Ground shipping vs air shipping services: Which is better for ecommerce?

With ecommerce shipping, we'll show you the best service for each type of order.

When it comes to ecommerce shipping, choosing between air and ground delivery services can be a difficult decision to make. Not only must the delivery window, customer’s address, and parcel weight be considered, but choosing the wrong delivery method could eat away at profit margins.

By understanding the advantages and challenges of each method, ecommerce brands will be able to deliver a better customer experience while delivering packages more efficiently.

What is ground shipping?

Ground shipping is a delivery service that routes trucks to get parcels and packages to their final destination. For domestic delivery, ground shipping is one of the most cost-effective and flexible ways to get orders from a warehouse and into a customer’s hands. Major carriers offer services such as USPS Retail Ground®, FedEx Ground®, and UPS Ground Shipping® that are all classified as domestic ground shipping services created for the continental United States. Pitney Bowes® offers Standard Delivery, which provides residential delivery services six days per week using USPS® last-mile delivery capabilities.

Although ground shipping rates cost less, transit times can be longer, and it can take a few extra days for an order to reach its destination. Trucks may need to stop off at several distribution centers when following their route and reroute their freight to smaller trucks based on the zip codes of the delivery address.

The zip code will also affect the delivery window of the package, as longer distances will require more time. A parcel shipped from the West Coast will require several days to reach the Northeast, whereas a delivery address in a neighboring state could only take one or two days.

What is air shipping?

Air shipping, or air freight parcel delivery, is a delivery service where packages are transported by an aircraft at any point during delivery. Although air shipping can be used for domestic deliveries, it is more typical for international shipping where merchandise must be transported overseas within a specific delivery window.

Air shipping services cost more than ground shipping services. Higher fuel surcharges and additional weight considerations may be taken into account when calculating shipping fees. If the package is being shipped to an international buyer, customs fees, taxes and duties will also need to be considered. Online shoppers are not fond of paying additional fees after already paying for an item they ordered online.

Air shipping is often better for rush deliveries

No matter if an ecommerce order is placed by a domestic or international customer, air shipping is the ideal solution for rush deliveries if the distance is great enough. An air freight service takes less time to get orders to their destinations and can cover more distance in less time. In some cases, air shipping can get a parcel from the fulfillment center to a customer’s front door in as little as one business day.

There are, however, exceptions. Because of the infrastructure surrounding cargo hub airports, rush deliveries can sometimes get to their recipients faster using a ground service if the address is within a certain proximity from the fulfillment center.

It’s important that ecommerce brands take advantage of the advice that an experienced delivery expert can provide so that the right shipping method can be used every time.

truck on a road

Ground shipping is a more eco-friendly option

If you miss your flight at the airport, you’ll need to wait for the next plane headed to that same hub. The same applies to parcels being shipped via air. Because of the costs and logistics related to running a cargo aircraft delivery service, carriers schedule a specific number of flights to and from central cargo hubs.

If an order misses the shipping deadline, the parcel will need to be loaded onto the next available flight. With ground shipping services, trucks make pickups more frequently and packages can sometimes be rerouted, allowing orders to reach their destination while still making the delivery window.

The key to success is a dynamic ecommerce shipping strategy

Different tools serve a different purpose. When it comes to package delivery, ecommerce businesses should consult with a reliable delivery partner for expert advice to make the most of their ecommerce shipping strategy. Explore Ecommerce Delivery.