2-Day vs. Next-Day vs. Overnight Shipping Definitions and Comparisons

If you need a package to arrive “ASAP,” carriers are willing to accommodate with top-tier shipping options (though, even “premium” designations are currently up for debate, with retailers like Amazon positioning 2-day shipping as a “standard” option).

It used to be that you’d have to wait a week or so for a package no matter what you did. The idea of getting something as soon as you ordered it was the realm of science fiction and fantasy, and until we could figure out how to get Scotty to beam something to us, it would stay that way.

Well, where there’s an overzealous desire for increased profits, there’s a way. Retailers started to realize that consumers wanted the convenience of shopping online from home, with the timeliness of picking something up from the store. So, businesses started building whole logistics processes around coming as close to that reality as possible.

This sort of “here as soon as you want it” delivery comes in a few different forms, based on the business, the destination, and a few other factors.

The most common (and most famous) is Amazon’s Prime Delivery. It’s something Amazon has achieved in large part thanks to a wide network of distribution centers that put most of the country within striking distance of delivery vans.

But it’s not just “The Everything Store.” Other retailers have worked toward similar delivery schedules, and even third-party sellers on Amazon Marketplace do it.

2-day shipping is definitely fast, but it’s not technically the fastest delivery method available. If you feel you can’t live without the item that extra day, you can get it “overnight” or “next-day delivery.” Both of these options (which, like express and expedited, are largely synonymous) typically involve transportation via aircraft to get the package there on time.

Normal packages, in theory, would:

  1. Go on a truck
  2. Go to a distribution center
  3. Be placed on another truck
  4. Be sent to another distribution center
  5. Get put on a delivery truck
  6. Then finally dropped off at your door

Overnight and next-day, on the other hand, takes the package straight to the airport, put it on a plane that flies through the night, then deliver it to the distribution center in time for it to be loaded on the delivery truck in the morning, so it can be taken straight to the destination.

Beyond that, there are often different overnight or next-day “tiers,” based on how early you want the shipment to arrive. FedEx, for example, has FedEx Standard Overnight, FedExPriority Overnight, and FedEx First Overnight, each which promise delivery by afternoon, mid-morning, and early morning, respectively.

And if you really gotta shave off that last 8–12 hours of shipping time, some retailers, in some locations, offer “same-day” delivery.

Same-day delivery is basically what you’re getting with “in-store pickup” and other grocery pickup options. You order the item, and within the same day, it’s ready for you to snag and bring home. Some businesses take it even further, and leverage the availability of existing crowd-sourced logistics systems (i.e DoorDash and the like) to deliver it to you.

It’s not quite teleportation, but at least you can get your Baby Yoda plushie before the end of the week without having to leave your house.

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