Why Offering Free Shipping for Your Business is Easier Than You Think

December 13, 2022 at 10:14 AMJen Deming
Why offering free shipping is easier than you think

As a consumer, the words “free shipping” can create a huge incentive that pushes you to purchase. The expectation for most shoppers is that there will be some sort of free option. However, many retailers are still hesitant to offer free shipping, or stuck on how to make the choice available to consumers while still protecting their bottom line. Let’s take a look at the three most common misconceptions about offering free shipping, and how you can implement strategies to make it work to your business’s advantage.

Misconception #1 – Absorbing shipping costs will cut into my bottom line

If we’re really being honest here, it’s important to note that free shipping isn’t really “free”. Transportation services require time and effort from the carrier, so someone has to pay for it. If it’s not your customer, then it will have to be you. If not addressed correctly, you will have to absorb costs, and this will decrease your margins, overall.

The good news is that offering free shipping to your customer can have a major positive impact on your sales because it’s viewed as a huge value-add. In fact, most consumers are willing to spend up to 30% more online if they know they won’t be paying for shipping. As a top incentive, a further 93% of shoppers say they will take action to qualify for free shipping by adding more items to their order. By offering free shipping, you are going to boost sales and increase your average order spend. In time, the increase in revenue will ideally offset your shipping costs.

Pro tip: Set a minimum amount threshold to qualify for free shipping. 

To make free shipping a viable strategy, it’s probably not smart to offer the service on just any order that is placed. Because shipping costs fluctuate, it can be hard to predict consistently. By setting a minimum order amount, you’ll help ensure that the revenue from the sale will offset the costs of transportation. Determine your minimum order value in advance, and be strategic about communicating that minimum amount during every step of checkout.

Misconception #2 – Building shipping cost into product price will scare customers

Why offering free shipping is easier than you think

To counter the cost of shipping, it may make sense to increase your product price. But this can sound like a scary notion. Raised prices turn off customers and decreases your competitive advantage, right? The truth is, by increasing prices even minimally, while offering a high-value service like free shipping, you will see a boost to your net margin. 49% of all cart abandonment occurs due to sticker shock at the shipping point of checkout, not due to product price. Moderate price increases are generally justified by the customer, as long as fulfillment expectations are being met.

Pro tip: Product pricing should match what your customers are willing to spend and the type of customer you are trying to attract.

When building shipping costs into the price of your products, it’s always important to keep in mind who your target consumer base is. For example, a premium, brand-name shoe retailer can get away with a higher minimum price point than a book seller. Adding the cost of shipping into product price is a legitimate tactic that ensures you're covering your bases, just keep your price points fair and realistic.

Misconception #3 – The demand for free shipping isn’t there for my business 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that free shipping has pretty much become the industry standard. Thanks to large ecommerce companies like Amazon, consumers expect shipping to be fast, free, or a combination of both. No matter whether you’re selling t-shirts or toolkits, the demand for free shipping is there for any industry. In fact, 66% of consumers want free shipping on all orders, regardless of the total, and 88% expect it when their order exceeds a certain amount. Even more alarming, 61% of shoppers say they are “somewhat likely” to cancel their order if free shipping isn’t offered – that’s a big old ‘yikes’. In short, when the majority of your consumer base expects some type of free shipping, it’s time to stop stalling and decide how to offer the service instead.

Pro tip: Explore ways to “test out” free shipping with offers and promotions.

You don’t have to jump right into a committed strategy right off the rip – dipping your toes in can help determine which tactics work best for you. Consider offering new customers, or rewarding existing ones, with a free shipping promotion. Implement VIP or loyalty programs that allow your customers to sign up and receive free shipping as an incentive. You may even benefit from offering free shipping on select items (perhaps those with a higher price point). By testing out different methods, you can really look at the shipping costs you incur, what your minimum order threshold should be, and refine your strategy from there.

Discounted shipping options help you and your customers

No matter which tactic you decide is best when offering free shipping to your customers, it’s extra important to keep your shipping costs low. You might not know that there are often shipping discounts available through memberships within trade associations, chambers, and industry groups. PartnerShip works with over 130 groups to provide their members with discounts on FedEx services. Contact our team to find out if you qualify.

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Your Essential Guide to the 2023 FedEx and UPS Rate Increases

December 6, 2022 at 11:35 AMLeah Palnik
The essential guide to the 2023 FedEx and UPS Rate Increases

FedEx and UPS will be increasing their rates by an average of 6.9% in 2023. That’s a heavy statement for a couple of reasons. First, this is the highest General Rate Increase (GRI) the carriers have taken in recent years. And second, your actual shipping costs will likely go up more than 6.9% in the new year. Oof. Unpacking the new changes is complicated, but essential if you want to understand how your costs will be affected and what you can do about it.

Here's your guide to the FedEx and UPS rate increases for 2023. Jump to:

A look back at the FedEx and UPS GRIs 

FedEx and UPS have a long history of mirroring each other’s pricing. They typically announce the same GRI and appear to have very similar pricing strategies. Bottom line, published rates aren’t a major differentiator between the two carriers.

For 2023, both FedEx and UPS are pointing fingers at inflation as a contributing factor to the higher-than-usual rate increase. 2022 already saw an uptick with a 5.9% GRI, thanks to all of the supply chain disruptions and surges in demand that resulted from the pandemic. For several years prior to that, both carriers had been raising their rates annually by an average of 4.9%.

Some important quick facts about the new FedEx and UPS rates:

  • The new FedEx rates take effect on January 3, 2023, while the UPS rates take effect a week earlier on December 27, 2022.
  • The 6.9% average doesn’t take surcharges into account - many of which are increasing by more than 6.9%.
  • How much your costs actually go up in 2023 will depend on several different factors. The services you use, your shipment dimensions and weight, and how far your shipments are traveling all have an effect.

Important changes

So you already understand that FedEx and UPS rates are going up in the new year. What does that look like exactly? First, you'll want to review the released service guide previews: 

If all of those tables and numbers are making your head spin, you're not alone. But there are some key takeaways. Let’s take a look at a few of the general observations from the base rate changes:

  • Across all services and weight breaks, longer zones are getting hit with higher increases than shorter zones. Many of those increases are higher than the announced average. 
  • For Ground services, many of the rates for shorter zones are lower than the 6.9% average increase.
  • For each service, the rate increases are similar across most weight breaks. Zones are the biggest difference-makers this year. 
  • For the 3 Day services, you'll see a higher increase from FedEx than UPS. However, the actual rates are comparable. That is because UPS took a larger increase with this service the previous year. 
  • Both FedEx and UPS have increased their Ground Minimum charge to $10.10

When you are reviewing your shipping costs, you can’t look at the base rates alone. Surcharge fees often make up a significant chunk of the amount you end up paying. Here are a few noteworthy surcharge updates:

  • Fees for larger, more difficult to move packages continue to rise to hefty prices. You could be paying an extra $1,150 for a shipment that qualifies for the Unauthorized Packages fee by FedEx or the Over Maximum Limits fee by UPS.Common FedEx and UPS Surcharges
  • Both carriers are increasing the late payment fee from 6% to 8%.
  • FedEx created a Remote Delivery Surcharge. Almost 4,000 zips will now incur a $13.25 fee. UPS originally introduced a fee for this in January 2022.
  • Many common surcharges are increasing, with a significant amount increasing by more than 6.9%.Common FedEx and UPS Surcharges

There are also a couple of other changes that are important to be aware of:

  • UPS announced that it will be renaming “peak surcharges” to “demand surcharges”. Several years ago FedEx and UPS started implementing these fees to address the increased demand the holiday season brings. Then, the pandemic hit. Both carriers have struggled to meet the surge in demand amid all of the supply chain disruptions and decided to use peak surcharges in response. The decision by UPS to rebrand these surcharges signals that it is viewing them slightly differently. Instead of implementing fees based on seasonal predictability, “demand surcharges” suggests usage anytime there is an uptick in demand. In short, they’re likely here to stay.
  • The list of zip codes for zones is changing. Depending on where you’re shipping, you may have to pay based on a longer zone than before. It’s changes like these that make budgeting for your annual cost increase very challenging.

How the FedEx and UPS rate changes will affect your costs in 2023

You can’t take the announcement of a 6.9% increase at face value, unfortunately. You’ll need to determine what services you use the most, how far your shipments travel on average, and how much of your invoice charges can be attributed to fees.

Many shippers will see their costs go up over the announced 6.9% average. With that in mind, let’s look a few factors that could put you at risk for higher-than-average cost increases:

  • If you’re shipping larger packages or your packages require special handling. For the past several years, FedEx and UPS have been raising these fees at an alarming rate. Any shipment they can’t run through their normal systems costs them more time and money, and these fees are a way to discourage those types of shipments from entering their networks.
  • If you ship a higher percentage of residential shipments. Residential shipments cost the carriers more because they require more stops and are a less efficient use of their driver’s time. Residential fees continue to climb because of this.
  • If you ship a lot of low density packages. The pricing structure that FedEx and UPS have put in place punishes lighter shipments that take up a lot of space. The carriers prefer denser packages that take up less space because they’re able to fit more packages on their delivery vehicles.
  • If a high percentage of your shipments go to longer zones. It’s always been true that the further your package travels, the more expensive the rate. This year that’s especially true. Longer zones are seeing more increases above the announced average than shorter zones.

What you can do to mitigate the effects of the FedEx and UPS rate increases

  • Right-size your packaging. While FedEx and UPS rates are based on weight, that’s not actually the whole story. If your dimensional weight is higher than the actual weight, your package will be rated using the dimensional weight - meaning you’ll be paying more. This makes any excess space within your package extra costly. Focus on packaging that allows space for the items you’re shipping and the necessary cushioning and nothing more.
  • DIM Weight Calculation
  • Consider opening or using a new distribution center. Shipments with the longest distance to travel cost you the most every year. But in 2023, this will be even more important as the longest zones are seeing the highest increases. Getting closer to your customers could be a great strategy for keeping those costs down.
  • Take advantage of discounts available to you. Many trade associations and chambers of commerce will offer FedEx or UPS discounts to their members. Oftentimes the annual cost savings from those discounts more than make up for the cost of joining. PartnerShip works with over 130 groups to provide their members with discounts on FedEx services. Contact our team to find out if you qualify.

Wrapping your head around all of the changes for 2023 FedEx and UPS rates can be challenging. But, using this guide to understand what's behind the announced average and published service guides is a good first step. Use this information to properly budget for the new year and set up any mitigation tactics that work best for your business.   

FedEx and UPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines for 2022

October 21, 2022 at 9:10 AMLeah Palnik
2021 Holiday Shipping Deadlines for FedEx and UPS

As you prepare your store for the influx of orders that come with the holiday season, you’re going to want to keep an eye on the shipping deadlines. Both FedEx and UPS have announced the last dates you can ship your orders and make it in time for a Christmas delivery.

It’s important to note these deadlines because demand surges this time of year. The carriers' networks are already strained, and it’s only going to get worse the closer we get to the holidays. To keep your customers happy and set the right expectations, we recommend clearly communicating the shipping cutoff dates and adding in extra days in case of delays.

FedEx has published a complete visual list of the last days to ship. Here are some highlights for domestic shipments:

  • December 8 for FedEx Ground Economy
  • December 14 for FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery
  • December 20 for FedEx Express Saver
  • December 21 for FedEx 2Day and 2Day AM
  • December 22 for FO, PO, SO, and Extra Hours
  • December 23 for FedEx Same Day

UPS has also created a list of the last days to ship for Christmas delivery. Unfortunately, one thing that is missing is a specific cutoff date for Ground shipments. You will need to get a quote on the UPS website instead. For domestic UPS air shipments, the dates are as follows:

  • December 20 for UPS 3 Day Select
  • December 21 for UPS 2nd Day Air
  • December 22 for UPS Next Day Air services

It’s also important to note that service guarantees are currently suspended for both FedEx and UPS ground services. It's also suspended for select air/express services. The main takeaway? You’ll want to encourage your customers to order early and do what you can to add in extra days when setting delivery expectations.

If you're looking for any additional guidance or need a way to lower your small package costs, PartnerShip can help. Contact our team today.

Ranking the Top 3 Retail Shipping Mistakes

May 5, 2022 at 11:14 AMJen Deming
Top 3 Shipping Mistakes Blog Post

Successful retailers have to be next-level multitaskers. However, with so many operating as small businesses, a large portion are running things without a dedicated shipping department. Doing this may be necessary, but it’s easy to make costly mistakes. By looking at what errors are the most important to be wary of, retailers can better sort out the correct way to manage their small package shipping. Let’s take a look at the top three retail shipping mistakes to avoid, starting with #1.

Mistake 1 - Giving inbound shipment control to your vendors 

When you’re receiving inbound shipments, oftentimes the shipping is arranged by vendors. This may seem like the easy way to go, but you could be overpaying on each shipment from every vendor, compounding cost and other challenges that may affect your business. When the vendor arranges your shipping, they choose the carrier and control the cost of transportation, making this a very common retail shipping mistake.

Why choose inbound collect over vendor prepaid?

Choosing inbound collect shipping over vendor prepaid can give you better control over what you’re spending on your shipments and which carrier is used. You can also control which services your business needs, such as specialized equipment or accessorials like liftgates. Additionally, being invoiced directly by the carrier may eliminate any handling or markup fees your vendor could add into the total charges. 

PartnerShip can help simplify the process

While managing your inbound orders may seem like a lot of work, partnering with a 3PL can help reduce the amount of effort you have to put in. A quality 3PL like PartnerShip can provide you with competitive pricing and determine if switching from vendor prepaid to inbound collect makes for your business. Inbound experts at PartnerShip can also help create routing instructions and review and enforce vendor compliance. 

Mistake 2 - Ignoring DIM weight pricing

Dimensional (DIM) weight pricing is a strategy implemented by carriers to offset the cost, time, and energy spent on moving large or bulky shipments through the small package network. This pricing structure focuses on the amount of space your shipment takes up in relation to its actual weight. Overlooking the impact of DIM weight pricing on your total costs is a crucial retail shipping mistake.

Your DIM weight is determined by the dimensions of your shipment. To cut down on time wasted in your already-packed schedule, we have created a DIM weight calculator. If the figure you calculate is higher than your actual weight, then that is what you will be billed on. 

Luckily, there are some strategies that retailers can use to help limit DIM weight charges:

  • Right-size your packages by minimizing wasted space inside boxes
  • Consolidate orders to reduce the total amount of packages being sent

ECommerce Shipping Stat

Why retailers need to be mindful of DIM weight

Retailers ship a lot of small packages, whether you’re receiving orders from suppliers or shipping purchases out to customers. In fact, a large component of retail sales are comprised of ecommerce. Due to the sheer volume of packages being shipped, costs can multiply rapidly, especially if your packages are subject to DIM weight pricing. Retailers must be strategic about how orders are packaged.

Mistake 3 - Not taking advantage of shipping discounts

The worst shipping mistake that retailers can make is assuming the current rates you’re getting are the best available to you. While large retailers may be able to negotiate substantial discounts directly with FedEx or UPS, it’s more challenging for smaller businesses, especially when many of the discounts are based on volume or may just be promotional. 

Small businesses can succeed

Smaller retail businesses can still obtain discounts through their affiliations. Trade associations, chambers of commerce, or other organizations will oftentimes offer discounts to businesses. By partnering with a variety of service providers, your membership dues can be offset by the benefits and discounts you receive.

PartnerShip works with over 130 trade associations and other groups, including several well-known retail organizations, like NSRA and NAMM. By leveraging carrier relationships and industry connections, we help make exclusive FedEx discounts available to retailers, no matter the size of your business or shipping volume.  

Avoiding mistakes is the first step to successful small package shipping

Small package shipping can be challenging for any team, especially for smaller retail businesses who may not even have a dedicated shipping department. Retailers must keep in mind that they have a few extra important shipping mistakes to avoid that could cause you to pay more for shipping than necessary.

No matter the size of your retail business, avoiding these common pitfalls can ensure smooth shipping and lower costs. PartnerShip can help with every one of these challenges, including obtaining competitive pricing. Get in touch with the small package experts at PartnerShip to learn more.

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How to Save on Shipping While Reducing Packaging Waste

April 11, 2022 at 11:22 AMJen Deming
Packaging Waste Blog

We love shopping online. Nothing beats the convenience of delivery, variety of product options, and satisfaction of adding things to a virtual cart and clicking ‘buy now’. Unfortunately, the perks of ecommerce do have a flipside - the environmental impact of shipment packaging waste. Ecommerce shipping actually has about four times as many touch-points as regular retail. This means more packing and unpacking individual orders to customers – leading to even more packaging waste. Savvy e-retailers are minimizing their environmental impact by using eco-friendly shipping tactics and by using less wasteful packaging procedures. Even better, reducing your shipment packaging waste is a sustainable practice that is both eco-friendly and a smart way to lower shipping costs, through these three easy tips.

Online order touchpoint graphicTip 1: Reduce the amount of your packaging 

If you’re a shrewd retailer, you know that your choice of packaging can protect your product, prevent damage, and enhance the value of your brand through the unboxing experience. But not every product ordered online needs to be shipped within layer upon layer of branded boxes and plastic packaging. Taking a “less is more” approach can help balance both cost and structural integrity, in addition to lowering packaging waste. 

Box versus mailer graphic

When you’re considering what types of shipment packaging to use, retailers have a ton of options. Packaging materials include paper, plastic, or chipboard boxes, foil or poly envelopes, bubble mailers, jute, vinyl, or cotton bags, and many other options. Dunnage, or the internal “protective” material inside the shipment can be Styrofoam, cardboard, kraft paper, soft or rigid plastics, and bubble wrap. Each option has its own cost, key benefit, and impact on the environment. Research what types of shipment packaging make the most sense to adequately protect your product, and then eliminate the use of unnecessary extra materials. Always keep in mind that you can reduce your initial cost and environmental impact by choosing simple, but effective shipment packaging that makes sense for your product and consumer.

Tip 2: Reduce the weight and dimensions of your shipment 

It’s clear that wasteful packaging procedures can drive up initial costs, but keep in mind that any unnecessary materials can also affect your shipment rates due to weight and density. Your parcel rate is determined in large part by region, distance traveled, and weight. Heavy shipments put more strain on trucks and utilize more fuel when hauling loads. As a result, carriers will charge you more for added weight.Trucking C02 emissions graphic

Another factor that can affect your shipment cost is dimensional weight. DIM weight pricing is used by carriers to offset the cost of moving large and bulky shipments in their network. This pricing strategy focuses not just on the actual weight, but also the amount of space your shipment takes up. Your DIM weight is determined by the dimensions of your shipment. If the calculated DIM weight is higher than the actual weight, your shipment will be rated on that.

Elaborate packaging with multiple components inside runs the risk of wasted interior space, so making sure that you right-size your package is important. Ensure that there is no empty space within your shipping box after the product and protective materials are added in. Reducing wasted space within your shipment can lower your final bill, and greatly reduces packaging waste that can be harmful to the environment. 

Tip 3: Encourage your customer to use your packaging for returns 

With more people preferring to shop online, the need for convenient returns options increases. Being intentional in how you approach your returns can help lower reverse logistics costs while remaining environmentally conscious.

Every online shopper knows that preparing to ship a return can be a pain.  No one loves rummaging through a garage of broken-down boxes hoping to find one adequate for use. It’s not as simple as grabbing an empty box - the package must be structurally sound and free of pre-existing labels to avoid hiccups on the road. 

Do your customers (and yourself) a favor, and make this process even easier by utilizing return-ready packaging for your orders, including resealable boxes, envelopes, and mailers.  Include pre-printed shipping labels with return addresses and packing slips to help make the process even simpler. By providing return-ready packaging, you’re ensuring that the package is right-sized for pre-paid shipping labels and services. As a retailer, you’re taking steps to avoid possible damages or loss by providing packaging options that securely protect your product while in transit. 

In short, by providing return-ready packaging, you’re taking back control of return shipments by managing several variables that may lead to costly surprises and packaging waste. 

Reducing packaging waste benefits everyone

Retailers have a unique opportunity to improve the eco-footprint left by their businesses. Environmentally friendly shipping practices can help lower emissions on the road, reduce packaging waste headed for landfills, and lower costs. To further improve your environmental impact, consider working with a sustainably minded shipping provider, like PartnerShip. We elect to work with carriers that prioritize energy efficiency in trucks and facilities, minimize air-pollution, and offer transparency through data about fuel usage and impact. Optimizing your packaging is a smart place to start – learn how with our downloadable, free white paper.

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2021 Year-End Planning for Your FedEx and UPS Shipments

November 15, 2021 at 9:43 AMLeah Palnik
2021 Year-End Planning for Your FedEx and UPS Shipments

The end of the year is usually pretty hectic for a lot of businesses, but 2021 is proving to be one for the books. As you navigate the holiday season and prepare for the year ahead, you’ll want to heed our warnings for your FedEx and UPS parcel shipments.

Ship early
We can’t stress this enough. Delays are becoming more common and will likely get worse the closer we get to Christmas. The FedEx and UPS networks are very strained right now. Fueled by the pandemic and all of its ripple effects, demand for parcel services is at an all-time high. Both FedEx and UPS have suspended service guarantees for their ground services and some of their air/express services, which means you can’t leave things up to chance. Ship early and build in plenty of extra time where you can so you don’t run into major disruptions.

Review holiday shipping deadlines
For retailers, this is especially important. As customers place their orders for holiday gifts, they’ll want to know that they’ll receive them before the big day. FedEx and UPS have released their shipping deadlines, so make sure to review them and plan accordingly. That way you’ll be able to manage expectations appropriately and keep your customers happy.

Prepare for the 2022 rate increases
Don’t sleep on the fact that after you make it through the holiday season, your FedEx and UPS rates will be going up. Both carriers announced that they will be increasing their rates by an average of 5.9%. It’s tempting to take that announced average and budget for your costs to go up by that much, but unfortunately it’s not that simple.

How much your rates will go up in the new year will largely depend on which services you use, your package characteristics, and where you’re shipping to/from. That 5.9% average also doesn’t account for surcharges which can drive up your costs even more. If this all sounds like a major analysis that you don’t have the time to conduct, you’re not alone. That’s why we’ve reviewed the updated rate charts for you. Download our free guide to see a full analysis of what you can expect.

The Essential Guide to the 2022 FedEx and UPS Rate Increases.

Decoding the Most Common FedEx and UPS Surcharges

October 11, 2021 at 4:49 PMJen Deming
FedEx and UPS Surcharges Blog Image

Taking a deep dive into your invoice from FedEx or UPS is a smart move for any shipper. But, once you dig into your statement line by line, chances are you’ll see extra charges that may puzzle you. Those unexpected fees are likely shipping surcharges - costs added to your base price by the carrier. 

Though undeniably complicated, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the surcharges your carrier of choice, FedEx or UPS, may apply to your shipment. The more you know about surcharge types and how they impact your bill, the better you can manage your costs. Taking a look at the most common and costly FedEx and UPS surcharges is a great way to become familiar with what you may see on your bill.

Oversized surcharges

When it comes to parcel shipping, oversized shipment charges often lead the way in expensive fees. Ecommerce has led to larger and more irregular-sized shipments in their networks, and both FedEx and UPS implement pricing strategies to offset the extra costs associated with it. Surcharges related to shipment size and specifications are a way to combat packages that could be transported using another service, like LTL freight. These fees are based on both size and weight limits, and vary between carrier. 

FedEx and UPS charge different amounts for these fees, though both can be well into the hundreds of dollars. Even more importantly, the definition of what is considered “oversized” can change and the amount charged increases annually at the very least.

FedEx has three separate fees for larger shipments, and each has a different set of criteria.

  • Oversized – Applies if your package exceeds 96 inches in length or 130 inches in length and girth combined.
  • Unauthorized – Applies if your package exceeds 108 inches in length, 165 inches in length and girth combined, or 105 pounds in weight.
  • Additional Handling – Applies if your package exceeds 48 inches in length, 30 inches in width, and 105 inches in length and girth combined; or if your packages weighs more than 50 pounds (domestic) or 70 pounds (international).

UPS also charges fees based on a shipment’s size or whether it has handling requirements.

  • Large Package – Applies if your package exceeds 96 inches in length or 130 inches in length and girth combined.
  • Additional Handling – Applies if your package exceeds 48 inches in length, 30 inches in width, or 105 inches in length and girth combined; or if your package weighs more than 50 pounds (domestic) or 70 pounds (international).
  • Over Maximum Limits – Applies if your package exceeds 150 pounds in weight, 108 inches in length, or 165 inches in length and girth combined.

These are the qualifications that apply as of 2021. Keep in mind it’s always important to stay up to date on changes and amendments throughout the year.

Peak surcharges

There are certain times when U.S. shipping volume spikes due to an increase in demand. This spike can be caused by seasonal fluctuations, the economy, or any number of other factors. When more shipments are entering the network, it can be a struggle for carriers to meet this demand. Peak surcharges are fees implemented during these times to help offset the extra work it takes to get these packages delivered, and to help weed out the harder to manage, less profitable shippers. Because demand has surged during the pandemic, we’ve seen an unprecedented amount of peak surcharges for both FedEx and UPS, with adjustments being made as needed. As demand stays elevated, they’re likely to continue, which is why it’s important to review what circumstances dictate these charges. 

Any shipments that require an extra level of effort (either by package characteristics, frequency, extra services required, etc.) are most likely to incur peak surcharges. The first step in determining whether you’ll be seeing peak surcharges is reviewing a few important factors that put your shipments at risk. Larger packages and those that require additional handling like those we’ve outlined above have been historically affected, and continue to be targeted. In addition to the size of the package, if you’re a large shipper who’s seen an increase in volume, you’ve likely seen a significant spike in your costs due to additional peak surcharges. 

Prior to the pandemic, peak surcharges were typically only applied during the holiday season, since that’s when FedEx and UPS saw a consistent increase in package volume. How much the fees cost and what packages they applied to varied by carrier and by year. However there are some trends you can note and typically expect. Just like the peak surcharges that have come along as a result of the pandemic, larger shipments are often targeted with extra fees during the holidays. Residential deliveries are also often hit with peak surcharges since so many people are ordering holiday gifts for loved ones during this time of year, straining the carriers’ networks. 

Fuel surcharges

Fuel costs are another common surcharge that will apply to each and every shipping invoice you receive. As commuters, we are well aware that fuel prices are a large component of transportation costs. Whether you’re shipping small package via delivery van, a full trailer, or by plane, you can imagine how much higher those costs can climb. As fuel consumers, we are also aware that the price of fuel does not stay consistent for any set period of time. Something has to be done so that carriers can be sure they aren’t losing money on fuel costs when they fluctuate.

Fuel surcharges are intended to provide an average cost of fuel, so the carrier is protected from loss if fuel prices rise during the term of a contract. Even still, there is no benchmark surcharge amount. The cost can vary by carrier, and as the price of fuel fluctuates, that surcharge will be amended. There are three primary factors that are used to calculate a fuel surcharge: Base Fuel Rate, Base Fuel Mileage, and Source and Interval of the Average Fuel Price. A Base Fuel Rate is the price that determines when a fuel surcharge is to be activated and applied to a bill. Base Fuel Mileage is the miles per gallon that a truck averages on the road. Source and Interval of the Average Fuel Price is a government determined figure and the only component of fuel surcharges that is regulated.

While there isn’t much that you can do to challenge fuel surcharges, it’s important to understand that they exist to protect the carrier from lost profit. Both FedEx and UPS publish up-to-date fuel surcharge information so that you know how this variable affects the cost of your shipment transportation. 

Residential delivery charges

Out of all the surcharges that exist, it’s essential for retailers to understand the impact of residential delivery when planning their shipping costs. A “residential delivery” is defined as one that a carrier must make to a home, whether it’s a single-family dwelling, apartment building, condo complex, or a dorm on a college campus. These charges are necessary for carriers so that they can offset the inconvenience of handing off one shipment to a single location - clearly less efficient than delivering to businesses. 

Both FedEx and UPS apply residential delivery fees to a variety of scenarios. It’s important to know that businesses operating out of the home will be marked as residential. Additionally, if either the declared delivery location (what’s on the label) or the actual delivery address (in the case of an error) is determined to be residential, the fee will apply. These circumstances are important because while you want to keep costs low, trying to pull one over on the carrier is never a good idea.  

Pick-up fees

Both FedEx and UPS implement fees for a variety of pick-up services. Generally, the fee is calculated depending on the immediacy of the pick-up and the type of location. FedEx breaks down pick-up types into three main categories for its FedEx Express and FedEx Ground services: on-call, return on-call, and regular stop. Each pick-up type has a fee that ranges from no charge to a set cost per package. For regular shippers, there is a maximum weekly fee for cost-savings and convenience.

UPS also offers a variety of pick-up options that are associated with their own charges. Commonly used pick-up options include: UPS On-Call Pickup®, UPS Smart Pickup®, day-specific, and on-route pick-ups. Like with FedEx, as needed services are charged by pick-up or package. Regularly scheduled pick-ups are charged weekly fees that may fluctuate, usually depending on shipment volume.

It’s important to know that pick-up fees are higher for residential locations, metro areas, and inside pick-up services. As in the case of most surcharges, these fees can change, and you should always consult either carrier’s latest service guide for a complete picture of costs. If using pick-up services is cost prohibitive for you, you should consider reviewing drop-off locations as an alternative. 

Third-party billing fees

Both FedEx and UPS charge third-party billing fees. These fees are a percentage of the total bill, including base charges and any accessorials needed. As of 2021, UPS and FedEx charge 4.5%. That percentage might sound low, but it can add up fast. If your business is using multiple manufacturers or suppliers to help fulfill your orders, you will be seeing third-party billing fees for each order. It’s also important to note that this fee may cost more in the future, as it has already seen some increases in the past.

FedEx and UPS started instituting a third-party billing largely in response to the increased use of drop shipping by ecommerce retailers. Drop shipping is a process where, rather than keeping inventory on hand, sellers may use a supplier or manufacturer to fulfill and ship orders directly to the customer. As the third-party bill-to, the seller is neither the shipper nor receiver, but is paying the shipping charges.

If you’re often using third-party billing as an option, it may be possible to negotiate rates with your carrier. You may be able to get the fee removed through your agreement, or lower the percentage charged, especially if you’re creating a lot of business for the carrier. 

Other notable surcharges

We’ve covered common surcharges that will impact your shipping invoice the most. However, there are several other service fees that you may see.

  • Address correction - associated with changes a carrier must make to correct a given address
  • Signature services  - proof of delivery via signature in order to protect against liability
  • Weekend pick-up/delivery – completing shipments outside a carrier’s normal hours of operation
  • Delivery area – extra effort it takes to drive out to hard to reach locations, such as rural areas

A general rule of thumb to always remember: if your shipment needs services that require extra effort from the carrier, there is probably an associated charge.

How to prepare for these fees

Most FedEx and UPS surcharges are simply part of the business, and are unavoidable. As a component of your total shipping invoice, you should take the time and effort to understand why they’ve been implemented. Most importantly, a thorough knowledge of the basics can help identify how they will impact your business based on your unique shipping needs. It’s unbelievably important to stay up-to-date on surcharge adjustments and increases by looking at annual service guides periodically. Auditing parcel invoices regularly can help identify which surcharges you’re seeing most frequently. 

By understanding how these fees impact your shipping spend, you can create a better plan of action for both your shipping operations and your pricing strategy. Working with a 3PL that is familiar with FedEx and UPS surcharges can help take the stress out of sorting through the data. At PartnerShip, we can help simplify things for your business – from conducting a shipping analysis to publishing resources that offer a Cliff’s Notes version of service guide mayhem.


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How Small Retailers Can Save on Shipping Without Volume Discounts

August 12, 2021 at 1:42 PMJen Deming

Small businesses have it tough, and the fact that volume shipping discounts aren’t always an option makes shipping expensive. The good news is that small retailers have options to decrease shipping expenses without having to rely on volume discounts. Check out our helpful video to learn how. 




Your No-Nonsense Guide to Dimensional Weight Pricing

June 28, 2021 at 11:23 AMLeah Palnik

If you regularly ship with UPS or FedEx, you’ve likely encountered dimensional (DIM) weight pricing whether you realized it or not. Essentially it’s a way for the carriers to charge you more for larger, but lighter, packages. And if you’re not careful, it can drive up your costs significantly.

What is dimensional weight pricing?
Dimensional weight pricing is a way to rate your packages based on density in relation to weight. What that means is that instead of rating your package purely based on its actual weight, it also takes into account how much space your package takes up on the carriers’ delivery vehicles.

How do you calculate dimensional weight pricing?
Luckily for you, we have a DIM weight calculator you can use. But if you’re curious about the formula behind it, it’s fairly simple. Start by calculating the cubic size of your package – multiply length by width by height. Then take that total and divide it by 139, which is the dimensional divisor determined by FedEx and UPS. If the resulting DIM weight is higher than your actual weight, the DIM weight becomes the weight you’ll be rated on – otherwise known as your billable weight.

DIM Weight Calculation

Let’s look at a couple simple examples. If you have a 12x12x12 box, the dimensional weight will be 12 lbs. So if you’re shipping 15 lbs. of books, your package will be rated based on the actual weight of 15 lbs. But if you’re shipping 5 lbs. of ping pong balls, your package will be rated based on the DIM weight of 12 lbs. since it’s the higher weight.

Why is dimensional weight pricing used?
UPS and FedEx want to discourage shippers from using unnecessarily large packaging, and there is one main reason for this. The larger your package is, the more space it occupies on their planes and trucks. This in turn, leaves less room for other packages. UPS and FedEx make more money and work far more efficiently if they’re able to fill up their delivery vehicles with more packages.

The history of dimensional weight pricing
Once upon a time, not all shipments were subject to DIM weight pricing. The DIM factor that FedEx and UPS use has also changed over time – and not in a way that’s favorable to shippers. While the DIM weight formula and shipment qualifications have remained steady for a few years now, there’s no guarantee that it’ll stay that way. Let this be a lesson on how important it is to stay alert on any announced changes from both carriers.

How do you avoid overpaying due to dimensional weight pricing?
The most important thing you should be doing to avoid DIM weight pricing is right-sizing your packaging. You need to consider both the size of the item you’re shipping and also how fragile it is. Items that are at a greater risk of damage will need more cushioning, which will take up more space. Try to find packaging that allows enough room for the needed cushioning, but no more. The smaller you can make your package, while still keeping your item safe, the better.

There are a few resources available that you can use to find the right packaging for the items you’re shipping. UPS has a Packaging Advisor tool on their website that allows you to select your merchandise category and enter your dimensions to get customized packaging and cushioning guidelines.

FedEx also has a number of packaging guides based on the type of item you’re shipping. But beyond that, FedEx even has a Packaging Lab where you can send your packaging in for durability testing or request a design consultation to improve the efficiency of your packaging. Many of the services are free if you have an account.

Keeping your small package costs low
While ensuring you have efficient packaging to avoid DIM weight pricing is one way to help reduce your shipping costs, another is securing discounts with the carriers. That can be difficult for small and medium sized businesses to negotiate on their own. However, when you work with PartnerShip you can access savings that are typically reserved for high volume shippers. Contact our team to learn more.

DIM Weight Infographic

5 Ridiculously Easy Ways to Reduce Your Shipping Costs

December 21, 2020 at 11:23 AMJen Deming

In a time where managing business operating expenses is extra important, one of the first places you should look is reducing shipping costs. But analyzing your small package shipping for areas of improvement can be a time-intensive, detail-oriented process. Not everyone has the time to audit invoices and compare rates. For those who want to get the job done quickly and easily, you’re in luck: there are five quick small pack hacks that smart shippers can easily implement to help reduce costs. 

  1. Obtain discounts with carriers
    Lots of shippers don’t realize that the pricing structure you are currently using with your carrier may be negotiable, and there are different types of discounts that your account may receive. FedEx and UPS often offer discounts for new accounts when created online, but shippers beware: these discounts are usually temporary, and your pricing may fluctuate based on terms and conditions. You may lose the discounts entirely if you aren’t meeting shipping minimums and your pricing is subject to change at any time. 

    The more you ship, the better the discounts you’re likely to receive directly from FedEx or UPS. However, even if you have a lower shipping volume, there are still ways for you to obtain discounts. If your business belongs to a trade association or a local chamber, you may have access to discounted rates through your membership. PartnerShip manages over 130 association shipping programs that offer FedEx discounts. If you’re a member of an industry group, look into your member benefits or reach out to our team to find out if you’re eligible.

  2. Take advantage of free packaging

    The packaging and supplies you need to properly contain your shipments are important, but can be costly. However that doesn’t mean you should skimp on new materials or reuse old packaging – doing so can compromise the integrity of your shipment and increase the risk of damage. The good news is, some carriers offer free shipping supplies to help ensure your package is secure. Both UPS and FedEx offer free packaging supplies for customers that you can order online and have delivered, free of charge. With free envelopes, packing tubes, boxes, and poly bags, you can be sure your small package shipment will travel safely to its final destination, all while creating some space in your shipping budget.

  3. Make the most of Multiweight and Hundredweight options

    From insurance plans to your cable bill, everyone knows you can save money from bundling. That same principal can also apply to your shipping. Both FedEx and UPS offer options for customers who are shipping multiple packages to the same location that can help you save money versus the rates you would pay if they’re considered individual packages. For businesses shipping frequently to the same locations, FedEx multiweight pricing is an efficient and cost-effective service option. UPS has a similar program called UPS Hundredweight

    There is a catch for shippers interested in these options — it isn’t available to just any business. FedEx Multiweight and UPS Hundredweight must be negotiated into your contract, or offered as a part of comprehensive shipping program, like the association programs managed by PartnerShip.

  4. Avoid dimensional weight pricing

    To combat the increase in bulky packages entering their systems, FedEx and UPS have implemented dimensional (DIM) weight pricing. With DIM weight pricing, cost is calculated based on package volume, rather than weight. The higher the volume, the more space it takes up in delivery vehicles, which means there is less room for other packages. If a package isn’t particularly heavy but is taking up a lot of space, that’s costly for the carriers. 

    After calculating your DIM weight, measure the result against your package’s actual weight; the greater of the two will become your billable weight. The best way that you can offset volume-based pricing is to take a hard look at your current packaging procedures. Unused space is a cost-conscious shipper’s worst enemy, so don’t use a package that’s oversized for the product inside and consolidate your orders when possible to ensure you’re not wasting space.

  5. Take control of inbound shipping

    Another way to save on small package shipping is by taking control of your inbound shipping procedures. It’s common practice for many businesses to allow their inbound small package orders to be arranged by the vendor. But often times that leads to higher order costs for you. By instructing your vendor to ship through your account, you can reduce your costs through a few simple steps:

    • Review your vendor invoices to determine whether you have access to better pricing through your FedEx/UPS account vs. your vendor’s account.
    • Create routing instructions that include clear directions on which carrier, account, and service to use for your shipments. 
    • Ensure vendor compliance by providing your routing instructions to your vendors and regularly reviewing your invoices for accurate pricing.

Working with a third-party logistics provider can help make this process even easier. At PartnerShip, we can assist with pricing negotiations, create and send vendor routing instructions, and review billing for vendor compliance.

While taking an in-depth look at how to minimize operating expenses can be time-consuming, these small package hacks give you a few quick ways to ship smarter. For more ways to save, PartnerShip can help.

It’s even more important to cut costs where you can, as FedEx and UPS rates are on the rise. Our free guide will help you easily identify the highest rate increases so you can more easily manage your budget.  


2021 Rate Increase White Paper