Flat rate shipping is one of the options that can make your life easier when predicting shipping costs, as well as help in the reduction of your delivery expenses. Most e-commerce companies nowadays opt for flat rate shipping, which simplifies the process of sending out orders. With Ecommerce Warehouse Management System rapidly growing and expanding year by year, flat rate shipping is a clever way to juggle the hefty costs of shipping and delivery. As consumers get more and more familiar with expedited and free shipping, as well as free returns, flat rate shipping becomes an optimal alternative in keeping costs under control and streamlining fulfillment operations. If you want to learn what flat rate shipping is and the benefits it may provide for your e-commerce business, then this is the guide for you. Here is everything you need to know about the concept of flat rate shipping; including flat rate shipping costs, delivery spans, and other procedures.
In our Flat Rate guide, we’ll help you understand:
What is Flat Rate Shipping?
Before diving in the details such as flat rate delivery time and costs, it is important to start at the fundamentals and acknowledge the flat rate shipping meaning. Simply put, flat rate shipping is a uniform fee that is charged to ship a product, as long as it meets certain standards followed by the carrier of choice. Flat rate shipping is a type of shipping in which the rate of the fee is solely based on the size of the box; aka allows you to ship a package of any weight for the same price, given that it stays under the maximum weight provided for the box. No need to say that each carrier has its own flat rate shipping list, allowing consumers to choose this uncomplicated shipping alternative, as well as allowing e-commerce businesses to foresee future shipping expenses with flexible predictability and point-on accuracy. Flat rate shipping is usually associated with USPS flat rate shipping since USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate delivers within 3 days and can help e-commerce companies save money in the long run. Not to mention these boxes are quite easy-to-use and come free of charge.
Why Use Flat Rate Shipping: Flat Rate vs. Standard Shipping
Flat rate shipping using carriers such as USPS or UPS entails a standard shipping rate regardless of the number of the shipping zones. Whether you send your orders across a single zone or to more than one location, the shipping rate stays the same. This especially turns into an advantage for e-commerce companies that ship from a warehouse on one coast. While standard shipping rates may change due to numerous variables, such as size, weight, shape, package type, or distance traveled, flat rate shipping consists of a consistent fee for all packages. That is why it is an appealing way of shipping for e-com companies, whether they choose to ship using a flat rate shipping box or a flat rate shipping envelope. Companies do not necessarily depend on flat rate calculator plug-ins, or for that matter, their own boxes or envelopes.
With standard shipping, the further the distance, the more expensive the shipping fee. Besides, the weight of the package is also considered a common pricing factor, calculated by multiplying the length, width, and height of the package. Flat rate shipping eliminates all of these challenges and offers the sender a stable fee for each delivery, as well as simplifying the shipping process for certain brands that are relatively smaller and have a self-service order delivery system. Another benefit of flat rate shipping is that the company is clearly aware of the shipping cost once the delivery is sent, whereas during standard shipping the cost may bubble up right towards the end with unexpected additional costs finding their way into the bill.
How Does Flat Rate Shipping Work?
Basically, there are four steps when using the flat rate shipping method on your deliveries.
Before you begin, you need to order your flat rate packaging from the carrier of your choice. If using USPS, the company offers you eight different types of packaging options, five being boxes and three being envelopes. The packaging, which can be collected from the nearest local post office or delivered to your business address, is free of charge.
Next, you need to pack your order into the box, making sure that the package doesn't exceed 70lb (50lb in some cases). You don't need to calculate any shipping fee or weigh any package while going through with this step.
When adding the shipping address, make sure to obtain a shipping label to simplify the process. The customer's address ought to be placed on the package where it can be visibly seen and easily accessible, as well as containing a return address in case of late or missing arrivals. To learn how to create the perfect shipping label, click here.
The last step in the flat rate delivery process involves buying your postage. Simply purchase your flat shipping postage using an online postage provider or by visiting a USPS post office nearby. You can also post your package at the local post office, as well as arrange a free package pickup to your location.
How Much Does Flat Rate Shipping Cost?
Each major freight carrier in the United States has its own flat rate offering for small, medium, or big-scale e-commerce companies. Although the services each offer may differ; the ultimate factor when defining the cost of flat rate shipping in the US usually comes down to the size of the box.
One of the most common flat rate shipping services used throughout the US is the USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate. To take advantage of the USPS flat rate services, you need to use USPS flat rate boxes or envelopes labeled "flat rate". While weight and shipping zones do not factor into the shipping prices, the flat rate shipping fee is mostly based on the size of the package being sent. The maximum weight limit for USPS is 70lbs.
FedEx’s “One Rate” program has several different rates, in which the amount you pay depends on the box you choose to use while shipping, as well as the FedEx service of your choice. To take advantage of any FedEx flat rate shipping program, using a FedEx package is a must. It is also important to note that FedEx charges services by distance, where the further the destination, the higher the cost to ship.
If you opt for the UPS “Simple Rate” program, you must consider the fact that the weight of your package cannot exceed 50lbs. As opposed to FedEx, this program lets you use your own box or envelope, yet still benefit from the advantages of flat rate shipping. Have in mind that the size of the package has to be no bigger than 1,7 cubic inches, equal to a 12x12x12 sized box. In order to calculate the UPS Simple Rate fee, you will be forced to do some manual calculating, where your box will be placed in one of the five size categories depending on its volume. Simply put, the shipping cost is a blend of the service you choose and the size of your box. In the UPS Simple Rate program, the weight of the box does not factor in as a price variant.
When to Avoid Flat Rate Shipping
Although flat rate shipping is a popular delivery option amongst e-commerce sellers, the easiest way for the seller is not always the easiest way for the consumer. Companies are usually tempted to use flat rate shipping services because it utilizes and simplifies shipping, can be used as a marketing tool, and encourage buyers to spend more on certain products. Nonetheless, it is important to know where to draw the line and opt for a different type of shipping option which will be in the best interest of your company.
While using a carrier's specified flat shipping rates can indeed save you money, calculating the break-even-point to finalize savings can turn into a complicated comparison of package distance, weight, volume, and other specifications. The regular rates end up being cheaper than flat rates most of the time unless the products being sent are extremely heavy. Another disadvantage that flat rate shipping may present is the loss of a great branding opportunity, forcing you to use the carrier's standardized boxes instead of your own, customized ones. You may also be paying a lot more than intended for orders close to your warehouse without knowing.
Ship more with a fully integrated WMS that connects with 200+ e-commerce.
Written by Erhan Musaoglu
Erhan Musaoglu is the CEO and Co-Founder of Logiwa.