One of the important lessons learned from the recent supply chain upheaval has been that the old ways of logistics just aren’t sustainable. Everything from inventory management to customer experience is being looked at with a fresh set of eyes, looking for solutions that can keep deliveries flowing while giving customers a reason to come back for more.
A key point of frustration for eCommerce brands has been the heavy price of cross-country shipping. With products sent to customers all over the world, packages make multiple stops at different warehouses and distribution centers, all with their own rates and processing fees. As the item approaches its final destination, these expenses start to stack up, potentially driving away sales to competitors with cheaper shipping rates.
Rising shipping costs show no signs of slowing down, and eCommerce brands eagerly seek out new ways of getting their products from point A to point B in a way that’s reliable and cost-effective. With all the pressure to find alternate delivery methods, some brands have adopted parcel zone skipping as a way to reduce the cost of last mile shipping.
What are Delivery Zones?
Delivery zones are the geographic areas a carrier ships packages. Typically, the more zones a package passes through, the higher its shipping cost.
While the general structure of shipping zones is similar across carriers, they aren’t the same for every delivery. A package’s origin is designated as Zone 1, with the zone numbers increasing as the delivery destination gets further away. For example, if you shipped an item from San Francisco to St. Louis, San Francisco would be considered Zone 1, and St. Louis would be considered Zone 7.
This is why online brands can provide benefits like free shipping to customers in their warehouse’s immediate area. Without the need to pass through any outside distribution centers, shipping costs can remain low. When sending parcels across the country, however, delivery zones can become a hurdle when trying to keep up with customer expectations and competitor prices. That’s why so many brands are looking into zone skipping as a more affordable fulfillment strategy.
What is Zone Skipping?
Rather than shipping individual parcels, zone skipping involves consolidating your many ready-to-mail packages into a single truckload, then sending the shipment to a specific zone as one. From there, the individual items can be distributed to customers at a closer proximity, with the shipping cost reflecting only one delivery zone.
If you’re sending products from California to customers in New York, you can send the items directly to the New York area. Customers then pay for shipping in a single zone, instead of paying for a cross-country shipment.
By sending an entire shipment or orders to a single zone, you avoid the financial burden of multi-zone shipping. For brands struggling to keep up with the low-cost shipping options offered by competitors like Amazon, zone skipping presents a distribution method that can provide an avenue for a lower cost of shipping.
Not only does this lower the price for your customer, but the closer your items are to their doorstep, the quicker they’ll be able to arrive. Since the order is already in the customer’s delivery zone, they can expect the parcel to arrive in a matter of days.
When to Consider Zone Skipping
While zone skipping is a great way to get products to customers quicker and for a smaller price, it might not be an ideal solution for every eCommerce brand. Let’s take a look at when online retailers should consider zone skipping as a feasible fulfillment strategy.
Cross Country Shipments
If you’re regularly sending orders to customers on the other side of the continent, zone skipping offers clear opportunities to help your brand excel. However, if your primary customer base exists locally, or is just a zone or two away, sending orders to that delivery zone might not be worth the investment.
To determine if zone skipping is the right choice for your brand, you’ll need to calculate the cost of shipping grouped packages combined with the expense of delivering each product to its destination. If that amount is less than sending each item individually, then zone skipping might be worth looking into more.
Large Order & Product Volume
For zone skipping to make financial sense, you’ll need to ship enough products to fill an entire container. If you haven’t built a substantial enough customer base in the zone you’re shipping to, you might be paying to move products that will just sit on a shelf.
However, if your order volume isn’t high enough to justify a full semi-trailer, carriers might be able to accommodate a pairing of your shipment with another brand. By consolidating the two shipments, the container can be filled enough to make the trip cost effective. This service might not be available with every carrier, so it’s important to check whether zone skipping is possible with your specific shipping partner.
Product Tracking Capabilities
One of the major disadvantages of zone skipping is that it makes tracking packages a little more complicated. Since you’re sending items to another location before their final distribution, your carrier might not be able to provide the most accurate information about when the delivery is likely to be completed.
That’s why it’s important to have quality reporting and visibility tools in place before you opt for zone skipping. That way, you and your customers will never be left in the dark when it comes to where products are on their delivery journey.
Parcel zone skipping keeps the cost of shipping low while cutting down on delivery time. This dual advantage has made it one of the more popular fulfillment strategies as brands continue to grapple with supply chain challenges.
If your online store has a cross-country customer base with a high order volume, parcel zone skipping might be the shipping solution you’re looking for.
If you’re looking for a fulfillment partner to help optimize your delivery process, contact the Fulfillment Experts at ShipHero today.
Ryan Bennet Vice President Sales, Fulfillment
About the author: Ryan Bennett is the Vice President of Fulfillment Sales at ShipHero. He is responsible for the overall growth of ShipHero Fulfillment by managing the fulfillment sales team. Bennett’s strengths come from being able to relate to anyone and embracing new challenges, as well as an unrelenting sense of determination and the ability to resist rejection. As a leader at ShipHero, he believes that an outstanding leader should be the #1 cheerleader for their team and try to highlight each team members’ unique skills. Plus, he believes in leading by example and being involved on the ground floor. Ryan’s passion for business comes from solving logistical problems, learning about clients’ unique businesses and meeting new and interesting people. Other areas of interest include start-ups, equality, the environment and painting.