While the field of ecommerce sellers grows more and more crowded, companies are resorting to more and more drastic measures to attract customer’s business. Offers of free shipping abound, but these can be very harmful to your bottom line. UPS and FedEx both increased their shipping rates at the end of 2011 to the tune of about 5 percent. Higher shipping costs have made free shipping – once the ace-in-the-hole enticement of just about every ecommerce store – virtually impossible.

Fortunately there is hope.

Hybrid shipping involves mixing two different delivery services for delivery of your customers’ orders. FedEx SmartPost is a perfect example of this shipping method.

For large shippers (those who ship more than 500 residential packages per day), the process even includes a pick-up service. A FedEx contractor will pick up goods from your fulfillment center and take them to one of the 25 SmartPost hubs in the United States. A ground truck will then deliver the package to the hub nearest to the delivery address. From there, a FedEx contractor delivers the shipment to a U.S. Post Office near your customer and a USPS truck will finish the delivery to your customer’s front door step.

This allows shippers to take advantage of USPS’ unparalleled reach (to the tune of 119 million residences in all U.S. territories, P.O. boxes, FPO, APO, DPO) while also utilizing FedEx’s highly efficient delivery network.

The benefits don’t end with efficient delivery.

According to a 2004 Harris poll, 91 percent of online shoppers considered a strong return policy an important factor when making a purchase decision. SmartPost used that information as much of their basis for their super-simplified return service. SmartPost includes:

  • Prepaid USPS-integrated return shipping label with every outgoing package
  • USPS daily pickup options Monday-Saturday
  • FedEx reliable network ensures faster returns
  • Return shipment visibility through FedEx Insight, which allows your customers to see the status of their return.

Delivery using SmartPost can reduce shipment costs by up to 50 percent and the service has a 98-percent on-time delivery rate for packages delivered through USPS’ destination delivery units.

UPS SurePost is very similar and is being bred to take over the UPS Basic service. Like SmartPost, UPS’ service will utilize the USPS for the final step of delivery and will mostly be tailored to high-volume shippers.

UPS Mail Innovations Services is another great option for reducing your total shipping costs. Mail Innovations uses a partnership with USPS as well, but in this model, UPS handles labeling and sorting functions, which are usually managed by USPS and carry a premium. UPS’ handling of these functions allows them to pass off savings to their clients. This service also carries the unique characteristic of being available for international shipments as well, something that SmartPost and SurePost do not offer.

Shipping rates are rising faster than the mercury in a thermometer on a Central Texas summer day, but with hybrid shipping, you can put your delivery problems on ice. These services offer your company a convenient way to offer affordable and reliable shipping so you don’t have to scare away you customers with exorbitant shipping charges or lose out on the bottom line by offering impractical discounts.