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Jaidyn Farar

How To Ship a Package: An Ecommerce Guide

by Jaidyn Farar

Consumers strongly prefer affordable delivery options, with 75% of them saying that free shipping is a priority when deciding where to shop online. If your ecommerce store doesn’t meet a shopper’s shipping expectations, they’ll likely go with a competitor instead. On the other hand, if they see that you offer quick, low-cost delivery options, shoppers are more likely to convert. And if their packages arrive on time and undamaged, they’ll be willing to buy from you again.

So how can you make sure your shipping is fast, affordable, and reliable? Start by reading this guide! Whether you're new to the world of shipping, in need of a refresher, or just launching your business, this guide will teach you how to send a package and help you streamline your process. 

From choosing the right packaging materials to optimizing costs, we've got you covered with a step-by-step approach to ensure smooth and efficient delivery.

First—what can and can’t you ship?

First, you need to make sure you meet shipping requirements for the carriers you use. This involves knowing the regulations around restricted or prohibited items, as well as keeping packages within size and weight limits. 

Restricted and prohibited items

Some dangerous or illegal products are prohibited and cannot be shipped. In addition to these prohibited items, others are restricted, meaning they can only be shipped under certain conditions. For some restricted items, you may need to establish a special contract with the carrier before they will accept your shipments. 

The following items are frequently prohibited or restricted by carriers: 

  • Alcohol (or products that contain it)
  • Lithium batteries
  • Medicines and prescription drugs
  • Hemp and CBD
  • Weapons and ammunition

To find comprehensive lists of restricted or prohibited items, visit your carrier’s designated page:

Size and weight limits

In addition to restrictions and prohibitions, parcel carriers have size and weight limits. If you go over the limits, you’ll end up needing to pay extra fees—or you may not be able to ship your package at all. Below, you’ll find the size and weight restrictions for USPS, UPS, and FedEx.

Maximum size
Maximum weight
108 inches in length and girth combined
70 pounds
108 inches long; 165 inches in length and girth combined
150 pounds
108 inches long; 165 inches in length and girth combined
150 pounds

And now, without further ado: how to ship a package. It all starts with gathering your materials … 

Step 1: Gather materials and customer information

Now that you’re aware of shipping restrictions and size guidelines, you’re ready to prepare your package! Start by gathering order information and packaging materials. 

Recipient name and address

To ship a package to a customer, you need their full name and address. This information will be collected by your ecommerce platform and sent to your order management system (OMS) if you have one. Otherwise, collect customer information in a spreadsheet in preparation for shipping.

To make sure addresses are entered correctly—and avoid lost packages—consider using address verification software

Packaging materials 

Your packaging materials will include an outer container (box or envelope), packing material, tape, and shipping labels.  

  • Box or envelope. Choose a sturdy, appropriately sized container that fits your item snugly without leaving too much extra space. Use corrugated cardboard boxes for large or breakable items and envelopes or poly mailers for lightweight, non-fragile products.
  • Packing material. Use bubble wrap, packing peanuts (ideally biodegradable ones), or crumpled paper to cushion and protect fragile items. For very fragile goods like glassware or food, consider using molded inserts for maximum protection. 
  • Tape. Use high-quality clear packing tape to seal packages.
  • Shipping labels. Unless you’re writing addresses by hand—which we don’t recommend—you’ll need a thermal label printer, ink, and blank shipping labels.

When selecting packaging materials, consider the following factors:

  • Size and weight. Make sure packages are large enough to contain products, but not so large that they have lots of extra space. This not only keeps products safe during shipping but also saves you money by avoiding DIM weight charges
  • Durability. Choose materials that can withstand the rigors of shipping and handling. This is especially important if your products are fragile (like glassware) or sensitive to temperature (like food). Remember, it’s worth paying a little more for durable packaging to avoid the larger issue of damaged packages.
  • Eco-friendliness. Opt for sustainable packaging materials whenever possible to minimize your environmental impact. 

For a personalized touch, focus on the unboxing experience by adding package inserts—like a thank-you note, fun sticker, or free sample—or get custom-designed packaging. Just make sure to keep the branding inside packages so you don’t attract the attention of porch pirates.

Step 2: Choose the right shipping carrier and service

When choosing carriers, businesses must consider factors like price, speed, reliability, and additional services available. Using multi-carrier shipping software simplifies the decision-making process and gives you access to discounted rates—but if you’d prefer to choose carriers and buy shipping labels manually, follow the best practices below.  

Consider your products

Before selecting a carrier, consider the types of products you sell. Certain types of products may have unique shipping requirements, and you should search for the carrier that best meets these needs. For example, shipping food often requires carriers that can provide temperature-controlled transport and storage, as well as reliable express shipping. 

By aligning your shipping strategy with the specific needs of each product category, you’ll ensure timely delivery and minimize the risk of damage or spoilage.

Choose a carrier

When choosing a shipping carrier, make sure they can meet your requirements for delivery speed, cost, and additional services.

  • Delivery speed. Delivery time plays a huge role in customer satisfaction. Look into each potential carrier’s track record for on-time deliveries and their coverage area to ensure they can reach your customers quickly.
  • Cost. Consider each carrier’s shipping rates, fees, and surcharges, including any discounts or negotiated rates you may qualify for based on your shipping volume. If you don’t qualify for discounts on your own, a shipping API like EasyPost can give you access to discounted rates for a wide variety of carriers.
  • Services. Next, evaluate the range of shipping services offered by each carrier. Do they offer standard, expedited, and specialized shipping options like overnight or international? What value-added services do they offer?

For a deeper dive into carrier selection, check out our article here.

Choose the shipping service

Once you’ve chosen a carrier, what service level should you use? The answer depends on your shipping goals and budget.

As a general rule, expedited or express services are much more pricey than their slower counterparts. However, these services can deliver packages in one or two days, which is valuable for some types of shipments. For example, if you’re shipping chocolate or prescription drugs that require refrigeration, you’ll want to invest in the fastest possible shipping option. 

For non-urgent deliveries, consider going with less expensive shipping options, such as ground shipping. In addition, keep in mind that certain products can’t be shipped by plane because they pose a fire hazard, so these will have to be shipped via ground. 

In the section “How to ship a package for cheap,” we’ll look at some of the most affordable shipping options for USPS, UPS, and FedEx.

Step 3: Prepare your package

It’s time to assemble your package! Add the items you’ll be shipping to a box or envelope, as well as filler material to protect from rough handling. Once the items are secure, seal your box with tape. Then measure the package’s dimensions and use a small scale to weigh it (you’ll need to know these numbers when it’s time to purchase your shipping label). 

Next, create your shipping label online or use shipping software to do it automatically. Print your label and attach it firmly to the package, making sure it lies flat.

Note: Once preparing packages starts taking too much of your time, it’s time to make a decision: invest in more sophisticated fulfillment solutions or outsource to a third-party logistics provider (3PL). If you decide to work with a 3PL, they’ll manage your inventory and ship packages to customers for you. 

Step 4: Pay to send your package 

When you create your shipping label, you’ll also pay for shipping. Shipping costs will depend on many factors, including package size and weight, the distance from origin to destination, and delivery speed.

Since shipping can be expensive, develop a strategy to offset shipping costs. While businesses are responsible for paying carriers, most of them pass these costs down to customers. Consider the following strategies for charging for shipping.

  • Offer free shipping. For orders over a certain amount, you might cover shipping costs for customers. You can also use free shipping as a promotion or loyalty incentive.
  • Factor shipping costs into product prices. Determine the average cost to ship your products, and increase product prices by that amount. This way, you don’t lose money on shipping, but your customers don’t see an extra fee. 
  • Charge a flat fee. Similar to the strategy above, determine the average cost to ship your products. Then, display this amount as a flat fee during checkout. This makes shipping costs more predictable for customers.
  • Pass carrier rates to customers directly. This is the simplest method—just calculate the actual shipping costs during checkout and have customers pay that amount. You can use an ecommerce plugin like ShipBlink to do this automatically.  

Another potential cost to consider is shipping insurance. While insurance is optional, it’s a great way to protect yourself financially in case a package gets lost, stolen, or damaged. 

Step 5: Send your package

Once you’ve packaged your product and created a shipping label, you’re ready to hand your parcel off to your carrier of choice! Choose from one of the two options below.

  1. Schedule a carrier pickup; some carriers pick up packages for free, while others charge extra for this service.
  2. Take packages to the carrier’s office.

Now, the carrier is responsible for safely delivering your packages—but that doesn’t mean your job is over yet. 

Step 6: Track your package

Carriers provide package tracking services that show where packages are and when they’re delivered to recipients. For the best customer experience, you should provide tracking updates to customers via email, SMS, or a portal on your website. 

Package tracking isn’t only useful for customers; when used correctly, tracking data benefits your business. It reveals important insights into your fulfillment processes and carrier performance, helping you find weak points in your operations and improve the last-mile shipping process.

Now that you know how to ship a package, you’re almost ready to go! But you probably have one more pressing question: what’s the cheapest way to ship products? Read on for an answer.

How to ship a package for cheap

We’ve reviewed the steps to ship a package to a customer. But so far, we haven’t touched on the question that’s probably on your mind: what’s the cheapest way to ship a package? This section will explore some of the most cost-effective ways to send packages in the mail. 

Note: You can save money and pay less than retail or commercial prices when you use shipping software like EasyPost. EasyPost provides access to specially discounted rates, helping businesses of all sizes save on shipping. It’s the simplest way to send packages cheaply while still providing a great customer experience.

Flat-rate shipping 

Flat-rate shipping is usually the cheapest option when shipping heavy or dense items over long distances because the cost is the same regardless of weight. While FedEx takes shipping zones (distance traveled) into account, USPS and UPS offer a national flat rate. Prices may vary depending on delivery speed.

Maximum weight (pounds)
Delivery time (business days)
Starting retail price for a small box
USPS Priority Mail® Flat Rate
1-3 business days
UPS® Simple Rate
1-5 business days
FedEx One Rate®
1-3 business days

Learn more about flat-rate shipping in this article.

Ground shipping

Ground shipping is often the cheapest way to ship packages locally or regionally, especially for lightweight items. The table below compares starting retail rates for USPS, UPS, and FedEx

Delivery time (business days)
Starting retail price for a 5-pound package
USPS Ground Advantage™ 
UPS Ground®
FedEx Ground®

Explore more low-cost shipping options

This section has just scratched the surface of affordable shipping. While the options above are generally solid choices to save money, keep in mind that shipping costs are affected by many factors, including carrier specializations, delivery speed, package size and weight, and more. 

For a deeper dive into low-cost shipping, check out our guide here: Cheapest Ways To Ship Packages

Take the brainwork out of shipping with EasyPost

Shipping isn’t difficult, but as your business grows, it can quickly become one of the most time-consuming (and costly) parts of your operations. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to simplify. EasyPost makes shipping … well, easy! With a powerful suite of shipping APIs, EasyPost automates shipping label creation, insurance, and tracking while also giving you access to discounted rates and optimized shipping method suggestions. 

Start shipping with EasyPost today.