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Jaidyn Farar

Benefits of Sending Parcel Shipments + How To Get Started

by Jaidyn Farar

As consumers continue to embrace the convenience of online shopping and returns, it’s become necessary for businesses to perfect their parcel shipping strategies. 

If you’re looking to ship small, relatively lightweight packages to consumers, parcel shipping is the way to go. This article will explore the ins and outs of parcel shipping, including how it works, how much it costs, and common challenges you might face.

What is a parcel shipment?

A parcel shipment is a package that meets size and weight restrictions outlined by carriers—generally up to 108 inches long and weighing no more than 150 pounds. Parcel shipping is one of the most convenient and cost-effective ways to send goods directly to customers, and it can be used both domestically and internationally. Large shipping carriers like USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL all offer various parcel shipping services. 

For packages weighing over 150 pounds—or that are bulky or oddly shaped—you’ll probably want to use less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping. Later, we’ll discuss the differences between parcel and LTL shipping.

When to choose parcel shipping

In 2022, 21.2 billion parcels were shipped in the United States—that’s a lot of packages! Parcel shipping is widely used for a reason: it’s the best transportation method for small, lightweight packages being delivered to consumers. 

If your shipments meet the following criteria, parcel shipping is the way to go.

  • Weighs up to 150 pounds. For carriers like UPS and FedEx, the maximum weight for a parcel shipment is 150 pounds. USPS has a lower limit, only shipping parcels that weigh up to 70 pounds. 
  • No more than 165 inches in length and girth combined. Packages shipped by UPS or FedEx can be no more than 108 inches long and 165 inches in combined length and girth. USPS parcels can be no more than 108 inches in combined length and girth.
  • Packaged individually. Palletized goods are best sent using LTL, while individual packages are great candidates for parcel shipping.

Note that package size and weight limits may vary by shipping service and location.

How does parcel shipping work?

Parcel shipments are usually delivered via ground or air transportation. Carriers offer different shipping speeds, ranging from same- or next-day to several business days. This allows merchants to choose the services that provide the best balance of speed and cost-effectiveness. 

Whether you’re sending goods domestically or internationally, the parcel shipping process is similar. After you prepare your packages and hand them off to the carrier, the carrier transports them from hub to hub until it’s time for last-mile delivery. 

1. Preparation

First, prepare your packages by picking products, gathering the necessary packaging materials, creating shipping labels, and packing boxes. After parcels are assembled, measure their dimensions and weigh them—this helps carriers determine shipping costs. For international shipments, prepare customs documentation. 

Tips for preparing parcels:

  • Use durable, sustainable packaging materials
  • Make sure boxes aren’t too large for the product inside
  • Create shipping labels automatically with a shipping API 
  • Verify addresses to prevent misdeliveries
  • Seal packages tightly and make sure the label isn’t creased

2. Carrier selection

Once the parcel is ready for shipment, it’s time to select a shipping carrier to transport the package to its destination. This decision often depends on factors such as the destination, delivery speed, cost, and additional services like package tracking or insurance. 

Technology can automate the carrier selection process, helping you find the best carrier for every parcel you ship.

3. Pickup or dropoff

After selecting a carrier, arrange for your parcels to be picked up from your business. If carrier pickup isn’t available, simply drop your shipments off at a designated carrier location. 

4. Transportation

Now, packages move through various stages of the carrier’s shipping network, including sorting facilities, transportation hubs, and customs checkpoints for international shipments. Parcel may travel by road, air, rail, or sea, depending on the carrier's logistics network and the distance to the destination. 

5. Last-mile delivery

Finally, parcels arrive at local distribution centers near your customers’ addresses. From here, carriers complete last-mile delivery using trucks, vans, or even bicycles. Carriers often offer special delivery options—such as delivery to a designated pickup point or same-day delivery—that increase convenience for customers.

While carriers are responsible for last-mile delivery, you can take action to optimize the process. Learn how in this article.

Benefits of parcel shipping

Parcel shipping has many benefits, including convenience, cost savings, and the ability to send goods just about anywhere in the world.

  • Convenience and flexibility. Parcel shipping offers flexible shipping methods and caters to consumers’ delivery preferences. It’s the perfect way for those with busy schedules to receive the products they need.
  • Cost savings. For small, lightweight packages, parcel shipping is more affordable than LTL shipping. You can save even more by negotiating rate discounts with carriers or using shipping software like EasyPost to access discounted rates automatically. 
  • Global reach. Parcel shipping provides access to a vast network of international carriers and delivery services, allowing you to reach customers worldwide. 
  • Residential delivery. Parcel shipping carriers offer convenient residential delivery services, bringing packages right to recipients' doorsteps.
  • Tracking. Most parcel shipping services include tracking systems that allow both businesses and customers to monitor the status and location of packages in real time, providing peace of mind throughout the shipping process.
  • Same-day and overnight options. Need to send a package fast? Parcel shipments can arrive in as little as one or two days.
  • Sustainability. You can choose to work with shipping companies that prioritize sustainability by optimizing delivery routes, investing in electric and hybrid vehicles, and offering carbon-neutral parcel shipping options.
  • Security. With signature confirmation, insurance options, and secure packaging guidelines, you’ll be able to protect parcel shipments from theft, damage, or loss during transit. 

Despite the benefits of parcel shipping, some products aren’t suited to this transportation method. In the next section, we’ll explain when LTL shipping is the better choice.

Parcel shipping vs. LTL shipping

What is LTL shipping, and how does it differ from parcel shipping? 

As mentioned earlier, parcel shipping is most commonly used for direct-to-consumer orders for individual packages under 150 pounds. A good rule of thumb is that parcel shipments should be easy for a person to handle without the use of specialized equipment.

In contrast, LTL (less-than-truckload) shipping is used for shipments that weigh between 150 and 15,000 pounds and/or require special equipment (like forklifts) to handle. Often, these shipments consist of palletized goods

LTL shipments are too heavy or bulky for parcel carriers to handle, but they don’t require an entire truck to transport. So to optimize space and shipping costs, businesses combine their goods with other businesses, shipping them in a single truckload.

LTL shipping is commonly used for B2B (business-to-business) deliveries, but it can be used for direct-to-consumer deliveries. Items commonly shipped using LTL include furniture, appliances, and large electronic devices. 

Common challenges of shipping parcels

While parcel shipping has many great benefits, it also comes with challenges. You might face shipping mishaps like loss, damage, and theft; unexpected fees; headaches about rules and regulations; and more. 

  • Damage and loss. Despite your best efforts to package products securely and address them correctly, parcels can still get damaged, lost, or stolen. To avoid this, make sure to work with reliable carriers and purchase insurance coverage for high-value shipments. 
  • Delivery delays. Unforeseen circumstances like bad weather, labor strikes or shortages, and other disruptions sometimes cause parcel shipments to be delayed. This can cause customers to be frustrated, but offering responsive customer support will help smooth things over. 
  • Extra costs. In addition to shipping fees, parcel shipping may incur extra costs such as surcharges for fuel, oversized packages, or remote delivery. These extra costs can add up quickly, so make sure to plan for them.
  • Customs clearance. International shipping involves complex customs procedures and regulations, which sometimes lead to delays and additional paperwork for both senders and recipients.

These challenges don’t need to stand in your way. As you develop and refine your shipping and logistics processes, you’ll be able to overcome these obstacles, keep your customers happy, and help your store thrive.

Simplify your parcel shipping with a single carrier integration

Parcel shipping is a complex but essential part of a modern business. To offer the multi-channel or omnichannel experience that today’s consumers crave, you must be able to ship products to their homes in a matter of days. 

To keep your parcels flowing (without breaking the bank), try using the EasyPost Shipping API. Free for small businesses, the API allows you to integrate with over a hundred domestic and international carriers and access rate discounts of up to 83%. 

Save on parcel shipments with EasyPost.