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What is a courier service?

Customers expect easy delivery, which creates a big challenge for businesses. Getting items from a store or warehouse to addresses spread throughout a city—known as last-mile delivery—is a complicated logistical issue.

As demand for delivery continues to grow, businesses will need to find the right solution to the last-mile delivery problem to be successful. For many companies, the solution (or at least part of it) will lie in using a courier service.

In this article, we’ll help you determine if using a courier service is right for your business by addressing the following key topics:

What is a courier?

A courier is a person or company that provides delivery services. The term is often used broadly to describe any entity that transports items—including niche services like the delivery of legal documents or medical supplies—to their final destination.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on a more specific definition of courier: someone who provides local delivery services to businesses wanting to get orders to customers fast. Couriers, sometimes called delivery people, will come to your business to pick up packages and drop them off at the locations specified by customers.

It’s worth noting that many third-party platforms like Uber use couriers. Rather than employing couriers and providing the services directly, Uber connects businesses to a network of independent couriers who help facilitate local deliveries.

Courier service vs. postal service: What’s the difference?

The main service offered by couriers sounds a lot like what the postal service does, but there are a few notable differences. To start, the postal service is government-run. Courier companies are privately owned. In Uber’s case, couriers are independent contractors who use the platform to connect with businesses that are requesting deliveries for their products.

In addition, a courier service typically offers premium features and options that the postal service doesn’t, most notably:

  • Fast delivery speeds. Couriers usually offer much faster delivery options than the postal service, including express (under 2 hours) and same-day delivery.

  • Easier, on-demand pickup. A courier service typically defaults to coming straight to you soon after the service is requested. You can skip dealing with the long lines associated with a trip to the post office or scheduling a pickup far in advance.

  • Real-time order tracking. Customers appreciate knowing exactly when to expect an order. The postal service provides tracking information with an estimated date of arrival. But with a courier service, you and your customers can track the delivery on a map in real time.

Another critical difference is that a courier service like the one businesses can use through the network of couriers who use Uber also provides you with an additional sales channel. You can reach new customers through the Uber Eats marketplace and trust the company’s expansive fleet of independent contractors to handle the deliveries for you. Plus, with Uber Direct, you can connect with couriers in Uber’s network for orders placed through your own sales channels, like your website and app.

Common reasons to use a courier service

The postal service works for many basic delivery needs, but a few main scenarios lend themselves to choosing a courier service, including:

When speed is a priority

Customers often want their orders fast. Many are willing to pay more for speed. Statista reports that in 2022, 41% of global online shoppers said they want their orders to arrive within 24 hours. One-quarter of them (24%) went even further, saying they prefer delivery in under 2 hours. Courier services specialize in this kind of on-demand, local delivery.

For perishables

In some cases, delivery speed is a matter of preference. In other cases, it’s essential. An order of freshly prepared food, for instance, must reach its destination fast. Couriers are a smart option for any perishable products you sell. That includes not only fresh food orders from restaurants but also flowers and grocery items. Couriers can help you ensure that they get to recipients while they’re still fresh, in good condition, and safe to consume.

For prescriptions

Prescriptions are a high-stakes delivery item. When a patient needs their medicine, they can’t always afford to wait 7-10 days for it to come in the mail or to risk unpredictable delays. A courier service is a good option for making sure patients receive prescriptions at their door right on time.

For valuable retail items

Sending expensive retail items through traditional mail comes with risk. No one wants to learn that the laptop they’re waiting on has been lost in transit. A courier service can be a more secure option for delivering higher-value items—especially if it offers real-time tracking capabilities. When an expensive purchase (or refund) is on the line, this level of visibility goes a long way.

What to consider in a courier service

Any business considering a courier service will want to weigh a few key factors:

Delivery speed options

Speed is the main differentiating factor between more traditional delivery options and courier services. When your customers need an order fast, providing them with multiple delivery options is important. A good courier service will offer several convenient delivery speeds to choose from so you can use one platform for all your local delivery needs. That includes:

  • 1- to 2-day delivery
  • Same-day delivery
  • Express delivery that arrives in under 2 hours

Another premium option some courier services offer is scheduled delivery. Setting up delivery for a precise time window is beneficial for orders that require a signature and any high-value items people don’t want to risk leaving to porch pirates.

Ease of use

A good courier service should provide features that make the process of requesting and managing deliveries easy. Some factors to consider in evaluating a courier service’s ease of use include:

  • Intuitive technology. The courier service should provide a website and/or app designed to simplify delivery management, current order tracking, and analytics access.

  • Streamlined request process. Setting up a delivery should be fast and easy. A good courier service can use tech to automate the process of finding the right courier for your delivery needs, so all you need to do is prepare the package.

  • Easy integration with your other tech. Look for a courier service that offers seamless integration capabilities. If the software connects to your point-of-sale (POS) system, order management system, and website, you can automate more of the work of managing deliveries and capturing analytics.

Tracking and security

One of the premium benefits that sets a good courier company apart from traditional carriers is providing tracking features that allow for greater precision. While most delivery options provide some kind of tracking information, the ability to watch a delivery on a map and track estimated arrival times is a big bonus. Courier deliveries often provide real-time tracking information to businesses and their customers. That keeps you informed about delivery status and provides a better experience for your customers.

In addition, courier services usually offer options to show proof of delivery. You can have the courier take a photo, for instance, to clearly show that the order arrived. For particularly high-value orders or if a customer requests it, you might also be able to choose to require QR code scanning or a signature to make sure the delivery gets into the right person’s hands.

Customer support

Another important factor to consider is the level of customer support the courier company provides. If a problem arises, you want to know you can reach someone right away. Consider what hours the courier company is available and how you can reach them. Can you contact them during all your business hours, even if you’re open at night?

Also, consider if a courier company offers support for you and your customers. Once an order is out for delivery, a customer may need to contact the courier company directly. If that’s an option, it creates a better experience for the customer and reduces the time your staff spends on delivery support issues.


With any business decision, you must consider how the cost affects your bottom line. As you evaluate courier services, look for one that offers a transparent, intuitive pricing structure with no hidden fees. When you can easily calculate and predict your costs, you can better factor the price into your business budget.

Don’t just think about the price tag of the deliveries itself, though: consider the full cost-benefit analysis. Offering more attractive delivery options can give you an edge over competitors and potentially increase your overall sales.

Tips for working with couriers

When using courier services, you can make things easier on the couriers by streamlining your operations with a few strategic decisions:

Create a designated pickup area

Keeping pickup orders in one place can simplify the process of handing them off to couriers, get orders out faster, and reduce friction with your in-store customers.

Provide couriers with clear instructions

Any time that couriers spend wandering your shopping center or store increases delivery time. Some third-party delivery platforms allow you to add pickup instructions, such as where your store is located and where to park.

Package orders effectively

Couriers take care of delivery, but preparing orders is up to you. This step is especially important for fresh food items, floral arrangements, and fragile products. Set up your courier for success by ensuring that all items are securely packaged.

How Uber helps businesses connect with local couriers

Partnering with Uber is one of the easiest ways to gain access to a reliable network of independent couriers. Choosing Uber for your courier services provides all the benefits described above, along with several unique advantages:

  • Tapping into a global network of on-demand couriers. Uber specializes in helping businesses with local deliveries. With a network of 6 million active drivers that spans 10,000+ cities around the world, businesses with multiple locations can use the same system to power local deliveries for all of them.

  • Accessing couriers with reliable convenience. Whether you’re listing your business on the Uber Eats marketplace or using Uber Direct to fulfill deliveries from your own sales channels, requesting a delivery is simple. The technology automates the process of matching a courier to the job, ensuring that they show up to your business and complete the delivery quickly—usually in under 30 minutes.

  • Getting proof of delivery for peace of mind. To be sure all orders reach their intended destination, businesses can request proof of delivery by photo, QR code scanning, or signature.

  • Joining the Uber Eats marketplace. Gain a new sales channel along with courier services on the Uber Eats marketplace. Your store will show up in the app already used by millions, helping you reach new customers.

  • Setting up white-label delivery with Uber Direct. Offer fast delivery options through your own website and branded app, and let Uber’s network of independent couriers take care of fulfillment. You can keep the customer experience on channels you own while trusting the Uber app to help manage the delivery experience.

If you’re interested in powering delivery from a new sales channel, learn more about listing your business on the Uber Eats marketplace. If you’re interested in expanding delivery options from your own sales channels (like your website or app), learn more about Uber Direct. Both options let you get orders to customers at their desired speed with minimal effort on your end. By letting an established courier delivery service handle the delivery process, you can outsource one of the hardest parts of e-commerce while making sure customers get a top-notch experience.

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