Insights & News

Partial Shipment: Everything You Need To Know

Woman checks her records for partial shipment.

Posted On May 26, 2024

In parcel and freight shipping, partial shipment refers to two distinct processes that can facilitate DTC e-commerce and cargo transportation, respectively.

Let’s delve into deciphering the topic of partial shipments and take a quick look at how it can benefit your B2C or B2B logistics operations.

What Is partial shipment?

Partial shipment (or split shipment) means delivering a single order in multiple shipments.

In e-commerce shipping, partial shipments facilitate and optimize multi-part order fulfillment when, for example, some items of the order are still on backorder or items are shipped from different warehouses.

Sometimes, it’s the shoppers who ask to have different items of a single order delivered to multiple addresses. Moreover, wholesalers may also ask for partial deliveries in cases of limited inventory storage space.

In freight transportation, the term partial shipments is used in cases of large cargo loads that do not fit on a single truck or container and are split into two or more partial shipments.

Plus, shipping partially or PTL refers to a special trucking method used for medium-sized freight that does not fill an entire trailer.

Why do merchants need partial shipment capabilities?

As a retailer or a wholesaler, having the flexibility and infrastructure to handle partial shipments when needed helps create a better customer experience.

Rather than waiting until all the items of an order are sourced, sellers choose to fulfill an order with two or more partial deliveries. 

Partial deliveries may sometimes complement a merchant’s inventory management planning. By incorporating partial delivery in your shipping policy, you can circumvent overstocking or stockouts and regulate your storage needs.

However, in-full order fulfillment is always easier to handle. So, as a rule of thumb, most sellers avoid partial shipments unless it benefits them or their clients.

Importance of partial shipment

In DTC e-commerce or bulk parcel shipping, partial shipments help speed up delivery times and increase customer satisfaction.

With an average of 28% of online orders delayed in the past year, partial deliveries offer a flexible fulfillment solution.

Sellers decide to ship partial orders for various reasons, including:

  • Some items are still on backorder.
  • Items are shipped from different warehouses.
  • Certain items are held back intentionally due to quality issues.
  • Production issues, such as supply chain disruptions or machinery failures, cause item delays, especially for DTC companies.
  • Wholesale buyers do not have enough storage capacity and ask for partial shipment orders (under a letter of credit agreement.)
  • Shoppers request items to be shipped to multiple addresses when sending out various holiday gifts, for example.
  • Customers are in urgent need of a certain item of a multi-part order but do not mind waiting for the rest.
  • Items do not fit in a single box.
  • Lighter, smaller shipments may sometimes come cheaper than large, heavy shipments

Warehouse workers plan a partial shipment.

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Why partial shipments are difficult for sellers?

Partial shipments come with more logistical tasks than a single-order shipment.

Indeed, orders with partial delivery require more time from your fulfillment team. Every partial delivery package is tracked separately and needs separate labels and new sets of documentation – all within a single order.

Each partial order requires new packaging (i.e., less sustainable) and, eventually, new shipping cost calculation and a new PO.

Customers need to be notified every time a partial load is shipped, and sellers need to issue a different partial sales invoice.

For small brands, this could be a costly process. As a small shop owner confesses, “I end up packaging and shipping a batch of parts twice, rather than just once. That adds up.” 

But also bigger firms admit spending 10-15% of total revenue on shipping and logistics costs. Parcel optimization and shipment consolidation can help you achieve a reduced cost per shipment. But when it comes to enhanced customer satisfaction, merchants should be flexible enough to offer partial shipment of a single order.

Automating partial shipments

To effectively manage split shipments, partial deliveries, and partial invoices, businesses can use technology and automation to keep track of and streamline the whole process.

Automating your partial shipment processes also streamlines the entire fulfillment, saving you from costly mistakes and customer anxiety.

What does partially delivered mean?

Partially delivered is when a customer receives their delivery in parts. This usually happens when they have ordered various different products, some of which are not in stock at the time of order.

Partial truckload shipments (PTL)

In domestic shipping, PTL shipments refer to mid-sized freight that is too big for LTL transport, yet it does not fill an entire trailer. 

Once consolidated, partial shipments share the same truck space, they are picked up from similar points of origin and go to nearby destinations. Freight brokers can effectively match load volumes and routes into a single PTL shipment.In contrast to LTL freight, partial shipments stay on the same truck throughout transit, and they are unloaded only once – at drop-off. This is why it is a good option for sensitive or odd-sized freight and expedited shipping.

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Why choose to ship partially?

Depending on the volume of the load and delivery window, many businesses choose partial shipments for freight shipping. There are a few good reasons why:

  1. Cheap: Shipping partially usually comes cheaper than FTL trucking for medium-sized loads. However, PTL costs are calculated per unit, which means that you need to provide exact cargo dimensions and weight when asking for a quote.
  2. Flexible: PTL freight can be palletized or not, which offers greater flexibility. Plus, it’s a cost-effective solution for high-density loads since it does not depend on freight classification.
  3. Fast: A partial shipment is typically delivered faster than a less-than-truckload shipment. In PTL, there are typically no more than 2 or 3 shippers who share the same trailer space. Plus, loads arrive at their destination with no intermediary stops.

Summing up, in parcel and freight shipping, partial shipments come with significant advantages but also certain drawbacks. Your 3PL can advise you whether shipping partially can advance your logistic operations – or not.

Elevate your shipping strategy

Flat World Global Solutions offers a unique blend of technology and expertise to provide individualized logistics solutions that save you time, energy, and money.

We equip your business with the right tools to get your goods where they need to go in the most efficient way. Get started with Flat World.