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Different Types Of Shipping Modes – What Is The Best One For Your Business?

sahil bajaj

Sahil Bajaj

Senior Specialist - Marketing @ Shiprocket

May 27, 2024

12 min read

You might be ready with your eCommerce store and would have taken care of most aspects of your business. But The next step would be to sort out the mode of shipping to get your products delivered. This article will discuss the different shipping options for transporting cargo and other goods via land, water, and air.

All three modes of shipping play vital roles in global trade. Water freight, the lifeblood of global trade, is the best source of transportation for shipping a high volume of goods, such as raw materials and heavy cargo. 

In contrast, if you want to choose the most fuel-efficient method of transporting goods across land, trains or conventional trucks are much more efficient. Simultaneously, this method would be unsuitable to transport shipments overseas at a rapid pace. Air freight is the most appropriate mode of shipment to deliver shipments faster.

3 Different Modes of Shipping:

1. Shipping Through Air

Air shipping takes the stage when speed and efficiency are needed. In this mode of transport, aircraft are used to transport goods. 

Air freight is undoubtedly the fastest and most expensive mode of transport. This shipping mode reduces transit times compared to land or ocean freight and is beneficial for shipping time-sensitive items like perishables, pharmaceuticals, and high-value goods.  

It is the most convenient and reliable form of shipping and has to compete with negligible natural barriers. This advantage ultimately makes it the most accessible to all regions regardless of any land obstruction. Airfreight service can deliver most items, except anything extremely heavyweight that may not fit inside the aircraft.

Products shipped by air are usually categorized under the express shipping segment as the delivery speed is faster and safer. Thus, this transportation mode is slightly more expensive than others.

With air transport, you can expect your packages to be delivered in a span of 1 to 2 days, depending on factors like the type of goods, shipping company, and the distance between the delivery partner and the destination.  

Benefits of Air Transportation:

  • Fast delivery times
  • No physical limits
  • Cover long distances
  • High standard of security
  • Less need for heavy packaging as this transportation method is highly reliable
  • Fly to any route without facing any natural barriers or obstacles.

2. Shipping Through Land

Land shipping is one of the oldest forms of transporting goods. This is used to deliver goods within a country or across neighboring borders. 

Trucks are typically used to transport goods via roads, as they have huge spaces to ship bulkier items such as construction materials and even vehicles. This mode of shipping is comparatively cheaper than the others. However, it might take longer for the goods to reach the final destination. 

Another form of land transport is railways. There are two main options when it comes to shipping goods by rail.

  • 1) If your business is located near a railway station, you can directly load your goods onto the train and have them delivered to its destination. 
  • 2) Intermodal Service:  This type of shipping service involves two different forms of freight, such as trucks and trains. The freight is first loaded into trailers, and then trucked to the railway station, where it is loaded onto the train. At the final destination, trailers are loaded back onto another truck and delivered.

Rail shipping has several advantages. It’s cost-effective and can carry larger goods across the country. India has one of the largest railway networks in the world. You can play this to your advantage and ship goods across the country.

Shipping by road also involves short-distance deliveries like hyperlocal or intra-city deliveries, which are made via bicycles, motorbikes, or even cars. 

If you run an eCommerce company and want to reach your customers within a very short time, hyperlocal delivery can be the best solution. SARAL by Shiprocket offers hyperlocal delivery with delivery partners like Dunzo, Wefast, and Shadowfax. It is the best way to grow your business in a hyperlocal space in niche brands across categories like groceries, home services, essentials, pharmaceuticals, etc.

Benefits of Land Transportation:

  • Fuel-efficient
  • Door-to-door service
  • Suitable for short distance
  • Flexible service
  • Loading and unloading is easy and less time consuming as compared to other transportation methods
  • Flexible service
  • Allows the transport or dangerous or hazardous goods on special permissions. 

3. Shipping Through Sea

Water freight is the most cost-effective mode to transport large and heavy products across long distances. It is primarily used to move people or freight by ship, boat, sailboat, or barge across the sea, ocean, lake, or river. 

Cross-border shipping is done by sea for various purposes such as military or commercial. In this mode of shipping the transported goods are packed in containers and the containers are further loaded into a vessel. Almost everything can be shipped through the sea, however, it is not recommended to ship cargo through the sea when you want your product to be delivered fast.

Benefits of Sea Transportation:

  • Ideal for carrying heavy goods or in bulk quantities
  • Large storage capacity
  • Environment-friendly
  • Safe transportation method
  • Increased product diversity and transportable materials

Different Types of Shipping Methods

We have discussed 3 modes of transport: land, water, and air; however, when choosing any of them, you should pay extra attention to the shipping process or the carrier you partner with. This section covers different types of shipping methods to deliver the products to your customers:

1. Freight

If your shipment is larger than 30 x 30 x 30 inches or weighs more than 150 pounds, you can choose this shipping method. This type of shipping involves sending your goods on pallets and in containers. This method is suitable for businesses that have grown enormously and scaled themselves to a great extent. 

Most companies use freight to transport their goods in bulk to a distributor or fulfillment center, where they can use local shipping methods to deliver the products to the customers. 

You can send freight via air, ground, ocean, or via a combination of vehicles, which is called multimodal freight.   

2. Overnight

Opting for this shipping option ensures your package will be delivered the day after it is shipped. However, the cost for overnight shipping can vary immensely depending on the carrier you partner with. Thus, the best practice is to choose a shipping company that offers pre-negotiated discounts, which can help you save big time. 

3. Expedited

Products shipped via expedited shipping are delivered faster than those in standard shipping. However, the names of this service—expedited shipping—may vary depending on the carrier companies, as each offers different services. The delivery time in this mode of shipping can vary anywhere from same-day to 3 days. 

4. Flat Rate

A flat rate is a shipping method that does not determine the cost after considering factors like the weight, shape, or size of the goods to be shipped. Instead, it keeps the shipping price uniform. The shipping partner and the eCommerce site calculate and fix this flat rate shipping cost.    

This type of shipping can help you save money if you ship heavy items or multiple boxes in one box. 

5. International

International shipping is the process of transporting goods from one country to another. This shipping method mostly uses sea or air routes. As this shipping transports goods between borders, it requires more formalities, such as submitting a customs declaration form, letter of undertaking, and numerous other documents. 

Sending goods internationally also requires you to provide details on applicable taxes, tariffs, and duties. 

6. Multiple Addresses 

This service is required when your customers send different items in a single order to multiple addresses. Another situation in which this service is used is when your customers combine different fulfillment methods to collect their products, such as local delivery, in-store pickup, standard shipping, or digital delivery of a gift card. 

If you think this method will add complexities to your shipping process, you can even skip it! 

7. Local Delivery or Pickup

This type of shipping is suitable for small businesses or startups that sell goods based on the customer’s location. If a customer’s address (postal code) is within the zone you have authorised to provide deliveries to, they become eligible for local deliveries. The best part about opting for this method is that you can skip shipping and save money on logistics.

However, the main consideration for local deliveries and pickups is your team’s bandwidth. You need to decide who on your team will deliver packages, assist customers, or be available for pickups. While setting up these details, you need to plan how much of a workforce you will need to carry out all these tasks.   

How to Choose the Best Shipping Company?

There are many aspects you should consider when selecting the most suitable form of freight to get your products delivered to the final destination. Choosing the right mode of transportation for your business can help you in reducing your shipping and logistics costs. Now that we know about the various modes of shipping, let us take a look at what are the factors you should determine while choosing your shipping mode-

Freight Cost

Budget should always be one of the most important factors to consider while shipping your goods, as prices can vary based on the type and amount of goods that need to be transported. 

If you are transporting heavier items to a farther destination within the country, then shipping by rail will be the most economical option. Sea transport is likely to be the cheapest mode of transport suitable for heavier items with no time constraint to reach the destination. Perishable items are best transported by air, although it is the most expensive type of transportation. 

Importers and exporters, however, should always keep in mind that the “hidden costs” such as insurance charges, will be added to their overall transportation cost.

Type Of Goods 

The type of items you are transporting plays a very important role in which mode of transport you should opt for. While road and air transport cater mainly to the transportation of smaller items, rail and sea transport cater to heavier goods.

The shipping mode for your business will also depend on how fragile, high-value or dangerous your product is. Land and air modes of transport are considered to be the best option when it comes to the delivery of high-value and fragile products. 

Delivery Speed

The speed of the delivery partner’s service is another vital factor influencing your decision. According to a report, more than 55% of businesses choose the freight service that provides them with a faster delivery service.

Remember, the decision you make here can directly impact your end customer. Faster the freight service, sooner the product reaches your customer. This creates a positive customer experience and leads to a higher conversion rate. 

Air transport is considered to be the fastest mode of transport, while water transport is the slowest. Having the lowest price or high-quality product no longer guarantees you a sale. You need to provide them with a suitable, efficient and faster delivery service to ensure higher customer satisfaction, which will ultimately boost your business.

Shiprocket is India’s leading shipping and logistics platform that can ensure the fastest delivery of goods worldwide. Through Shiprocket’s Courier Recommendation Engine (C.O.R.E), you can choose the fastest courier partner for your shipping purposes. 

Safety and Security

An essential quality of trustworthy logistic service providers is their commitment to implementing potent security measures. If these shipping companies also adhere to safety standards, they give businesses peace of mind and help maintain the integrity of the supply chain.

Shipping via sea is the riskiest, as water transport is often exposed to the perils of the sea, such as typhoons, cyclones, hurricanes, floods, etc. Shipping by road can be considered safer than water, as the losses incurred will be less with road transport. The safest form of shipping mode is considered to be air transport. 

Some other factors that should not be overlooked when choosing a shipping carrier include:

  • 1. International Shipping- Make sure you choose the shipping company that provides international services. 
  • 2. Pricing- Create a budget and ensure that the charges of the shipping carrier you have chosen match your expectations.
  • 3. Weight Limits- Calculate the weight of your goods and ensure the carrier company does not impose weight restrictions on shipping them. 
  • 4. Delivery Experience- The delivery experience should be hassle-free. So, picking a shipping company that offers unique services apart from the default, such as door-to-door delivery, pickup locations, etc. is an ideal way to go. 
  • 5. Insurance- Always choose a reliable shipping carrier that offers insurance coverage for your products. 

What are the Best Shipping Companies?

When it comes to shipping your products, your delivery partner must be reliable. We have created a list of the top four shipping carriers that consumers and businesses have faith in and have a track record of on-time delivery:


All three modes of shipping –land, air, and sea – play a dynamic role in our economy. Each offers benefits that the other mode of transport might lack. So, make an informed decision after choosing the appropriate shipping mode for your business. 

Why is air transport more expensive than ground transport?

Air transport is more expensive due to fuel charges, aircraft maintenance, and security measures, and hence, the high cost is passed on to passengers and shippers.

How long does it take to ship products via sea transport?

Typically, water transport takes 5-10 days and can range anywhere from 20-45 days or even more depending on factors including distance, shipping mode, route, and season. 

Can I ship my individual parcels via sea transport?

You can ship anything and everything via sea transport; however, this shipping method is not recommended when you want the product to be delivered quickly.

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2 thoughts on “Different Types Of Shipping Modes – What Is The Best One For Your Business?

  1. Very good written post. It will be valuable to anybody who utilizes it, including myself. Keep doing what you are doing – i will definitely read more posts.

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