Parcel delivery handed over counter

What does parcel delivery mean?

Parcel delivery is the process of shipping an item from a collection point to a destination. Depending on the level of service required, and the type of item being sent, delivery will usually be handled via a parcel service, like the Royal Mail, or a courier company.

Undelivered parcel delivery card

Parcel delivery process

Parcels are collected by a driver or dropped off at a collection point. They are then taken to a sorting depot to be divided, according to destination.

Items destined for geographically close regions are transferred to another sorting depot nearer to the destination. They are then divided to fit individual delivery drivers’ routes.

If the intended recipient is unavailable at the time of delivery, parcels can be returned to a collection point for rescheduled delivery, or retained by the carrier until the recipient can come to collect it in person.

Using a parcel service

Parcel services often provide economical and simple delivery options. The parcels they handle are typically required to adhere to standardised dimensions, while delivery itself will likely be relatively inflexible and non-customisable.

As the items they handle tend to be smaller in size, parcels are often shipped loose rather than on pallets, in crates or sealed containers.

The simplicity of parcel services means they are often the cheapest mode of delivery for low value, low priority small items. Delivery can quickly become expensive if items stray from standard dimensions or require prioritised premium delivery options like express delivery.

Using a courier service for parcel delivery

If you’re sending a single high-value item, a large volume of items, an irregularly shaped item, or a delivery that needs the advantage of specialised delivery services such as advanced tracking, a courier is a practical choice.

A courier can collect a shipment – either from the sender or a designated drop-off point – transfer it to a warehouse for sorting and then transport it to the destination, using delivery routes customised daily to accommodate varying consignments.

Damaged parcel delivery

Valuable or dangerous goods

Courier services can offer better protection for valuable items, with optional insurance or tracking helping to mitigate against loss or damage.

Some couriers have specially trained staff on hand to handle dangerous goods in transit. Items like lithium batteries or dry ice can be potentially harmful or explosive unless handled properly. Standard parcel services tend not to provide this level of advanced handling and shipping.

End-to-end parcel delivery tracking

Parcel tracking offered by couriers is usually more precise than that offered by parcel delivery services. The level of tracking operated by a courier is usually more granular and flexible: it allows for real-time updates at any point in the item’s journey, which the sender or recipient can access remotely at any time of the day.

Proper parcel packaging

For the greatest chance of ensuring your parcel makes it to its destination intact, sufficient packaging is essential.

Some general guidance:

  • Select a sturdy container similar in size to the item being shipped. This reduces movement and possible damage in transit.
  • Wrap fragile items in protective materials or pad the container.
  • Securely seal with packing tape and affix a legible address label to the outside of the container. Consider including a return address and spare label inside – just in case.

For more detailed help, read our dedicated packaging guide.

Parcel delivery being made to office reception

Delivery over the final mile

Deliveries can be made to most places with a valid address, including offices or industrial spaces, homes, a collection point, or specific parcel lockers for those without secure delivery spaces.

Couriers are more likely to offer nominated day or flexible delivery to accommodate the schedules of the sender and recipient.

For deliveries that are not subject to time pressures or special circumstances, simple parcel services are often a cheap and efficient solution. Specialised consignments, including multiple small parcels, benefit from courier services as they ensure fast, reliable and customisable shipping.


Together with our partners at DHL, Impact Express offers fast, tailored domestic and international courier delivery services. Our specially trained staff can handle dangerous goods and ensure the safe delivery of your shipment to more than 200 global destinations.

We also offer full end-to-end tracking for domestic and international shipments. Our online tracking gateway, which is also available via a smartphone app, allows customers to instantly locate their shipments’ whereabouts, without needing to contact a call centre.

For more information, please get in touch. Alternatively, if you need an instant competitive quote, you can use our online quote tool.

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