What is a Courier Service?

Learn about the differences between courier services and shipping carriers, and whether your business should use a courier service to deliver products
what is a courier service
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When it comes to setting up an eCommerce operation, small business owners might come across courier services and wonder how they might fit into the equation. One common question we get asked is, “Should my business use a courier service instead of a major shipping carrier?” If you’re asking yourself the same question, Shipping School has got you covered. This guide is all about what courier services are—along with their pros and cons—and will help you figure out whether your business should use one.

Table of Contents

Defining What Courier Services Are

First thing first: let’s start with definitions. A courier service is a company that specializes in the door-to-door delivery of packages, documents, and other goods. Simply put, they help you get packages from Point A to Point B quickly and efficiently.

Courier companies typically focus on hyper-local regions; for instance, a lot of couriers only service the city or town they’re located in. This means that couriers are a great option for businesses that require frequent deliveries within a smaller area. However, if you have customers all over the country, couriers won’t be able to get your products in all of their hands the same way a shipping carrier can…but we’ll get into that in a bit.

Lastly, courier services typically assign one person to handle and transport your parcel throughout its entire journey. As a result, courier services come with an added layer of security. This makes courier services popular with other businesses outside of eCommerce, such as law practices, real estate firms, and others.

Are These Services Different From Shipping Carriers?

Couriers are different from shipping carriers based on the amount of ground that shipping carriers cover, and the number of customers they reach. Shipping carriers such as USPS, UPS, and FedEx operate on a national scale. UPS and FedEx even operate on an international scale! They serve hundreds of millions of customers each day, and billions of packages pass through their networks. As a result, companies like these are the go-to shipping carriers for eCommerce businesses with customers that are spread across the country or around the world.

A courier service simply can’t provide the same level of delivery infrastructure that a major carrier can; the two companies serve entirely different markets.

The Advantages of Using a Courier

We’ve listed out the main advantages of using a courier instead of a shipping carrier below:

  • Quicker delivery times: Couriers operate within small, specific regions. Since this is the case, they can provide quicker and more efficient delivery services compared to shipping carriers. This can be especially helpful for businesses that rely on time-sensitive deliveries, such as a business that sells perishable goods or sensitive documents.
  • A personalized touch: Couriers often develop close relationships with their clients, providing a level of customer service that may be lacking with larger shipping carriers. This personalized approach can foster greater reliability and trust, which is great for establishing a strong presence in a community.

The Disadvantages

The main disadvantages of using couriers over shipping carriers are the cost and the market limitations. Shipping carriers have huge networks and infrastructure in place. As a result, they can deliver millions of packages without a huge cost burden to their customers. In fact, shipping carriers work to keep their services as affordable as possible, so that small businesses can thrive.

Couriers, on the other hand, are typically more expensive, because they provide more of a customized service. While shipping carriers’ delivery times might be longer than what some couriers offer, lower prices make it almost always worth it.

Should My Business Use a Courier?

Finally, it’s time to answer the million-dollar question: should your business use a courier? As is the case with most questions in the shipping industry, the answer depends on what your business needs (and where your customers are located)! If your business needs quick, reliable deliveries within a specific region, a courier service may be the right choice. On the other hand, if your customers are all over the country (or even overseas), partnering with a shipping carrier is the best bet due to their wider reach and massive delivery networks.

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