Understanding the U.S. shipping carrier market: A beginner's guide

June 6, 2024
Small Business & Entrepreneurship

Exploring the major players: USPS, UPS, and FedEx

When it comes to navigating the vast world of ecommerce shipping, small business owners are privy to industry giants such as USPS, UPS, and FedEx.

Each of these powerhouse carriers brings a unique set of services tailored to different needs:

  • USPS boasts an extensive network that reaches every corner of the country, ensuring even the most remote customers can be served.
  • UPS stands out with its robust tracking system and time-definite delivery services, making it a popular choice for businesses that require precision.
  • FedEx is renowned for its quick delivery options, offering a swift and reliable service for time-sensitive shipments.
A man loading packages into a UPs truck from a loading dockl

Choosing between these carriers can be influenced by various factors such as pricing, delivery speed, reliability, and the nature of the items being shipped. USPS is typically the top choice for standard, lightweight shipping, while UPS and FedEx excel in handling heavier, commercial shipments with their own unique advantages.

Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each carrier can empower your small ecommerce businesses to make informed decisions that align with your logistical needs and commitments to customers.

Discovering regional shipping options: Advantages for small businesses

Venturing beyond the realm of major carriers reveals a plethora of regional shipping choices that can provide small businesses with cost-effective solutions and enhanced customer satisfaction.

These carriers, although not as well-known as national giants, often offer more competitive pricing and personalized service. They tend to be more adaptable and responsive to the specific needs of small businesses, fostering a closer relationship that is oftentimes lacking with larger carriers.

A man standing on a ladder at a warehouse loading dock

Utilizing regional carriers can deliver some major advantages, such as:

  • Quicker delivery times in specific areas, improving your overall customer experience and potentially increasing customer loyalty.
  • Negotiable rates and services, which can be advantageous for small businesses mindful of their budget.

Exploring these regional options can unveil unexpected cost savings and services that perfectly align with the adventurous and caring ethos of a small ecommerce business.

Emerging carriers on the rise: Pandion, Sway, and Veho

The shipping industry is experiencing a wave of innovative carriers like Pandion, Sway, and Veho, each introducing tailored solutions for the modern ecommerce merchant.

These carriers are revolutionizing logistics with a focus on technology and customer-centric approaches, offering small businesses alternative options that better cater to their evolving needs.


For growing brands, shipping with Pandion is the fastest way to diversify your parcel network. Pandion's deeply diversified network of 15+ and counting final-mile partners — that's 500,000+ drivers — delivers to 84% of homes nationwide.

Packages in the back of a van
Image source: Pandion

Unlike other final-mile providers, Pandion uniquely manages the entire package journey for you, handling all of the transporting and sorting of packages through its owned sort centers — so you don't have to. Transportation teams choose Pandion to improve redundancy and mitigate risk, reduce time in transit, and lower their parcel shipping costs.


Sway enables small businesses to offer their customers a white glove delivery and returns experience. This small-but-mighty emerging carrier delivers same day, next day, more with an industry leading on-time delivery rate of 98.9%, all for less than the cost of ground.

A bright colored shipping van that says 'Got Returns?' driving down a residential road surrounded by palm trees.
Image source: Sway

If your business is looking for a differentiated customer-focused shipping experience that drives loyalty, retains revenue, and inspires repeat purchases, then Sway might be the right carrier for you.


Veho offers delivery and returns built to work better for everyone. Similar to Sway, Veho is reinventing the post-purchase experience with an industry-leading on-time delivery rate of 99% (the highest in the U.S., even during peak season), simple and transparent pricing, and exceptional customer experience.

A man in a bright yellow safety vest standing next to a woman in a parking lot, loading Hello Fresh boxes into a car
Image source: Bloomberg

With personalized delivery and real time support, you can take back control of your delivery experience.

Embracing these emerging carriers not only aligns with small business values but also positions your brand at the forefront of innovation and customer service excellence.

Choosing the right carrier for your unique business needs

Choosing the right shipping partner is crucial for your small ecommerce businesses, as it can significantly impact operations and customer satisfaction. Historically, small- to medium-sized businesses only had access to major players which often fail to cater to their unique needs.

Considerations such as cost-effectiveness, delivery speed, reliability, and scalability are extremely important for entrepreneurs, as well as other factors like  product types, average order volumes, and customer demographics – all of which are often overlooked by larger, more traditional carriers.

A man smiling in a warehouse while pushing a cart full of ecommerce orders

As a small business, it's important to select a shipping partner that aligns with your brand values and promises to customers. Now with more options, you can opt for the flexibility of a regional carrier, or the innovation of an emerging entity, that better complement your business's ethos.

By partnering with the right carrier, your business can navigate the shipping landscape with confidence, ensuring products are delivered with care and precision.

Incorporating shipping strategies into your ecommerce platform

Implementing a strong shipping strategy within an ecommerce platform is vital to thrive in the expansive online market.

This involves selecting a diverse range of carriers to provide customers with flexibility, affordability, and reliability. By integrating carriers that resonate with your brand's essence and genuine values, you can successfully craft a seamless and welcoming shopping experience.

As part of this strategic initiative, small ecommerce businesses can leverage shipping management technology like Parsel to optimize shipping processes. Parsel powered by Saltbox offers innovative solutions that empower small businesses to expand and evolve in the ever-changing ecommerce landscape:

âś” Competitive shipping rates across national, regional, and emerging carriers

âś” Access to local and regional carriers, typically reserved for only large brands

âś” Workflow suggestions to optimize your pick-and-pack process

By utilizing these resources, you can ensure that your shipping strategy not only serves as a necessary backend operation but also as a pivotal element of your brand's engaging and caring narrative.

If you're a current Saltbox member, learn more about how you can use Parsel to ship from your suite.

If you're an ecommerce company shipping from your home, learn more about how you can schedule on-demand package pickups and save 30% on shipping with Parsel.

About Saltbox

Saltbox offers a cozy and practical spot for small to medium-sized ecommerce businesses looking for a mix of warehouse and co-working space. Think of our spaces as a blend of a functional warehouse and a trendy co-working area, complete with all the essentials like conference rooms, kitchens, and comfy lounges—perfect for both storing goods and getting work done.

We take the hassle out of logistics with accessible loading docks and our helpful staff who can manage your shipments and inventory for you. Plus, our flexible logistics services are designed to adapt to your business needs, whether you need help by the hour or prefer a dedicated team to handle your orders. Saltbox is here to make your business operations smoother and help you focus on growing your enterprise.

Come check out the space, book a tour today!

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