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Definition of Courier Service

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As a small business owner, you have various reasons to use a local courier or local messenger service. You might even contemplate acting as your own delivery person or adding a delivery driver to your payroll, but would either option be wise? Using a courier or delivery person comes with pros and cons that can affect your bottom line and the way you do business.


In short, a courier service handles the exchange of items between parties, such as when a retail business ships an order to a customer (B2C) or a manufacturer sends supplies or documents to a business (B2B).

Definition of a Courier

Couriers are the folks hired by courier companies to deliver, well, anything tangible, including mail, parcels and even pallets of goods – nothing illegal, of course. To avoid recourse, couriers look for signs of prohibited items by the packaging, such as with leaky, steak-sized parcels wrapped in butcher paper or wine bottle-shaped packages adorned with celebratory stickers; they also have senders sign a "terms and conditions" agreement, making them aware of the blame they face if they break the rules.

Courier Service Examples

Household-name couriers include the United States Postal Service (USPS), the United Postal Service of America (UPS) and FedEx. Other examples of delivery services are Santa Monica Express, DeliverLA and Ziply courier. With consumers spending billions of dollars shopping online annually, delivery is an even more necessary part of doing business than it was in years past.

What Courier Services Offer

Large, average-sized and one-man-show courier companies offer features that might appeal to certain users more than others. For example, an entrepreneur who sells handmade, stained-glass products would be smart to choose a delivery company that offers white-glove service, across the country or worldwide. A pizza parlor, on the other hand, might prefer a local courier known for speedy deliveries. If you have to get a small package or piece of mail across a traffic-clogged city quickly, a bicycle courier may be the best bet.

What about sending important documents like marriage certificates or extremely valuable items, such as diamond rings? In either case, a sender might opt to use a large, trusted courier service with a proven track record, guaranteed delivery time and top-notch insurance policy.

DIY Delivery Options

Sometimes, small business owners choose to handle their own local deliveries of, perhaps, handcrafted furniture or artwork, rather than hire a courier service. Employing your own courteous driver at an hourly wage could be worthwhile, if you receive plenty of orders to keep her busy and she knows her way around town well enough not to get lost.

If you sell items that couriers won't or can't deliver, such as dairy products, livestock or plants, be creative and economical. Maybe you'll offer your customers a discount for pickup – especially wise if your venture is miles from town – or provide delivery, but only with minimum order purchases, such as five dozen eggs or more.

Considering Courier Costs

The way one courier service charges its users can differ from how another determines cost, substantially impacting, say, businesses that offer free shipping. For instance, a company that often ships small but heavy items, such as engine parts, socket sets or kettlebells could benefit from paying a flat rate based on box size – small, medium or large – regardless of weight. In this case, retailers usually prosper from bundled sales, such as by implementing buy one, get one free (BOGO) tactics or encouraging multiple sales (the more you buy, the more you save.)

Conversely, a small business that sells relatively large, lightweight items such as down pillows might choose a delivery company that charges a flat fee of, maybe, $3 for any medium-sized item under two pounds.

In either case, paying a flat rate makes it easy for companies to build the cost of "free" shipping into each item and to calculate their shipping expenses at year's end.

The Importance of Couriers

With e-commerce booming and busy consumers looking to save time and money, choosing a method of delivery is more of a necessity than an option. Finding the savviest, most economical way to deliver your goods is advantageous, whether that means employing a driver to get your products from point A to point B locally or using a professional courier service to ship your items anywhere, anytime.


Lorna Hordos is a home-flipping business owner and freelance writer. She writes friendly, conversational business, home and lifestyle articles for Bizfluent, azcentral, Daltile, Marazzi, Lowes, Philips Lighting, and numerous other publications.

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