What is Courier Service? A Definitive Guide for 2023


What is Courier Service? A Definitive Guide for 2023

Whenever you think of sending things from one place to another, you are thinking of a courier service. The history of this industry goes all the way back to the Persian Empire in 400 BCE. Prince Cyprus the Young formed a unit of runners, horse-riders and pigeons. They were the first professional couriers in history. This unit had only one purpose: to deliver messages.

Courier service is now a booming industry. It is expected to cross $440 billion in valuation by the end of 2022. The courier industry has shown a 5.9% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for the 2017-2022 period. Around the world, individuals and businesses use courier services to transport a variety of goods.

People use courier services to send things to one another. Similarly, businesses use it to deliver products and materials to other businesses. Ecommerce companies also use courier services to deliver products to their customers.

As businesses are dependent on courier services to deliver products to one another and to their customers, it is essential for them to learn about courier services.

What is a Courier Service?

A courier service delivers items from one place to another. The word courier originates from the Latin word “currere”. It means to run. Derivations of this word were used in French and English for a messenger. Even in the 21st century, the word carries essentially the same meaning.


Only instead of just messages, a courier service delivers all sorts of objects. You can send documents, gifts, electronics, clothes, raw materials, and more. Whatever you want to send, a courier service will deliver. As long as it is legal. People and businesses use courier services to send a variety of things between cities, states, or countries.

For example, you are a shoe store situated in Melbourne and you want to send your products to a customer in Sydney. Instead of managing deliveries in-house, you can use a third party courier service to deliver the product to your customer’s address. 

You just pack, label and hand over the product to a courier service in Melbourne. They will put it on a truck. This truck will travel to Sydney and deliver the product on your behalf.

In this example, the person or the company delivering the product is the carrier. And the action they take to complete the delivery is called a courier service.

In the same way, eCommerce businesses use courier services to send products to their customers. When you buy something online, the eCommerce company hands the product to a courier service. This courier company then brings the product to your address.

Ecommerce companies also use couriers to receive products that are returned by the customers. A courier service acts as the messenger between the eCommerce company and their customers. Hence, it is necessary for eCommerce to understand how the process works so that they can choose the right courier service.

How Does a Courier Service Work?

The fundamental task of a courier service is quite simple. They have to take things from one place and deliver it to another. But, it is by no means a simple process. The task involves packaging, handling, organising, transporting, and delivery. 

The entire courier process can be divided into three parts:

  • Receiving
  • Transport
  • Delivery



The first step for courier service is to receive the parcel that is to be delivered. People can drop off their parcels at the courier company’s location. Most courier companies also offer pick-up services. For eCommerce businesses, the pick-up location is usually the product storage unit. It can be a warehouse or an order fulfilment centre

It is essential that your items are packed before they can be received by the carrier.  Packing is usually carried out by the sender. The vast majority of  courier companies will not collect items that are not sufficiently pre-packed, however companies such as PACK & SEND offer a professional packing service for your unpacked or insufficiently packed items. Depending on the item, packing can be in a variety of forms such as a bag, an envelope, cardboard box, wooden crate etc. If the items are delicate or likely to break during transport, it is essential to pack with sufficient cushioning material while packing. This packed item is called a parcel, or package.


At this stage, a parcel travels from one place to another in a vehicle. The majority of courier services use one or more of three modes of transport:

  1. Road
  2. Sea
  3. Air

Road Transport

Road transport includes vehicles like scooters, bikes, cars, vans, trucks, and trains. It is considered the cheapest mode of transport. But, it can only carry a certain volume of cargo in one vehicle. Road transport is most often used for domestic couriers. For eCommerce businesses, it is most commonly used for final (last-mile) delivery.

Sea Transport

Ships are the only vehicles used for Sea transport. But, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Courier services use tankers, container ships, freights, reefers, and more. Each ship serves a different purpose and carries a different type of cargo.

It is the cheapest mode of transport for sending things internationally. About 80% of international trade is carried out by ships. It is also particularly cost-effective for sending large things or a large number of things.

But, it is also the slowest mode of transport. A courier travelling by ship may take several days to reach its destination. Still, businesses prefer ships because a ship has the highest volume capacity among all modes of transport. That is what makes sea transport cost-effective.

Air Transport

Air transport vehicles can be divided into freights and feeders. Freights are large planes that can carry a lot of cargo (not as much as a ship). While feeders are small planes that carry less cargo but travel faster. For a few special locations, courier companies use helicopters to deliver parcels. 

Air transport is the fastest. But it is also the most expensive. It is usually used for express couriers.

The choice of vehicle depends on the size of the cargo and the distance it needs to travel. Depending on the destination, cargo may change vehicles during transport.

Once the transport vehicle reaches its destination, the cargo moves to the delivery stage.


At this stage, the courier company unloads the cargo from the transport vehicle. The parcel is finally handed over at the destination. In the case of eCommerce couriers, the parcel is handed to the customer.

If a parcel travels through multiple modes of transport, it undergoes different cycles of receiving and delivery. Such scenarios depend on the distance between the point of origin and the destination. 

What are the Different Types of Courier Services?

Courier services are divided into different categories based on the destination and delivery time. Each type of courier service has a different process to deliver the parcel.

Courier Types based on Destination

Based on the destination of delivery, courier services are divided into 2 categories: Domestic Couriers and International Couriers. 

What is Domestic Courier Service?

A domestic courier service delivers parcels within a country. Here the city of origin and destination are not separated by international borders.


Based on the location of origin and destination cities, domestic couriers are further divided into three categories:

  1. Intracity Couriers or Local Couriers
  2. Intercity Couriers
  3. Interstate Couriers
Intracity Couriers:

In Intracity couriers, the origin and destination are in the same city. Intracity couriers are also known as local couriers. Such couriers have only one delivery cycle. 

Once the courier company receives that parcel, it loads it onto a vehicle. And this vehicle delivers the parcel to the destination. In the case of local couriers, small trucks and vans are the most common modes of transport. Owing to the short distance, a courier company can deliver local parcels within a few hours. 

Intercity Couriers:

In intercity couriers, the origin and destination are in different cities but in the same state. An intercity courier usually undergoes 2-3 cycles of delivery. 

In the first cycle, the courier company transport the cargo to the destination city. The mode of transport for the second cycle of delivery depends on a variety of factors.

A courier company may use a truck, train, or aeroplane based on the requirements of the customer. The choice of transport is also subject to the availability of transport infrastructures such as train stations and airports. The second cycle of delivery is complete when the cargo reaches the destination city.

The courier company then loads it in a truck or a van that delivers it to the destination address. An intercity courier usually takes 2 to 3 days to reach the destination. But, with express couriers, the delivery time can be brought down to 1 day.

Interstate Couriers:

In interstate couriers, the origin city and destination city are in different states but in the same country. Interstate couriers work pretty much the same way as intercity couriers. But, a parcel may undergo 3-4 cycles of delivery before it reaches the destination.

What is International Courier Service?

An international courier service delivers parcels from one country to another. Here, a  parcel needs to cross international borders to reach its destination.


The biggest difference between domestic and international couriers is the involvement of international laws. Unlike domestic couriers, an international courier has to pass through customs and comply with the import laws of the destination country. International couriers are also subject to additional charges in form of customs duties and import charges.

Owing to these conditions, international couriers are more complicated, expensive and time-consuming. A parcel travelling abroad undergoes several delivery cycles to reach the destination. It also travels through more than one mode of transport during the journey.

The receiving process for international couriers is the same as that for domestic couriers. But, the courier company also prepares documents for customs clearance of the parcel. These documents show that the parcel complies with the import laws of the destination country.

A courier company also needs more robust packing for international couriers. This packing depends on the mode of transport for international travel. The packing for air freight is different from the packing for sea freight.

The first cycle of delivery for international couriers is from the origin city to the shipping distribution centre. This can be an airport or a seaport. International couriers can also travel by road, through trains and road freight trucks. The choice of transport depends on the available routes between the origin and destination.

The second cycle of delivery begins at the shipping distribution centre of one country and culminates at the distribution centre of the destination country.

Once the cargo reaches the destination country, it is unloaded from the vehicle and is checked by the customs department of the destination country. Customs usually do not open the cargo or unpack the parcel, unless they find it suspicious. The courier company will present customs documents to allow the cargo to go forward.

Once the cargo is cleared by the customs department, it is sent to a warehouse for unpacking. Here, the parcel is loaded into another vehicle. This vehicle can be a truck, train, or aeroplane. 

In this cycle, the parcel travels to the destination city. Once the parcel reaches the destination city it is again unpacked from the cargo and loaded into a smaller truck that finally delivers it to the destination address.

Courier Types based on Delivery Time

Based on the desired delivery time, courier services are divided into 2 categories: Standard Couriers and Express Couriers.


What is Standard Courier Service?

Every courier company has a set routine for delivery between two destinations. A standard courier service delivers the parcel in compliance with this routine. Hence, a standard courier is relatively slow. But, since the courier company does not spend additional resources to deliver the parcel, a standard courier is also cheaper.

What is Express Courier Service?

An express courier gets higher priority over other parcels. It gets to skip the line and break the routine for faster delivery. Owing to this, express couriers are faster and costlier. 

What is the Difference Between Courier and Postal Service?

Courier services and postal services serve the same purpose. The difference lies in their ownership and operations. A postal service is owned by the government, while a courier service is a private enterprise.

This fundamental difference between the courier and postal services results in delivery times and prices. Courier services are generally faster, but more expensive than postal services.


What are the Benefits of Using a Courier Service?

As courier services are run by private companies they operate differently. Their operations are designed to serve customer needs. Below are a few benefits of using courier services over postal services.


Speed of Delivery

Courier services usually deliver parcels faster than other methods of delivery like parcel post. A courier company has a robust transport infrastructure that can speed up the delivery process. Additionally, courier services also offer special speed-based delivery services like same-day delivery and express delivery.


Courier services offer a more personalised experience to their customers. Instead of a set format, you can choose from a variety of courier options based on the parcel size, delivery time, mode of transport, and so on. Furthermore, you can also get pick-up services and door-to-door delivery. 


Courier companies around the world have a delivery success rate of more than 90%. This means that your parcels are less likely to get damaged or lost during transit. It also means that you are 90% likely to get the parcel to the destination within the promised time.



Courier services use multiple layers of packing to ensure that parcels remain safe during transit. People can also demand special handling when they courier delicate items. A courier company offers additional safety in the form of a protection warranty. This ensures that you get adequate compensation if your parcel gets lost or damaged during transit.


Courier services are only a little more expensive than postal services. But this difference in price is negligible compared to the benefits it offers in delivery time and reliability. While the price of a standard courier will be higher than standard post, the courier will reach its destination faster. On the other hand, if you send a parcel by express post, you will find that the price is as high as a standard courier service.


One of the biggest advantages of courier service is that you can track your parcel’s journey. A courier company will give you a tracking number. This tracking number is unique to your parcel. It can provide a variety of information such as:

  • The current location of your parcel.
  • The current status of your parcel in the delivery process.
  • The time until your parcel goes into the next phase of the process.
  • The time required for the parcel to be delivered.

You get to know about the delays in advance so that you can make arrangements accordingly.

Customer Support

Alongside tracking, courier services also have much better customer support compared to postal services. Unlike postal services, most courier companies offer round-the-clock customer support. This is especially helpful for eCommerce businesses. 

If there is an issue with the delivery, or you want to change a standard delivery to an express courier, customer support will help you do that. While often neglected, this feature proves to be a boon in times of crisis.


A courier service offers far more flexibility than the postal service. You can choose the delivery method and the delivery time. Such personalisations are not offered by postal services. 

You can also choose from a variety of payment plans for your parcels. Courier services allow you to pay by weight, volume, mode of transportation etc.

How Does Courier Service Charge Customers?

A courier company will charge for their services based on the efforts required to deliver the parcel. Below are the factors that determine the price for courier services.


Delivery Destination

The delivery destination is the most important factor to calculate courier charges. It decides whether the courier is domestic or international. The destination also determines the distance a parcel will need to travel. It also determines the process for receiving, transporting and delivery.

Based on the distance between the origin and destination, a courier company finds the available modes of transportation. These in turn dictate the cost and delivery time.


The second most important factor to calculate courier price is the weight of the parcel. The weight has a direct impact on the available modes of transportation and handling. A heavy parcel requires more robust vehicles for transport. They also require special handling. Hence, courier companies charge more to deliver heavier parcels.

Volumetric Weight

Volumetric weight decides how much space a parcel takes in the cargo. It also decides the mode of transportation and handling. A larger parcel needs a larger vehicle for transport. If the volumetric weight is more the cost of the courier will also be more.

Delivery Speed

Delivery time decides several aspects of the courier process. Express couriers are usually sent on priority. Hence flights are used to deliver them. That is why they are more expensive. 

Even for road deliveries, express couriers travel in different trucks that operate independently from the courier companies’ schedule. Owing to these changes in the standard courier process, express couriers are more expensive.

Value of the Parcel

The value of the parcel or its contents decides the terms and charges of the protection warranty. If your parcel contains valuable items such as jewellery or electronics items, you will have to pay extra for a protection warranty. This in turn will increase the price of the courier.


If your parcel requires special packing or handling, you will have to pay extra. Parcels marked as fragile are handled differently than other parcels. They are also treated with an extra layer of packing to protect them from damage. Special packing also increases the weight of the courier. Hence courier companies charge extra for that.

Conclusion - Pick the Right Courier Service for your Parcel

Courier services are necessary for individuals to send things to one another. Similarly, they are important for businesses to trade products and materials. They are also an integral part of eCommerce businesses for order fulfilment. A courier service will deliver the products to a customer’s doorstep. Hence it is intricately linked with customer satisfaction.

For eCommerce businesses, the right courier service delivers your products on time and has to be cost-effective. It also needs to have good customer service to answer your queries or address your requirements. But most importantly the courier service has to be reliable. You should be able to trust them with your products and your customers.

PACK & SEND offers a variety of courier services around the world. Our logistics infrastructure covers more than 80,000 destinations around the world to facilitate both domestic and international couriers.


What is Courier Service?

A courier service delivers things from one location to another. People use courier services if they want to send something to someone. But they cannot travel to deliver it themselves. Businesses use courier services to send products and raw materials to one another. And eCommerce companies use courier services to send products to their customers.

What is a Courier Service Business?

A courier service business essentially provides delivery services for objects. They take items from one place and deliver them to another. In order to do this, courier service companies have a large infrastructure. This includes human resources, warehouses, and transport vehicles. 

What is International Courier Service?

An international courier service delivers parcels from one country to another. For international couriers, the city of origin and destination are in different countries. Hence, the parcel has to cross international borders to reach the destination. International courier service also has to deal with customs regulations and import laws of the destination country. Owing to several complications, international courier service is more expensive than domestic courier service.

What is the Cost of Courier Service?

The cost of courier service depends on several factors. The most important factors to calculate the cost of courier service are distance, weight, volumetric weight and delivery time. Each courier company has different per-unit charges for each of these factors. 

What is Same Day Courier Service?

Same-day courier service delivers a parcel to its destination within 24 hours. Such courier services are only possible if the city of origin and destination are within a reasonable distance. It is also possible if both origin and destination have the infrastructure for fast modes of transport like trains and flights.

Image Sources: Parcelmonitor.com

Post by Topic