How Distance Affects Ecommerce Fulfillment Costs & Time in Transit: Understanding the Factors that Influence Zones 101

The idea of a shipping zone is crucial to comprehend when it comes to order fulfillment, yet many ecommerce company owners find it difficult to understand how zones operate.

Let’s take a look at some of the most frequent inquiries surrounding shipping zones, so you can figure out the best method for your online business. Let’s get started!

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FedEx, UPS, USPS Shipping zones: what are they?

To estimate your shipping zones for USPS, UPS, and FedEx, use the table below (updated February 2022):

Shipping ZoneMile Radius (from origin)

  • Zone 1 (local)50 mile radius
  • Zone 251 – 150 mile radius
  • Zone 3151 – 300 mile radius
  • Zone 4301 – 600 mile radius
  • Zone 5601 – 1000 mile radius
  • Zone 61001 – 1400 mile radius
  • Zone 71401 – 1800 mile radius
  • Zone 81801+ mile radius
  • Zone 9

Freely Associated States

Carriers ship to different zones for domestic deliveries in the United States, ranging from Zone 1 to Zone 8. A shipping zone is a geographic region that is used by freight forwarders to track the distance a shipment travels from its origin to its end.

The point of origin is the location from which an order is sent. It’s located in Zone 1 and has an address in the destination zone. The zone to which it will be delivered is determined by how distant it is from the origin.

Many small firms choose USPS since it is both cheap and dependable. Many traders who do not have distribution centers must figure out how to transport items across the 2,500+ miles of coast-to-coast customers along the United States’ 2500+ miles of coast line.

How shipping zones work in ecommerce fulfillment

The following are some of the most frequent inquiries about shipping zones in the United States.

1. How do you calculate shipping zones?

Zones are calculated dynamically depending on where your goods are delivered from. This may happen, for example, if two different point of origin shipments to the same final address are sent to separate zones.

For example, if you deliver from Los Angeles, California to St. Louis, Missouri, you are sending to Zone 7.

However, if you transport goods from Dallas to St. Louis, Missouri, you are delivering to Zone 4.

Want to determine shipping zones for your orders?

  • USPS Domestic Zone Chart: Go to the tab “Get Zone for ZIP Code Pair.” Simply enter your destination zip code and the zip code you’re sending to, and you’ll be given a shipping zone.
  • UPS Zones and Rates for the 48 United States: Enter your zip code of origin to see zone maps in Excel.

2. How do shipping zones affect cost?

Zones are used by shipping carriers to calculate prices for certain services. Some services, such as residential delivery and moving companies, have a flat rate that you may pay regardless of the destination (as long as it’s within the United States).

The USPS maintains a complete list of services that are or are not zoned (Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, USPS Retail Ground, and Bound Printed Matter), as well as which ones are (First-Class Mail, USPS Marketing Mail, Library Mail, and Media Mail).

The cost of services that are zoned is determined by the zone in most cases.

3. How does order weight affect shipping cost by zone?

Aside from the carrier and service selected, as well as the origin and destination zip codes, shipping charges will also vary depending on order weight and size.

With the January 2019 change to zone-based pricing for even lightweight USPS First Class Mail packages, all firms are affected by distance. However, the greater the weight of a package, the more severe the price jump will be as zones increase.

As a result, if you ship from a location closer to the end consumer, you will likely pay less for shipping.

Let’s assume you’re shipping a 20 pound box with dimensions of 4 x 9 x 12 inches. This container is extremely hefty, making transportation costly.

The shipping cost increases as the zone gets higher. The more expensive the shipping, according to the chart below, the higher the zone.

A note about dimensional weight: Because shipping companies take into account the length, width, and height of a package when determining its weight, they use the longest point on each side to compute it.

The shipping fee will be determined by whichever one of these quantities is larger: the actual weight of the package or its calculated dimensional weight.

4. How can ecommerce companies afford to offer free shipping?

It may appear to be a contradiction to provide free delivery when it can be so costly to ship items to high locations. Ecommerce businesses that use free shipping as part of their pricing plan must be selective in order not to jeopardize their margins. Usually it’s done using one of the following options:

  • They bake the cost of shipping into the product price (using the average shipping cost)
  • They require a minimum dollar amount to be spent (to increase the average order value)
  • They reduce the number of zones they ship to (more on that below)

5. How do shipping zones affect delivery speed?

If a package is sent to a nearby (for example, Zone 1 or Zone 2), it will almost always arrive in fewer days than one that is sent to a higher zone, such as 7 or 8. Time in transit reduction is critical since delayed delivery may lose you sales.

In fact, 73 percent of purchasers want inexpensive, rapid deliveries, and 24% of buyers cancel an order because to slow shipping.

Customers now believe that the maximum number of days they should wait for their purchase is only 4.1 (as opposed to 5.5 in 2012).

If you have all of your inventory fulfilled from one location, as seen in the map below, it will take 5-6 days for a purchase to arrive in Oregon.


If you understand zone shipping, you can adjust your ecommerce fulfillment strategy to better meet customer expectations around speedy and affordable deliveries. Not only will this help you improve efficiency by reducing distance and time in transit, but it can also help you reduce shipping costs, generate more sales, and improve your bottom line.

To keep fulfillment costs and overall logistics costs down, you must effectively use zone shipping to your advantage. Learn how Launch Fulfillment helps ecommerce businesses do this by fulfilling orders from their network of fulfillment centers in the largest US cities to effectively reach customers.