Fastlane’s Checklist to Setting Up Your eCommerce Delivery Program

What’s the best delivery program for your business? Find out with these top tips to help you structure a super-fast delivery service whether you are a-UK based business, EU, both or global.

Plan preventively using Fastlane International’s checklist:

  • Map current & future growth markets
  • Categorise products by size and weight
  • Research transit times, prices and couriers
  • Outline a comprehensive delivery & returns policy 

What markets?

There are a few differences to consider between UK and EU markets, besides currency and language. Ensuring your returns policy is compliant to both local and foreign regulations should be at the top of your list. With cross-border trading, return rates are up to 45% in some countries according to Retail Week.

Nonetheless, Retail Week expects growth overseas in the eCommerce sector to reach £45 billion by 2020. In the UK, more than half of the directors of multi-channel retail businesses reported that revenues have increased through international trade year on year.

If you decide to expand, you will need to investigate how VAT will work on a day-to-day basis. Keep in mind The Channel Islands and The Canary Islands both fall outside the EC fiscal VAT area. So, it’s important to consider where you will supply your goods and any local customs authorities involved. You’ll find more information about VAT in the sections below.

Further Reading: Read up on official exporting laws at

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Product Mix

When you look at your product mix what trends emerge? For example, if you are an eCommerce platform that specialises in baby accessories, you may be able to determine that most of your merchandise weighs less than 500 grams. Unless shoppers buy large orders or you ship in bulk, you are unlikely to need large & heavy services. However, you may find you need express delivery to the US and Canada for smaller shipments. By analysing the average weight and size of your top 50 bestselling lines, you will be better informed when selecting the right courier.

You will also want to consider local country restrictions. If you are shipping within the EU, the goods are classified as ‘dispatches’ and are not subject to customs inspections as they are in ‘free circulation’. For the most part, regulations and product standards are the same throughout the EU. Remember, VAT can apply on all your deliveries, depending on where you send goods to and from.

If you’re planning on bringing goods into the UK from outside the EU then you can find all the information on the VAT you may have to pay here.

Note: In some cases, you may be able to defer VAT for select imports. Exports outside the EU are ‘non-vatable’, which means you do not need to pay VAT, if they meet certain conditions.


Compare Couriers

Now that you’ve identified core and future growth markets and analysed your product mix, you are ready to compare couriers. What are the average transit times for each courier? Do they offer more than one delivery attempt. Remember not all couriers offer multiple delivery attempts or international pallet services.

See our table below for a comparison of the UK’s most popular sites:

Company Heavy & Large Service Max Size Max Weight for Large & Heavy UK Pallet Global Pallet Delivery Weight Limit UK Weight LimitGlobal
Fastlane International™ Yes Max length of 270 cm Max weight 50kg Yes Yes 1000kg 1000kg
Parcel Monkey Yes 70cm x 70cm x 70cm 35kg Yes No 500kg 100kg
Parcel2Go No Up to 120cm length N/A No No 25kg 20kg
Interparcel Yes Up to 120cm length 50kg Yes No 950kg 50kg

Consider how you will handle delivery surcharges. Will you simply absorb this cost in your margin or will you charge customers more to deliver to residential addresses? Keep a look out for surcharges when you are comparing couriers. The majority of couriers charge an additional fee for large and heavy parcels as well as remote area delivery. If you regularly ship to remote areas, it’s worth highlighting this in your delivery & returns policy.Research your competitor’s delivery and returns program. What couriers do they use? What services do they offer? If you have time, review customers’ feedback. Are they satisfied with the service? Can it be improved? If there is room for improvement, how you can match if not improve your delivery and returns program?


Couriers vs Post Office

There are certain scenarios when local postal services will be cheaper. For instance, the Royal Mail or the United States Post Office may offer better value for smaller mailings under 2 kilograms. Couriers are best for international shipments or larger mailings over 2 kilograms. Here’s what to keep in mind when researching the Post Office services versus international courier companies like UPS, FedEx or DHL:

Tracking Services

-Not all Post Office services automatically include tracking.

-Keep in mind, Royal Mail ‘signed for’ means you do not have full tracking visibility. You will only be notified when your parcel has been signed for at its final destination.

-Look for services that offer ‘Real-time’ scan info updates for better visibility when comparing couriers.

-Although couriers charge more for remote areas, some couriers offer three delivery attempts.

Large & Heavy Shipments

It’s important to consider health and safety standards for heavy goods. Within Europe items over 32kg require two people to lift and carry goods. For this reason, additional handling fees apply to bookings over a certain limit.

– Ocassionally, senders may need to help load and unload goods.

-For extremely heavy shipments or palletised shipments, a service with a forklift or pump truck may be required.

-The Post Office maximum weight limit is 20kg for medium parcels and 30kg for large parcels through its delivery partner, ParcelForce.

-You can send up to 1,000kg with Fastlane’s pallet service worldwide thanks to our extensive courier network.

Transit Times

While local Post Office services may be comparable to domestic courier services, the transit times between the Post Office and global couriers varies considerably.  Nonetheless, the Royal Mail’s Universal Price Agreement means they cannot charge higher rates for remote areas for standard mailings. If you are shipping to rural or remote areas within the UK, it is worth using the Royal Mail as it may be comparatively cheaper to courier firms for lighter mailings.

-The transit times for European Post Office deliveries are within 3-5 working days.

-For couriers like DHL and UPS, transit times are quicker. Express services offer 1-2 days delivery windows, while Economy shipments are delivered within 2-5 working days.

-Post Office transit times for international deliveries are quoted as 5-7 days on the Royal Mail website.

-Fastlane offers Express transit times of 1-2 working days to North America and Europe.

-Fastlane can deliver within 4-5 working days for Express services to most of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Using Fastlane’s Booking Tool

Don’t assume booking direct will be cheaper. With our significant buying power, we are able to offer customers savings of up to 60% when compared to booking direct.

Fastlane’s booking tool makes comparing the market easy. With the latest price comparison technology, senders can select their preferred courier and method. With over 30 years of experience, we’ve built up enduring partnerships with the industry’s most reliable brands.

Some couriers like TNT offer specialists services for the UK. Other couriers like FedEx and UPS are renowned for their air networks and strong presence in North America. Both FedEx and UPS operates both road and air networks across Europe, US and Canada. As a trusted partner of TNT and DHL, we can offer a range of delivery options in the UK and 220 countries worldwide.

Top Tip: Failed residential deliveries are a major sticking point for many retailers. While you can’t ensure shoppers are at home, you can limit risks by giving customers greater delivery options like Saturday delivery or timed deliveries.

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Drafting Delivery & Returns Policy

Your returns policy is a major factor in converting sales. While international markets represent a huge opportunity, they also represent a potential loss on your balance sheets if you do not manage customers’ expectations.

-Outline shipping timelines in clear concise language. You may want to include different shipping policies for domestic and international buyers as well.

-When drafting your returns, it’s important you state the return period. You may need to uphold country specific laws regarding the period a customer can return or exchange a product.

-Most return policies span 14 days after delivery.

-When stating your return period, it’s important to include any exceptions like gift cards and packaging. For instance, you may not accept merchandise, unless it is returned in its original packaging, unopened.

-In the return policy, you should also include your credit and refund policy. Most credits for returns are issued after the merchandise is received by the warehouse or signed for by the original shipper.

-You will need to decide if the customer will be responsible for the cost of return. Make sure your policy complies with the Consumer Contract Regulations legislation in the UK. The penalties for traders are substantial under this legislation.

Note: In some countries, returns are regulated by distance selling acts and consumer protection laws. That’s why it is worth consulting a legal expert when drafting delivery and returns policies, especially if you are looking to expand to different countries and territories outside your core market.

consumer protection

Consumer Contract Regulations (UK)

On June 2014, the Consumer Contracts Regulations came into effect, replacing the Distance Selling Regulations and Doorstep Selling Regulations. Some of the regulations traders are now obliged to follow include:

-Traders cannot charge consumers for additional items with a ‘pre-ticked’ box online.

-Consumers have the right to cancel a service contract online within 14 days after they enter into the agreement.

-Consumers must be refunded within 14 days of cancelling goods or services online or within 14 day of returning goods to the trader.

-If the order consists of multiple batches, than the cancellation period will be calculated from 14 days following the last batch the consumer receives.

-In addition to outlining the customer’s right to cancel, UK traders need to make it easy for customers to cancel by providing (or making available) a standard cancellation form.

-You will need to provide your address and phone number to customers.

Finally, traders must outline product or service’s compatibility with other hardware/software. You can review the original document for further detail on

Setting up your delivery and returns program is fairly straightforward, once you’ve covered the basics. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” A detailed and well-thought out delivery and returns policy will help e-commerce business transition periods of expansion or weather difficult trading periods.

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