In the world of order fulfillment, it’s vital that you clearly understand the concept of shipping zones. They can affect a lot of different things, but most noticeably, fulfillment cost and shipping transit times.
Unfortunately, a lot of ecommerce business owners don’t understand the shipping zone concept nor everything it can affect. Other online sellers just don’t give it much thought until it’s too late. Either way, the cost of fulfillment and shipping times are important, so here’s your chance to fully understand it.
Shipping Zones In Ecommerce Fulfillment
Now, how does shipping zones work with ecommerce fulfillment?
To help you better understand how U.S. shipping zones work in fulfillment, let’s take a look at the most common questions asked about them.
What’s A Shipping Zone?
In the United States, carriers have created shipping zones based on geographical location. In the U.S., there’s a total of 8 shipping zones, each being labeled as Shipping Zone 1, Shipping Zone 2, ect. It’s important to note that these are for domestic shipping in the United States.
The shipping carriers use zones to measure the distance a package will travel, not in miles but by grouping zip codes from the point of origin to the final destination.
The point of origin refers to where the item was shipped and would be labeled as zone 1. The destination zone would obviously refer to address where the item will be shipped. The destination zone number would depend on how far the item is being shipped with zone 2 being the closest and zone 8 being the farthest away.
How Does Shipping Zones Affect Cost
All of the big shipping carries in the U.S. use zones to calculate their rates for specific services. You’ve likely heard of flat rate services, where you pay the same rate no matter the distance of shipping so as long as it’s shipped in the United States.
USPS (United States Postal Service) tells you which services they offer that are calculated by shipping zones. Those that are include (Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, USPS Retail Ground, and Bound Printed Matter) and which are not (First-Class Mail, USPS Marketing Mail, Library Mail, and Media Mail).
How Order Weight Affects Shipping Cost By Zones
While you now know zip codes and final shipping destinations affect shipping cost, the exact cost for shipping is going to depend on order weights and dimensions.
For shipments that weigh less than a pound, these can be shipped flat rate across the U.S. regardless of the shipping zones that are calculated. For shipments up to a pound or more, you can see a lower shipping cost if you’re shipping close to your customers.
Dimensional weight often comes into play.
Calculating Shipping Zones
It can be a little confusing calculating shipping zones if you’re not familiar with the process. Zones are always calculated by where the item is shipped from. This is why you can get different shipping zone calculations bad to where an item is shipped out.
If you want to determine shipping zones for your orders, there’s a few resources you can use.
- USPS Domestic Zone Chart – Go to this page, enter the zip code where you’ll be shipping your item and the destination zip code for your shipping zone calculation.
How Ecommerce Businesses Use Shipping Strategies
There’s a lot of different ways that ecommerce businesses use shipping strategies to build leverage in their business.
One of the most common ways ecommerce companies leverage shipping is by offering free shipping on products.
- They use free shipping by including shipping cost into the product price.
- They offer free shipping on products that weigh less than a pound (use flat rate).
- They offer free shipping but only when a specific dollar amount is spent.
- They offer free shipping by reducing shipping zones (closer to customers).
How Shipping Zones Affect Delivery Speed
There’s a number of different ways that shipping zones affect your delivery speed.
A package that is sent to Zone 2 will always be faster than a package that’s sent to Zone 6.
Reducing your time in transit is extremely important. The longer it takes your customers to get their orders, the more customers are going to get angry. Fast transit times are vital for high levels of customer service.
Image Source: UPS
Here at Thill, we have strategically placed fulfillment centers across the United States so your customers don’t have to wait a long time to receive their shipments. Due to this, our order fulfillment services save you time and money.
Reducing Shipping Zones And Cost
For those of you that want to reduce your shipping cost, you need to reduce your shipping zones. This is where we can help. If you outsource to a fulfillment center like Thill, we can help you save money due to the locations of our fulfillment centers.
If your customers are in specific geographical locations, fulfilling orders in big cities can improve your delivery speed by days.
More Fulfillment Centers Equal More Options
If the company you outsource fulfillment to has multiple fulfillment centers, this can reduce transit times if it gets your orders closer to your customers.
For example, let’s say you’re outsourcing your fulfillment to a 3PL company that only has one fulfillment center based in New Jersey. If you have a lot of customers in western states such as California, Nevada, Oregon or Washington, it could take as much as 5-7 days for your products to reach your customers on the west coast.
Even worse, it could potentially cause you to shut down your ecommerce store to potential customers in those states. You could lose sales due to long delivery times and customers may start to leave bad reviews. Your fulfillment process is vital to customer satisfaction, great or bad.
Automating Fulfillment With A 3PL
We’ve already discussed a few ways a Third-Party-Logistics (3PL) company can improve fulfillment by giving your company an competitive advantage with geographically logistics.
Furthermore, the right 3PL fulfillment company can help you automate order fulfillment. At Thill, we have a powerful OMS (Order Management Software) to help you automate your fulfillment.
Our easy to use OMS gives you real-time inventory management. This allows you to easily track and see how all your inventory is moving in the supply chain.
Another advantage that Thill’s order management software gives you is the fact that it seamlessly integrates with several popular ecommerce carts for your fulfillment.
- Amazon Fulfillment
- Shopify Fulfillment
- Magento Fulfillment
- Ebay Fulfillment
- WooCommerce Fulfillment
- KickStarter Fulfillment
In The End
The better you understand your shipping zones, the better fulfillment strategy you can implement. If you want lower shipping cost and faster delivery times, you need to use shipping zones to your advantage.
Choosing a 3PL fulfillment center to outsource your order fulfillment can give you the advantages you need to grow your business, lower your shipping cost and deliver your products quicker.