The Difference Between Standard & Flat Rate Shipping Explained

Are you confused between standard shipping and flat-rate shipping? When launching an eCommerce website, there are a number of essential, operational questions that must be answered. An efficient shipping strategy is essential for getting your items to customers on schedule and without a lot of stress or wasted effort.

Shipping costs are most likely the highest expenses incurred by eCommerce businesses. The total delivery process is significantly impacted by the mode of shipping utilized. So, it’s crucial to have a well-thought-out shipping plan that cuts costs where it counts.

When it comes to shipping options, there are two main categories: standard shipping and flat rate shipping. People usually tend to confuse these two shipping methods.

Businesses that want to keep things simple in terms of shipping and fulfillment often opt for flat-rate delivery. However, this does not necessarily imply that offering flat-rate shipping is the best choice for every e-commerce company out there.

Shipping options might impact the decision of current or prospective customers to purchase from your business. While flat-rate shipping can save you money, it may not be flexible enough to meet the demands of all businesses. This is where standard shipping comes into play.

In this article, we’ll break down the key differences between these shipping options so you can pick the one that best suits your needs and budget.

What Does Flat Rate Shipping Mean?

What Does Flat Rate Shipping Mean?

The term “flat rate” shipping refers to the fact that the cost of shipping is not related in any way to the dimensions, weight, or shape of the product being shipped. It depends on how much you can fit into the flat rate shipping box dimensions that are provided by the shipping provider.

Shipping costs can be kept low by opting for flat-rate shipping, where the price is not determined by the volume of the box being shipped. As long as you remain below the box’s weight limit, you won’t be charged any additional fees, regardless of how much your package weighs.

Most major shipping companies offer their own unique flat-rate shipping plans. When it comes to eCommerce shipping, choosing a flat rate shipping strategy for your package could either save you money or cause you to spend more, based on the dimensions of the package and the shipping timeline.

What Does Standard Shipping Mean?

What Does Standard Shipping Mean?

Standard shipping is the least expensive option for shipment that a courier provides. Without the added speed benefits of express shipping, standard shipping is essentially a slow but inexpensive and reliable method of shipping.

Standard shipping takes a few more days to deliver your items; however, express shipping alternatives can assure that they will be delivered the very next day or within two days at max. Because it is more affordable, people who are looking for shipping options that are easy on their wallets, and the delivery timeline isn’t important, appreciate standard shipping.

Standard shipping timeframes change based on the shipping company you select throughout the checkout process. Delivery times for standard shipping might range from one to five days, depending on the origin and destination of the shipment.

Difference Between Standard & Flat Rate Shipping

Although the terms “standard shipping” and “flat-rate shipping” are frequently used interchangeably in conversations regarding e-commerce shipping because both are cost-effective in their own ways, they actually refer to two quite different strategies for shipping economically.

When shipping multiple identical items, or items of a particularly large or small size, the flat delivery rate is often the most convenient option. There is a possibility that the flat rate shipping fees will change depending on the time zone and location of the destination. But other than that, the shipping rates remain the same.

The most common approach that companies take when sending products out to buyers is to employ a shipping service that charges a standard rate. Unlike flat rate shipping, the shipping costs are calculated based on many parameters, including the delivery address’s zip code, the package’s dimensions and weight, the recipient’s time zone, and so on. 

To keep shipping costs low, many companies use standard shipping, even when it significantly increases expected delivery timeframes. In addition, it considers many factors, such as the package’s dimensions, weight, and shipping destination, while calculating prices.

This means that while standard shipping is typically the least expensive, the actual cost to the customer can vary widely depending on the specifics of their order.

However, factors like dimensional weight, volume, and destination (usually) are not accounted for in flat-rate pricing. By doing so, businesses may reduce the likelihood of shipping-related surprises and keep prices down for both themselves and their customers.

Some of the key differences between flat-rate shipping and standard shipping include:

Flat Rate ShippingStandard Shipping
Shipping prices are always fixed, based on the shipping carrier.Rates for shipping can be determined individually based on a variety of factors.
Faster ShippingEconomic shipping with longer delivery timeframes
Affordable shipping based on local destination limits and package sizeIncludes international shipping and supports multiple destinations.
Perfect for big businesses that regularly ship similarly sized ItemsBenefits small businesses due to its flexible yet affordable shipping options.
Every shipment has the same price, reducing confusion when it comes to shipping costs.Cost variation across service levels.
Suitable for shipping multiple types of identical shipmentsSuitable for shipping a wide range of product varieties.

Pros and Cons of Standard & Flat Rate Shipping

There are advantages and disadvantages to both ground shipping and flat-rate shipping. Here are a few main pros and cons of each:

Pros of the flat-rate shipping strategy:

  • Standardized shipping rates – Each package is charged the same flat rate, regardless of its size or contents. 
  • Streamlined shipping process – Flat-rate shipping eliminates the need to keep track of weight, dimensions, and unit costs, which can greatly streamline the shipping process.
  • Make promotions easier – Although offering time-sensitive discounts and sales is a great marketing technique, it may not be feasible to do so if shipping prices fluctuate wildly among various products. By locking up your shipping expenses at a flat rate, you can reliably advertise sales like free shipping or special deals while still retaining a healthy profit margin.
  • Economical and time-saving – It saves time and money since human mistakes, such as underestimating or overestimating quantities, are less likely to occur.
  • Transparency – Flat rate shipping eliminates the biggest factor in shopping cart abandonment by customers: unexpected delivery costs. Flat-rate shipping provides both customers and businesses with the transparency they expect, offering an understandable overview of the different costs associated with the shipment.
  • Carrier packaging – Packaging services are also available from several companies that charge a flat rate for shipping. With this method, you can reduce the time it takes to deliver products to customers without sacrificing quality.

Cons of the flat-rate shipping strategy:

  • Limitations on flat-rate box sizes – It’s important to take into account the dimensions of the customer’s order before finalizing the delivery method and cost, as flat-rate shipping packages and boxes typically come in only a small range of sizes. In case the products do not fit in the predetermined box sizes, you will have to ship using some other method.
  • Costlier in some circumstances – In the event that not every single product is identical and will always ship in the same manner, there will be situations in which you might save money by choosing the ground shipping option.
  • Unbranded packages – You will miss out on the opportunity to ship with branded packaging if you use the flat-rate packing services provided by a shipping carrier. But some carriers allow you to use your own packaging as long as it matches the dimensions. 

Pros of the standard shipping strategy:

  • Can be used for uneven and irregular product sizes – Custom shipping rate calculation is available with standard shipping thus enabling you to ship products that do not fit into the predefined flat rate boxes, on a budget. Standard shipping costs less, therefore, using individualized quotations to ship could save you money.
  • No location restrictions – Unlike flat-rate shipping, there are no limitations on where the product can be shipped, making it ideal for globally operating businesses.
  • Creative control over the branding – Standard shipping enables you to use your own packaging materials, thus giving you full control over the branding.
  • Never overpay for shipping – Standard shipping only charges for the actual weight and size of your delivery, whereas flat-rate shipping may overcharge you for certain shipments due to its predetermined package specifications.

Cons of the standard shipping strategy:

  • Longer delivery timeframes – In contrast to Standard Shipping, which can take anywhere from three to seven days, Flat rate Shipping packages are delivered in as little as two to four days. Standard delivery has lengthier delivery times than flat-rate shipping because products are usually transported by road.
  • Needs manual measurements – Standard shipping requires you to measure each package individually, which increases the likelihood of manual errors and the time needed to initiate each shipment.
  • There is no standard shipping cost – The shipping rate differs with each shipment, and it isn’t as easily predictable as it is with flat rate shipping.

How to Determine If Standard or Flat Rate Shipping Is Better for You?

How to Determine If Standard shipping or Flat Rate Shipping Is Better for You?

To begin, flat-rate shipping is a suitable option for large businesses that have to send out a large number of goods that are nearly identical to one another locally. Standard shipping, on the other hand, is better suited for small businesses that want customized quotes. 

There are advantages and disadvantages to both the flat-rate and the standard shipping methods. This indicates that you need to make a choice based on the needs of your company and the requirements it has.

Make a calculated choice after thinking about how it would affect your business in terms of things like coverage, clientele, and more.

To Wrap Up

We hope this article has given you a clear understanding of the standard and flat rate shipping methods and the key differences between the two.

While the key differences between the two rates may appear insignificant at first, making the right choice early on can end up saving a substantial amount of money over the long run.

If you want to enable both flat rate and standard shipping for your eCommerce store, you can use the ELEX EasyPost Shipping & Label Printing Plugin to do so. It enables you to offer standard shipping for USPS, UPS, FedEx, UPS DAP, UPS SurePost, and Canada Post, and flat rate shipping for USPS and FedEx.

If you have any questions regarding standard or flat rate shipping, please let us know in the comments section below.

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