When you have an online store, shipping is a big part of how you do business. Most shop owners depend on traditional mail or package services like UPS and FedEx. But there are lots of other ways you can deliver items to local customers, too.
Local delivery gives you more control over how your products are delivered, in ways that will help you provide better service and a better experience. Plus, offering same-day delivery can give your local business an edge over big ecommerce competitors.
So check out some of these delivery ideas for local businesses—you might be surprised at how well they can work for you.
How do you choose the best local delivery option for your business?
For some products (grand pianos?) it’s pretty obvious that you can’t use traditional ecommerce shipping. But for others, how do you figure out if local delivery is worth it to you? Here are some factors to consider:
- Timing: does your item need to get there right away or does it have a longer shelf life?
- Effort: Do you have the time and resources to manage hands-on deliveries? There’s a lot of pressure to offer same-day delivery to get an edge over big online retailers, and the practice has been growing quickly. But the logistics can be challenging. Try offering it on a small scale first to see what it’s like, before promising it to all of your customers.
- Price: You don’t want to drive across town or hire a delivery person for an order that’s only $25. It might make sense to set a minimum order amount to qualify for same-day or in-person delivery. On the plus side, a study from PricewaterhouseCoopers shows that consumers are willing to pay more for same-day service.
- Location: Are there enough customers in your local area to make deliveries worthwhile? Is your local SEO up-to-date and bringing in visitors?
- Customer expectations: Obviously food and anything fresh needs to be delivered quickly. But other products might make sense delivered on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule, so that you can consolidate all your deliveries together and make the process more efficient. That same PwC study notes that most people reasonably expect their items to arrive in 3-5 business days or less. Anything slower, and people are less likely to make a purchase.
Deliver packages yourself
If most customers are in your local area, or if you sell products that are large, breakable, or too expensive to ship normally, self-delivery might be the quickest and easiest option. It’s also perfect for items that need to be delivered fresh, like flowers or food. Put all your orders in a car or van, and you’re on your way.
Delivery planning apps like Road Warrior Route Planner or Route4Me make the process even easier by helping you map out all of your deliveries at the same time.
By delivering yourself, you get extra face-time with your customers and can provide an extra level of service that will help you stand apart from other businesses. You could even help them set up or install the product while you’re there, which can reduce returns.
Remember: delivering yourself will take up a chunk of your day. You’ll also need to have the right commercial insurance for your car, bike or van. Will your company be reimbursed in the event of an accident or theft?
Offer curbside collection or in-person pickup
Offering local pickup might be the fastest, easiest option for customers nearby. People can browse your webshop and purchase items online, then pick them up at their convenience. Plus, offering touch-free curbside pickup is especially important in times of coronavirus social distancing. It’s easy to set up with your Jimdo online store’s Local Pickup feature.
When “normal” times return and shops are reopened, customer pickup is still a good idea. A customer picking up can connect with your business face-to-face, get their goods when it suits them without waiting for a delivery, and is more likely to buy extras because they have the chance to browse in-store.
Send items by bicycle courier
Bike couriers offer speed, sustainability, and something more exciting than a run-of-the-mill delivery. The idea might seem quaint, but bicycle couriers are available in almost all cities. They’re often the fastest way to get a package from one side of town to another, because they don’t have to deal with traffic the way cars and vans do. Bicycle couriers sometimes work together with other delivery services to deliver outside their own delivery area, and often deliver to smaller towns in the region.
Sending your orders by bike courier is a clear choice for sustainable and green businesses. This delivery method can work particularly well with your company’s marketing and branding, especially if you sell a fitness, outdoor, or eco-friendly product.
Use an on-demand local delivery service
Local delivery companies are more tech savvy than ever, and by using them you can support a fellow small business near you.
App-based local delivery services are expanding, too. Many (like Postmates) started by delivering food, but have expanded to all kinds of packages and products. And as demand for ride-hailing apps has decreased during COVID-19, some services are pivoting. For example, in April Uber launched Uber Connect and Uber Direct in some cities to move packages instead of people.
On the plus side, you get a fast, flexible option and usually can track the delivery via the app, and get delivery confirmation once it arrives.
The downside is that you might not always get the level of service that you would from a professional delivery service. Plus, drivers who use “gig” platforms are not always treated or paid as well as traditional delivery drivers.
Compare and experiment
When you’re just starting out, every order is exciting. You probably have lots of time available to pack and ship your order properly. So take this opportunity to experiment and see what works for you. And it will also give you a chance to meet your customers and learn more about them—essential in any growing business.
Got an item that’s perfect for local delivery? Start an online store today to take payments online, then deliver them locally. It’s easy!