Best for large items

ups.png
UPS

At a glance

UPS is one of the best business shipping services in the U.S. and also one of the most popular. A number of services are available, including e-commerce, order fulfillment and international shipping. One standout feature about UPS is its free virtual brainstorming session, which is offered by the UPS small business solutions team. It makes it easy to set up and streamline your business operations to offer the best shipping services.

You can test-drive additional services, like a 60-day free trial for UPS eFulfillment. This allows for easier inventory management and shipping, integrating with more than 21 platforms. Several other types of support are available, as well: 

  • UPS My Choice® features an interactive dashboard detailing estimated delivery times and critical notifications regarding both inbound and outbound shipments. 

  • UPS Mail Innovations is an affordable solution for a large volume of letters and lightweight packages.

  • WorldShip® is great to streamline high-volume shipping.

  • UPS Import Control® allows you to track and manage international shipments.

  • UPS CampusShip® allows your employees to access shipping with an easy web-based platform.

  • MyFreight helps you ship and track truckload shipments.

  • ConnectShip allows for integrated, multi-carrier shipping solutions for more intricate needs.

Your local UPS store can help with everything from packing and package receiving to notary services. There is also a 30% discount for online printing projects, like business cards, mailers, and brochures.


Pro:

  • Helpful tracking tools

  • Affordable for heavy items

  • Small business tools

Cons:

  • Can have added fees

  • No free pickup services

  • Extra charges for weekend delivery


Estimated shipping timelines and pricing

2021 UPS Rates are incredibly detailed with domestic shipping timelines and small business payment solutions. 

Shipping by air is available in three options: overnight, two-day, and three-day delivery.

International shipping is also available with several options:

International service 

Estimated delivery

UPS Express Critical

It depends on order placement

UPS Worldwide Express Plus

1-3 business days, typically by 8:30 or 9:00 a.m.

UPS Worldwide Saver

1-3 business days, by end of day

UPS Worldwide Expedited

2-5 business days, by end of day

UPS Standard

Day definite, by end of day

USPS

Best for small shipping volume

usps.jpg
USPS

At a glance

USPS has small business solutions that go beyond the typical shipping service, such as USPS Loyalty Rewards. Shipping is easy with the Click-N-Ship® service that creates labels for Priority Mail® and Priority Mail Express® packages. With Click-N-Ship® Business Pro, you can use exclusive USPS desktop software to make domestic and international shipments totaling 10 or more.  There are additional integration and reporting features so you can see your company's performance over time.

Businesses have the option to reserve a dedicated PO Box, and there is also a free shipment pickup that can be scheduled in advance using the easy online interface. Meanwhile, your business has the opportunity to earn loyalty reward credits on the shipments you make anyway. There are also marketing support services. An example is USPS Marketing Mail, which arms you with the tools to elevate your company's direct-mail initiatives through the Every Door Direct Mail® (EDDM®) and Direct Mail Advertising programs. Also available are Business Solutions Associates that can ship you a starter kit and work with you to create the right program for your company's specific shipping needs. 


Pros:

  • Can add mailbox or PO box rental

  • Automatic address verification

  • Free Flat Rate boxes and supplies

Cons:

  • Minimal tracking tools 

  • Pricey for international shipping

  • Transit times are often longer


Estimated shipping timelines and pricing

USPS provides a clear-cut estimated timeline for several types of deliveries. Rate details are available in the in-depth price schedule:

Domestic Service

Shipping time

Domestic

Priority Mail Express

Next day - 2 day by 6 p.m.

Priority Mail

1 - 3 days

USPS Retail Ground

2–8 Days

Media Mail

2–8 Days

First-Class Package Service

1 - 3 days

International

Global Express Guaranteed

1–3 Business Days

Priority Mail Express International

3–5 Business Days

Priority Mail International

6–10 Business Days

First-Class Package International Service

Varies

How did we choose these products?

Today, many companies offer online shipping services, but not all may be best suited for your business needs. In order to find the best shipping services for small businesses, we consider several factors, such as these:

  • Delivery estimates: While all deliveries are subject to interruption, the estimated delivery time for your shipments is important to coincide with any shipping promises your company has made.

  • Packaging: While some companies offer free shipping supplies, others may offer alternate solutions, such as carbon-free shipping materials.

  • Type of shipments: The size, weight, and dimensions of your shipments will greatly affect cost.

  • Order volume: Cost savings often apply for bulk shipping volume. 

  • Tracking tools: Not all companies may offer detailed tracking information for your peace of mind.  

  • Fragile possessions: Some items are extremely fragile and can easily break without the popular precautions.  

Based on these criteria and more, we offer 2021's best shipping services for small businesses.

Which is the right one for you?

With so many shipping services for small businesses, it is not always easy to identify the right pick for your needs. Here are our best recommendations for the best shipping services for small businesses.

Choose this product...

When...

DHL Express

You do a lot of international business

FedEx

You don't have time to waste

Sendle

Your business wants to go green

ShipBob

You need extra care for your packages

UPS

You ship big and bulky items

USPS

You ship small or lightweight items

Shipping service for small business FAQ

How is the price for business shipping services calculated?

Pricing for shipments is based on a series of specific factors, including the destination, weight, and requested delivery time.

What is considered a small package?

Typically, a small package weighs less than 150lbs. 

How much does it cost to ship internationally?

Every country is different, just as every company handles international rates differently. To find the best pricing, you can talk to a team member for a quote and important details regarding applicable fees and tariffs.

Are there alternatives worth considering?

There are just a limited number of proven, experienced shipping providers in the U.S. However, if you are looking for more options for your business needs, consider some of our other features: