The United States Postal Service’s Priority Mail Regional Rate shipping can save ecommerce businesses money and deliver orders somewhat more quickly than similar services.
First introduced in 2011, USPS Priority Mail Regional Rate shipping combines aspects of the postal service’s popular Priority Mail with zone-based or distance-to-destination pricing to reduce shipping costs to commercial senders, like online retailers. Shippers get free boxes, which can be a significant cost savings; the order is guaranteed to be delivered in two or three days; and the actual cost of shipping is often lower.
5 Regional Rate Boxes
Similar to other USPS Priority Mail services, Regional Rate shipments are packaged in postal service-supplied boxes. These boxes come in five sizes, which in turn are divided into three pricing categories: A, B, and C.
- Regional Rate A Boxes – Maximum 15 pounds
- Side loading – 11 1⁄16″ x 2 1⁄2″ x 13 1⁄16″
- Top loading – 10 1⁄8″ x 7 1⁄8″ x 5″
- Regional Rate B Boxes – Maximum 20 pounds
- Side loading – 14 1⁄2″ x 3″ x 16 1⁄4″
- Top loading – 12 1⁄4″ x 10 1⁄2″ x 5 1⁄2″
- Regional Rate C Box – Maximum 25 pounds
- Top loading – 15″ x 12″ x 12″
3 Ways to Save with Regional Rate Shipping
The USPS Priority Mail Regional Rate shipping service gives ecommerce businesses three opportunities to “save” on shipping, including saving on packaging, saving delivery time (in some cases), and saving money on shipping costs.
Free Boxes Reduce Packaging Expenses
The first, but, perhaps, least obvious savings comes from using USPS-supplied boxes. As mentioned above, there are five shapes or sizes of Regional Rate boxes. If a shipper had to buy these boxes, they would roughly cost between about 65 cents for the top-loading Regional Rate A box, which probably is the least expensive of the five, to something like $2.00 for a side-loading, self-adhesive Regional Rate A box, which is the most expensive of the group.
If you assumed an average box cost of $1.00, an ecommerce shipper sending 500 packages per month this way would save $6,000 per year in packaging, using the free USPS Regional Rate boxes.
Regional Rate Shipments Save Delivery Time
Because Regional Rate shipments are a subset of USPS Priority Mail Service, they are guaranteed to be delivered in two to three days and they include free Saturday delivery. What’s more, when sent regionally they can often arrive in just one or two days.
As an example, if a shipper in Salt Lake City, Utah sent an item to Las Vegas, Nev. on a Friday via the USPS Regional Rate service, that package would likely arrive on Saturday, the next day.
A similar package sent via a ground service may not arrive until the following Monday or Tuesday, meaning that in some cases, Regional Rate shipping could cut delivery times by a day or two.
This is a fairly specific example. The same orders sent on a Tuesday might not be delivered any more quickly. Even in the worst of scenarios, Regional Rate shipping is not slower than competitive ground services.
Some Packages Ship for Less
Although USPS Priority Mail Regional Rate boxes may be shipping to and from anywhere in the United States, as the name implies, the Regional Rate service works best when a shipper is sending packages a relatively short distance.
Imagine that a series of packages are sent from Caldwell, Idaho to Salt Lake City, Utah. The USPS considers this a Zone 3 shipment.
I compared rates for a top-loading, 12 1⁄4″ x 10 1⁄2″ x 5 1⁄2″ Regional Rate B box against a 12” x 12” x 5 ½” USPS Priority Mail Large Flat Rate box and a 13” x 11” x 6” standard box sent via UPS.
The rates I used for the comparison are the carrier’s published rates as of September 27, 2015. Shippers with negotiated rates could pay significantly less. It is also worth mentioning that if shipped on any day except Friday, all of the services would, in most cases, be delivered in one day.
For a 20-pound shipment, the Regional Rate B box could save the sender as much as $13.74 on shipping and, approximately, $14.74 on the entire shipment.
As the shipment weight comes down, UPS ground will be increasingly competitive, but the USPS Regional Rate B box will still save shippers roughly $11.67 on a 15-pound package versus UPS and about $8.55 versus USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate.
For a 10-pound package, the Caldwell-based shipper could still save as much as $9.46.
By the time the example order has dropped to one pound, it would incur dimensional weight pricing at UPS. so that Regional Rate shipping is roughly $8.40 and $8.55 less than UPS ground and USPS Large Flat Rate, respectively.
Use USPS Regional Rate Shipping Selectively
USPS Regional Rate shipping is not a panacea. Rather, shippers should consider Regional Rate on orders in zones 1 to 5. Beyond these, other services like USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate, ground shipping from UPS or FedEx, or even hybrid services like FedEx SmartPost will rapidly become less expensive than Regional Rate shipping.
Similarly, the Regional Rate weight limits of 15 pounds on A boxes, 20 pounds on B boxes, and 25 pounds on the C box, mean it cannot work for every shipment.
But when used selectively, USPS Regional Rate shipping will save your ecommerce business money and delivery time.