What Is Free Ground Shipping?

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Free ground shipping is offered by many e-commerce sites as an incentive for the buyer. Many sites offer free shipping as a service after a single order has crossed a certain dollar threshold. The United States Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx all offer domestic ground delivery options that are used by many businesses and consumers alike. These ground options are typically chosen by companies offering free shipping promotions on their websites.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Free ground shipping refers to domestic deliveries that travel between sorting facilities to the destination via a truck. These services may take longer than priority services that use air mail.

Ground Shipping Meaning

After an item is ordered, the shipper packages it for mailing and affixes ground shipping postage either in a mailing unit operated by the business or at a retail shipping counter. The item is picked up by an authorized carrier for the shipping service or dropped off at a mailing center.

At the end of the business day for the shipping center, the package is sent via truck to a larger facility where it is sorted based on its destination. After the sorting, all ground shipments leave via truck and travel to another sorting facility closer to the package's destination.

UPS Ground Shipping

E-commerce sites and businesses with higher price-points commonly offer free shipping with UPS Ground delivery after an order reaches a certain point, such as orders of $50 or more. This is because UPS Ground shipping is a guaranteed service for packages, meaning companies know in advance the exact date when their package will arrive at the home of a recipient. This type of date-specific service is only offered through UPS and FedEx with ground shipments.

FedEx Ground Delivery

FedEx offers a business delivery service via ground shipment. This service provides day-definite delivery. Businesses offering free ground shipping to other businesses prefer to use services which provide them with a definitive delivery date to tell the recipient. The one- to five-day delivery window of FedEx business ground delivery does.

FedEx Home Delivery

FedEx Home Delivery is a service used when a website provides free ground shipping. This service is very similar to its business version, but with a purely residential focus. Home Delivery offers one- to five-day delivery between 9:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. The delivery is day-specific and can accommodate packages up to 70 pounds.

USPS Retail Ground

The USPS does not have a specific service labeled for ground shipping, but the USPS service Retail Ground is typically considered a ground service because of the wide two-day to eight-day delivery window quoted by USPS for most locations.

Many packages shipped via direct mail companies with free ground shipping use the USPS Retail Ground service. Products offered as free trials with free ground shipping and money back guarantees are commonly sent via this method. Smaller e-commerce businesses that offer free shipping use Retail Ground over Priority Mail to reduce expenses in many cases.

USPS Media Mail

USPS Media Mail is a parcel service and is also commonly referred to as a ground delivery method despite being not being specifically labeled as one. Like Retail Ground, Media Mail has a wide delivery window of two to eight days and does not receive the preferential handling Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express mail services do. Many companies and publishing houses that ship books to customers, in particular free trial books with free shipping, use Media Mail.

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About the Author

Ashley Mott has 12 years of small business management experience and a BSBA in accounting from Columbia. She is a full-time government and public safety reporter for Gannett.

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