Zone Shipping for eCommerce & Subscription Box: What You Need to Know

zone shipping

What is zone shipping?

Zone shipping means shipping products to distinct destinations defined by geographical areas to optimize your time-to-home and shipping costs. The shipping costs are based on the total weight of the merchandise and how many zones it needs to pass through until it reaches the final destination. Shipping carriers, like USPS, use shipping zones to measure the distance a package travels between the first zone and every zone a package goes through until it is delivered, with the 8th zone being the furthest.

An Example of Zone Shipping

Say a business is located in Florida and ships products throughout the entire United States through self-fulfillment. That business could set up a zone, created by a cluster of zip codes, for every destination that they need to ship to. Prices can be set for all the weight ranges for each zone.

Shipping Zones in General

These are the geographical regions that carriers transport packages to based off of defined clusters of zip codes. There are often 8 zones, with zone 1 being the closest to where the package is shipping form. Carriers will use these shipping zones to determine the distance travelled by the package and know the weight so they can charge the corresponding price.

USPS Shipping Zones

Several small and medium businesses prefer using USPS since it is very reliable and cheap. The USPS has eight shipping zones that companies can use to estimate how to charge for the shipping costs. The different zones have the distance for each specific zone with zone eight being the farthest from the supplier.

How Zone Shipping Works

Let’s take a deeper look into understanding zone shipping and how to strategically plan so businesses can get the best shipping prices and time-to-home.

How to Calculate the Shipping Zones

Zones will be estimated depending on where the merchandise is coming from. When a customer orders two packages, but the packages ship from two different locations, then the zones could be different. To get an estimate of your shipping zone, you can navigate to USPS domestic zone chart listed below.

Click on ‘Get zone for ZIP code pair.’ Import both zip codes, where the package is shipping from, and where the package is going to be delivered to. From that, the shipping zone will be determined.

Does Zone Shipping Affect Cost?

Carrier companies will use zones to estimate the rates for the services they deliver. Some companies are, however, lenient enough to allow customers to pay a flat rate regardless of where the package is going as long as they are in America. USPS shows the zoned services and the services that are not zoned. What you should already be aware of is that the bigger the zone, the higher the cost for the customer. 

What you should already be aware of is that the bigger the zone, the higher the cost for the customer. 

How Order Weight Impacts Shipping Cost

Shipping rates will also be dependent on the order dimensions and weight of a package. All businesses are directly affected by the distance to be covered. You should be aware that the heavier the package, the pricier it will be to ship.

Shipping carriers will typically estimate the weight of a package from the width, length, and height by looking at the longest point. The higher number between the calculated dimensional weight and the actual weight of the merchandise will be picked for the shipping cost.

How Do Companies Provide Free Shipping?

It may not seem to make a lot of sense to offer free delivery services across the board. What about packages that need to go all the way to zone 8? Well, companies that apply this technique are usually very articulate with their estimations so that they do not suffer any losses. Companies will use any of these three methods to cover for that shipping cost:

  1. The shipping cost is added on to the price of the product.
  2. The companies will only need a minimum of a dollar to be spent by the customer.
  3. The firms bring down the number of zones they ship products to.

Do shipping zones influence the delivery speed?

Nearby customers will receive their packages the quickest. They could even receive the merchandise the very day they place the order. That is unlikely for packages going to far off zones such as zone eight. You should ensure that you try as much as possible to bring down the transit time to the shortest time possible. Delayed deliveries could cost you loyal customers. The majority of customers expect fast deliveries and affordability from your business. Studies show that 24% of customers will automatically scrub an order because of slow shipping.

Studies show that 24% of customers will automatically scrub an order because of slow shipping.

Best Region to Fulfill Orders From in the United States

Companies should try to choose a location that is close to it’s customers. That can be determined easily by looking at the past orders. Tracking data from past customers is a great way to determine the best geographical positions to ship from. Most businesses find that outsourcing fulfillment is the best way to get the most affordable shipping weights. Fulfillment providers located in vast towns where there are many people such as Denver, CO or Atlanta, GA are ideal. This allows business owners to reach as many potential customers as possible.

Final Thoughts

To most, zone shipping creates a major headache. The more complex a business becomes, the trickier it can be to map out the most optimal shipping zones. Making the decision to bring in help is a smart decision for companies that are scaling beyond a 50-100 orders a day. If you own a business that is on an upward trend and are ready to partner with a third-party fulfillment provider, reach out to QuickBox Fulfillment today!