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What is a Courier?

Courier is one of the most familiar terms in e-commerce. Interestingly, the term originates in Old French, meaning “messenger”. Since its origin, this term has evolved constantly and embodies much more today.

A courier refers to any company or individual responsible for planning, organizing, managing, and facilitating delivery services to transport products and consignments from the sender to the recipient.

Several entities, like the Government, private agencies, companies, and individuals, use courier services to deliver their packages efficiently. However, this service is the most useful for online and offline businesses relying on third parties to deliver their packages safely and quickly.

Generally, couriers avail of land, air, and water transport depending on the urgency of the delivery. Some couriers also offer same-day and next-day delivery. Read along to gain in-depth knowledge about which type of courier suits your business needs and its benefits.

What are the different types of couriers?

Different types of couriers have developed based on their specialization, scope, and nature of operations. Listed below are six types of couriers you can choose from:


Local courier services

Also known as local delivery services, this courier service caters to domestic orders, that is, within a particular town, city, or region. This is the ideal option for small-scale businesses that operate locally. In fact, time-sensitive orders can also be fulfilled, as companies that offer local courier services are usually adept at handling same-day deliveries.

Global courier services

Global courier services undoubtedly have excellent outreach since these services cover numerous countries across the globe. This type of service is best suited for businesses engaged in imports and exports. However, the procedure is more complex as it involves cross-border operations.

Global courier service providers must adhere to the specific rules and customs regulations of different countries engaged in the transaction. They may use air or water transportation.

Standard delivery services

Most e-commerce companies opt for standard delivery services as it is cheaper than express delivery. Standard delivery typically takes 2-4 working days to drop off packages at the recipient’s doorstep. The delivery timeframe largely depends on factors like the distance between the origin and destination locations, the weight of the package, etc.

This is the most cost-effective and convenient delivery model for businesses looking for an affordable yet reliable delivery partner to transport non-urgent goods. However, some companies may charge additional packages exceeding the prescribed weight.

Same-day couriers

Same-day couriers specialize in handling time-sensitive and urgent shipments like medical supplies, perishable goods, legal or confidential documents, etc. These packages are picked up from the sender’s location and delivered to the designated address within a day.

Same-day courier service is often more costly than standard delivery services owing to the quick turnaround time required to drop the package off at its destination within that same day. Ninja Van and Lalamove offer same-day delivery services.

Overnight shipping

Couriers typically operate during specific work hours. However, some parcels, like confidential legal documents, lab reports, or valuable gifts, require urgent delivery. Overnight shipping, also known as next-day delivery, solves this problem.


This courier service operates outside the set working hours and is quite expensive on the pocket as it often uses air cargo for transporting packages to its destination. However, some details, such as the weight and dimensions of the product, origin, and drop-off locations, are essential for availing of this service.

Rush and on-demand deliveries

Rush and on-demand deliveries are related concepts that have become significantly popular in the modern, fast-paced e-commerce market. While the former caters to the requirement of speedy and urgent delivery of goods, on-demand delivery services allow customers to choose their delivery time and location.


Through rush and on-demand deliveries, packages are delivered to the customer’s doorstep faster than same-day shipping. In fact, delivery takes place in a matter of a few hours. This kind of delivery service is crucial in times of emergencies. For instance, numerous hospitals and clinics can use this urgent delivery service to meet the soaring demand for vaccines and medicines.

Functions that Courier Services Offer

Courier services have opened up a new paradigm in the logistics industry. Here are a few essential functions courier services offer to meet the diverse requirements of consumers:

  • Picking up packages from the original location
  • Verification of delivery details like drop-off location and contact number
  • Choosing an appropriate vehicle and loading the package
  • Preparing the most efficient route enabling speedy delivery
  • Offering real-time tracking to both parties to keep them updated about the package status
  • Transporting the package to the final location safe and sound
  • Fulfilling necessary formalities upon reaching the recipient’s doorstep
  • Maintaining the necessary delivery records, if required

Overall, courier services perform numerous functions to fulfill the unique needs of buyers and sellers. From sending a small parcel across the city to shipping a large cargo internationally, courier services take care of all the operations to get your packages to your desired location.

What can a courier deliver?

Couriers can deliver a wide range of products based on the company’s policies and specific trading regulations. Take a look at the packages that a courier can deliver:

  • Financial and legal documents – Besides goods, businesses widely use courier services to deliver legal documents or financial papers. Couriers must maintain a confidentiality code while handling financial or legal paperwork. Law firms mostly avail of this service when sending crucial documents to a client or bank for further paperwork. Government agencies also deliver necessary paperwork via courier.
  • Perishable goods – Courier services, particularly same-day delivery, are essential for sending perishable goods like dairy products, food items, meat, vegetables, etc. Special arrangements may be required for transporting these goods. For instance, temperature-controlled transportation is mandatory for delivering dairy products.
  • Valuable items – Sometimes, valuable goods such as jewelry and antiques are also sent through couriers. Security plays a significant role in transporting and shipping these expensive parcels.
  • Medical supplies and equipment – Since couriers can deliver critical and urgent packages efficiently, pharmaceutical and medical supplies are transported from one place to another almost every other day. Chains of hospitals, clinics, laboratories, doctor’s chambers, and medical stores get essential supplies primarily through same-day, next-day, or overnight delivery options.
  • Indeed, numerous hospitals across the globe used courier services during COVID-19 to deliver critical equipment like PPE kits, masks, hand sanitizers, etc., samples of blood, and other medical specimens on time. Without courier services, countless patients would have suffered unnecessarily and perhaps lost their lives from the deadly pandemic.
  • Furniture – Nowadays, most online furniture stores use couriers to deliver packages safely to their end customers. However, it is also more convenient for buyers to obtain furniture like chairs, wardrobes, sofas, and DIY pieces delivered to their doorstep than visiting the store physically and then arranging for delivery.
    – Online sellers sometimes allow returns within a specific timeframe, where couriers reach the customer’s doorstep to collect the furniture. However, these packages may take longer delivery time than other parcels.
  • Electrical appliances – Couriers are also used to deliver electronic gadgets like smartwatches, mobile phones, tablets, etc., and large or bulky electrical appliances such as washing machines, microwave ovens, refrigerators, and more. However, the courier company has to be intimated about the product details, specifying its dimensions, weight, and other relevant details so that proper arrangements can be made beforehand.
  • Consumer goods – With the rise of online shopping platforms, companies cater to a broader clientele spread across the globe. These businesses heavily depend on couriers for sending small consumer goods like clothes, cosmetics, perfume, and shoes to fragile shipments like glassware and mirrors. However, clear communication about special arrangements like secure packaging is required for transporting such goods.
  • Mails and other essential documents – Besides financial or legal documents, couriers can also be used to deliver business mail or other documents. Small gifts, cards, and handwritten letters are also sent through couriers. Postal workers deliver these emails and documents.
  • Luggage – Shifting luggage from one place to another can be pretty tasking, but it is hassle-free with courier services. In fact, the security of luggage is ensured when couriers deliver them. So, you can send delicate, fragile, and even bulky items in a courier. The courier company might use special packaging like bubble wrapping or other protective covers to handle your luggage professionally.

Couriers are adept at transporting various types of packages. Nevertheless, it is important to note that courier services are legally unable to deliver legal tender. So, you cannot transport any currency notes or coins through a courier partner.

What Courier Services Do Different Businesses Use?

Almost every other business offers courier services to stay at par in the modern demand-supply chain. While some businesses solely count on couriers for their daily operations, others use this service as and when required. Some common types of courier services businesses use are as follows:

  1. Same-day courier services – Same-day courier services are mostly used by businesses in the medical industry, food delivery, and law firms. All these businesses require immediate shipping of time-sensitive or perishable packages that must be delivered to their destination as soon as possible.
  2. International courier services – Businesses that cater to a global clientele and need a broader outreach to depend on international courier services. Numerous online retailers and stores ship goods to many countries via international couriers.
  3. Specialty courier services – Medical institutions, Government, financial and legal agencies, infrastructure service providers, and the aviation industry require specialty courier services for their time-sensitive deliveries.
  4. Overnight courier services – Overnight courier services are largely used by law firms and the food and medical industry. For instance, you run a meat and poultry business and must restock your inventory. You will need overnight courier services to get these perishable food items as soon as possible because they have a concise shelf life. Individuals also use overnight couriers for sending gifts.
  5. Freight services – Freight services are generally used for bulk shipments and items that exceed weight restrictions. Businesses dealing in furniture, electrical appliances, construction materials, and other heavy items opt for freight shipping.
  6. On-demand courier services – E-commerce retailers, restaurant and food delivery providers, medical service providers, law firms, and financial service providers make the most use of on-demand courier services. Nevertheless, any business that needs fast and reliable delivery of packages benefits immensely from on-demand courier services.

How Do You Choose a Courier?

The market is cluttered with numerous courier companies offering a plethora of services. In this case, partnering with an efficient and trustworthy courier company can be a critical decision for your business. Some research about the best courier companies is necessary regarding their:

  • Reliability
  • Delivery speed
  • Customer services
  • Special services
  • Coverage
  • Cost
  • Tracking system

Ultimately, you must opt for a courier service that aligns with your business requirements and objectives. The company that ranks high in all the above-mentioned factors is undoubtedly a good choice. However, you also need to establish communication about the specific services you expect and the terms and conditions involved in the process (if any). Maintaining regular contact with your courier partner helps to maintain a cordial relationship and minimize the chances of disputes in the future.

When should you use a courier?

A courier service can be used whenever you need to send a package from one place to another. Businesses or individuals typically use courier services for transporting time-sensitive, perishable items or vital paperwork safely and quickly. You can avail of courier services when dealing with:

  • Confidential documents – If you want to deliver some highly confidential documents, such as financial or legal paperwork, courier services can ensure their secure delivery solely to the mentioned recipient.
  • Urgent deliveries – You can use a courier to deliver any package immediately. Since courier companies offer same-day and overnight deliveries, they are beneficial for transporting time-sensitive goods.
  • International deliveries – A courier service assists in navigating customs and international rules when sending packages overseas. So, you can rest assured that your package will securely reach its destination within the mentioned time frame.
  • Valuable goods – Trust plays a crucial role while sending valuable items from one location to another. You can choose courier services without a second thought if you need to send some valuable items, such as antiques, artwork, jewelry, and other expensive items. Most courier companies offer real-time tracking and insurance for added security.
  • Gifts – If you intend to send gifts to your loved ones or even engage in corporate gifting, courier services can be of excellent service. With same-day and other quick delivery options, it can save your skin at the last minute too!

To sum it up, you should use a courier if you have to make a speedy delivery without losing sleep over its safety. An additional benefit is that you can also request special arrangements based on your business requirements.

5 Factors to Consider when Choosing a Courier Service

Consider these five factors before choosing a courier:

Availability

  • Firstly, ensure that the courier is capable of delivering your goods. For instance, if you are a fashion retailer and send designer apparel to your global customers frequently, you must choose a courier service provider offering international delivery. In short, the courier company must be well-equipped to handle your packages professionally.
  • Secondly, check the coverage of the courier company. If you are a local business owner, then a local courier service provider can handle your deliveries adequately. However, if you have an expansive customer base spread across the country, it is better to switch to the one that aligns with your requirements.
  • Lastly, the capacity to handle shipment volume is another factor. Small packages are relatively easy to transport, but numerous items or bulky goods like furniture require separate arrangements. Hence, you must determine whether the company can cater to your shipment volume.

Limitations

Not all courier service companies can accommodate your requirements. Hence, you must know the limitations regarding package size and weight restrictions, delivery options, special services, insurance, etc.

Cost to value

Compare and contrast the cost structure offered by different courier service providers. The cost may vary based on the distance, package dimensions, special requirements, etc. For instance, if you deliver large electrical appliances, the cost may be comparatively higher because of special transportation and delivery needs. Opt for a courier company that provides premium services at a competitive price and suits your budget.

Reliability

Conducting a background check is one of the most important factors before choosing a courier service provider. Highly reputed courier companies are more reliable than companies with lower ratings. So, make sure to check the customer reviews and feedback. See whether the company values its customers and strives to meet their expectations.

Use of technology

Technology is an indispensable part of the entire logistics procedure. Most courier companies implement advanced technology to ensure smooth operations. You must check if the company offers a real-time tracking system. This is particularly important to reduce delivery time, offer visibility, trace any delay in package delivery, and deal with problems or mishaps that may arise in transit.

Benefits of Courier Shipping

Partnering with the right courier company can be a win-win situation, stimulating growth and profitability. Here are some of the significant advantages of courier shipping: 

Speedy delivery

Courier services are famous for their instant delivery options. This qualifies them as an ideal choice for time-sensitive deliveries. Options like same-day delivery, overnight shipping, and rush and on-demand services help to make important documents available before the deadline/hearing/event and facilitate emergency treatments and medical aid before it is too late.

Professional handling of packages

Courier service companies hire and train the officials engaged in the handling of packages. This ensures that the packages reach their destination in pristine condition. Special packaging materials such as bubble wraps, corrugated boxes, and others are utilized for added safety so fragile items are not damaged in transit.

Cost-effective

Courier services are more cost effective than traditional postal services, particularly when transporting time-sensitive or bulky packages. In fact, you can choose among the various delivery options based on your budget. Also, couriers offer added benefits of insurance and safety that minimizes the hassles of reimbursements or claim settlements if your goods are damaged or lost in transit.

Package safety

Courier service providers levy utmost importance to package safety. So, they implement precautionary measures to ensure packages are not damaged, lost, or stolen in transit, especially while shipping valuable goods. Most companies have advanced tracking systems, professional handlers, and secure transportation in place to deliver packages securely. Moreover, companies offer insurance to minimize risks and instill faith among customers.

Flexibility and adaptability

Personalization is one of the greatest advantages of a courier service. This means the services are flexible to meet the different requirements of clients. Some businesses may need freight shipment to deliver bulky orders, while others require refrigeration. Couriers can customize and offer all that you need.

Advanced tracking system

With an advanced tracking system, couriers allow customers to remain updated about the status of their package in real time. This helps customers to stay informed and businesses to manage delays or other problems that may arise.

Customer satisfaction

Most courier services offer 24×7 customer support, wherein customers can request assistance anytime. These companies generally value their customers, address their grievances, and go the extra mile to ensure immediate resolution. This is one of the reasons courier services boast high levels of customer satisfaction.

Reliability

Courier services have a reputation for being trustworthy for delivering goods to the allocated destination in their best condition and on time. Since couriers house professional handlers, implement advanced technology, and attach importance to customer service, they have emerged as the preferred mode of delivery for multiple businesses and individuals.

Conclusion

In conclusion, courier services have earned dominance in the e-commerce industry, enabling businesses and individuals to send and receive packages conveniently. With advancements, courier services are becoming all the more efficient and quicker, wherein delivery within a few minutes may become a reality in a couple of years. Couriers offer a plethora of shipping options to suit the needs of businesses.

On the other hand, businesses have benefited enormously by expanding their scope of operations. Therefore, explore all the viable options and choose your courier partner wisely.

FAQs

What is a specialty courier?

A specialty courier refers to the delivery service that deals with the safe transportation of products that require special handling and expertise. This service is essential for moving fragile, perishable, hazardous, valuable, or time-sensitive packages like pharmaceutical supplies, dairy products, antiques, electrical appliances, jewelry, etc. Some perishable goods require temperature-controlled transportation facilities and special packaging for safe and timely delivery.

What kind of businesses typically use couriers?

Various businesses require courier services for transporting goods to their customers. However, some companies and firms depend heavily on couriers for their day-to-day operations. E-commerce retailers, medical facilities like clinics, laboratories, hospitals, real-estate firms, law firms, financial institutions, manufacturing companies, food delivery companies, and printing firms thrive on courier services.

What is a courier in delivery?

A courier, in a nutshell, is a company or delivery personnel who picks up the package from one location and transports it to its destination (recipient’s address) safely within 2-4 working days.

How do you ask for the delivery time?

 Courier service providers generally offer a time window within which a specific order is delivered to its drop-off location. Nowadays, most companies implement the latest tracking software to share crucial tracking data, like estimated delivery date, shipment status, etc. Parties involved in the transaction (buyer and seller) can check their order status by entering the tracking ID or code.

Is courier the same as delivery?

Although “courier” and “delivery” are interrelated, they are not synonymous. Some minute yet significant differences set the two apart. A courier involves delivery, but it also brings the personalization game into play.

Why is it called a courier?

The term courier originated from the Old French “coreor”, translating to “a messenger” and Latin “currere”, meaning “to run”. Hence, with more modifications, courier now stands for any company or person who delivers packages from one location to another.

What is the difference between a delivery service and a courier?

Both courier and delivery involve transporting packages from one location to another, but a courier offers faster, more secure, and personalized services than standard delivery services. Unlike couriers, the latter may deliver truckloads of packages from one place to another and doesn’t necessarily require the recipient’s signature. A courier can be categorized as a kind of delivery service, but all deliveries do not qualify as couriers.

Can money be sent by courier?

No, the law strictly forbids the transaction of currency notes or coins through courier service.

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