Best delivery options for small businesses
For a small business, offering delivery options gives you the chance to tap into a larger customer base and better meet their expectations. In some ways, it’s an obvious choice. Why wouldn’t you want to capture those sales?
Offering delivery comes with some important considerations: managing shipping costs, finding (and keeping) delivery drivers, and deciding whether to use third-party apps, among others. To ensure that your delivery options work well for your business needs, it’s important to weigh your options carefully.
As a small business owner, you have plenty of experience taking on new initiatives to keep your business competitive. That’s simply part of the job. With an array of options available to help you manage deliveries—from small business delivery services to software products to third-party apps—the benefits likely far outweigh the costs.
What are the best delivery options for small businesses?
The best delivery options for each small business will depend on your particular circumstances. Most businesses will want to use a mix of the available tools and options. Here are a few to consider:
Use traditional shipping
For many types of products, you can go with the same options you turn to for your personal shipping. Traditional carriers are relatively affordable options for shipping orders, particularly those that aren’t time-sensitive. And for the most part, they’re reliable, although with occasional slowdowns due to busy holiday periods or adverse weather conditions.
If the products your business sells can handle several days in transit without any loss of quality, traditional shipping options should work well for you and your customers. But traditional carriers aren’t as well equipped for deliveries that need to get where they’re going fast. If your products need to get to the customer within a matter of minutes or hours rather than days, you’ll want to look into some other small business delivery options.
Employ delivery drivers
Some deliveries simply can’t wait. A hot, fresh pizza can’t travel through multiple cities over several days to reach the customer—not without losing its value in the process. For small businesses that sell prepared food, groceries, or healthcare items that are temperature-sensitive, you need a way to provide fast deliveries on demand. One way to do that is to hire your own delivery drivers in-house.
This has the benefit of giving you control over the delivery process. You know who will be making the delivery and what hours they’ll be available. And you can establish policies for how they do the work, such as how they manage the handoff or store the items while in transit. You can also ensure consistent branding. If you want the driver to use the company car with the logo on the side or wear a uniform that matches what your in-store employees wear, that’s an option here.
The big tradeoff is the cost. Hiring someone new always costs money. If you want to offer delivery throughout your typical store hours, you have to pay for every hour the driver is available, whether or not any delivery orders come in while they’re scheduled. On slow days, that could cost you.
On top of that, to keep delivery service consistent, you’ll likely need to hire multiple drivers, so they can cover each other on days off. And with small businesses in many industries facing staffing shortages already, you may struggle to find anyone to hire.
Use a third-party delivery platform
Third-party delivery platforms give you the option to offer fast delivery without needing to hire the drivers yourself. The third party can enable you to tap into their network of delivery people, removing the heavy lifting that you would need to handle otherwise.
Third-party delivery platforms offer flexibility. You don’t need to pay someone to be on the clock for every hour you promise delivery availability. Instead, you pay a fee for each order, meaning you only have to pay for the orders you have delivered through the platform.
Even if you do have on-staff delivery drivers, working with a third-party delivery platform lets you supplement the number of orders you take. You can make more sales on busy days, without subjecting your customers to longer wait times. Even better, you can easily extend your delivery radius. Within your own city, that can mean reaching more of the customers who live on the other side of town or in nearby suburbs.
Some third-party delivery platforms also provide nationwide shipping in addition to local delivery. Extending your customer base beyond your city is a good way to increase sales. How many more orders could you take if you opened up your business to customers in other cities and states?
And working with a third-party delivery platform doesn’t have to mean diluting your own brand. If you work with a provider that offers white-label delivery, you can use the third-party platform to fulfill same-day orders that your customers place directly on your own website or app. As far as your customers are concerned, their entire experience will be associated with your brand, rather than that of the third-party platform’s customer-facing marketplace.
Use delivery software
Whichever option you choose to enable delivery for your small business, getting the right delivery software to manage the process will make your life easier. Delivery software products for small businesses offer an array of features for managing deliveries, finding savings opportunities, and tracking all delivery sales automatically.
These are the main types of delivery software for small businesses:
- Delivery management software. This type offers features such as route optimization to help drivers get orders out as fast as possible. Additionally, it offers driver apps to help your drivers keep track of all the deliveries they’re responsible for and order tracking that enables customers to see how close their order is in real time.
- Multi-carrier shipping software. For every delivery you send using traditional shipping, this type of software automates the process of finding the best price. It can also help you keep track of the various shipments you have out with different carriers at any given time.
Both delivery software options can help you improve efficiency and make it easier to keep your deliveries well organized.
5 possible benefits of using a third-party delivery platform
Offering delivery to customers that’s fast and affordable is a challenge for many small businesses. By working with a third-party delivery platform, you can offload some of the work while still delivering the level of service customers expect.
Offering delivery makes your products available to customers who can’t come in because they’re too busy, tired, or trying to stay COVID-safe. And that means an opportunity to increase sales.
For businesses beginning to venture into providing delivery options, working with a third-party delivery platform can help you jump-start the process faster than hiring in-house drivers would. If you already have drivers, using a delivery platform may be just what you need to expand the hours in which you offer delivery or the territories you serve—which provides opportunities to bring in more customers, further helping you increase sales. The more orders you can get to customers where they are, on their timeline, the more potential profit for your small business.
One of the biggest benefits of partnering with a third-party delivery platform is the ability to create efficiencies in your operations. If you hire your own fleet of delivery drivers, you’re responsible for recruiting and vetting them. And after they’re onboarded, you’ll need to invest in the resources needed to manage them effectively. When you work with a third-party delivery platform, you have the option to connect directly with delivery people in the platform’s network, which can streamline your workflow and give you valuable time to tend to the other pressing tasks on your to-do list.
Using a third-party delivery platform will include some fees, but in comparison to handling deliveries in-house, you could end up saving money. Keeping employees on staff is one of the biggest costs of running a small business. By letting you access drivers without adding new staff, a delivery platform helps you keep those costs down.
A good third-party delivery platform will generally have relatively consistent availability, so you can count on a driver being accessible when you need one. They may also offer consistent pricing options, which simplifies your budgeting and makes it easier to know what to expect each time you need their services.
That said, this benefit depends on the platform you use and your service area. You’ll want to consider the overall size of the platform’s network and its particular pricing model. These are good factors to ask about up front so you know what you’re getting.
Any good small business delivery platform will provide order tracking that makes it possible for you and your customer to identify where the delivery is at any given moment. For customers, that cuts down on any anxiety about how long it will take to receive their purchase. For your business, it means fielding fewer calls from customers asking about their order status and gives you peace of mind that your items are on track to arrive when intended.
Your third-party delivery platform may also use software that automates the process of accessing analytics about your deliveries. That might include reporting that shows the number of deliveries, how long those took, your total earnings and costs, and how delivery customers rate you. That could save you time logging the information yourself and help you spot areas for improvement over time.
How Uber Eats can help with small business delivery
You have a lot on your plate already. You don’t have to take on all the work and costs involved in managing delivery in-house as well. With Uber Eats, you can provide customers with fast, easy delivery options without having to invest in new employees or products.
Uber Eats has a network of over 5 million delivery people worldwide—some of them likely working in your city. The Uber Eats platform provides order tracking that lets the business and the customer follow the progress of each order in real time. Small businesses can get set up to start using the platform fast, making it easy to add to your small business strategy at the moment you need it.
Frequently asked questions
Still have questions about the best small business delivery options? We’ve got a couple more answers.
- What is the best food delivery option for a small business?
It depends on your business needs. When looking for local food delivery options, make sure you prioritize speed, since it affects flavor quality and food safety. You can’t realistically go the traditional shipping route for food delivery—you need same-day options that promise on-demand delivery in your local area.
Consider factors that are important to your business and ask pointed questions to determine which platform is the right fit. If expanding your reach is a priority, ask about the total number of delivery drivers or customers on the platform. If you’re hoping to streamline your operations, look into the level of customer support the platform can provide. Their answers will give you an idea of the level of service to expect.
- Does Uber work as a local delivery platform for small businesses?
Absolutely. Small businesses can tap into our large network of delivery people for your local deliveries. That saves you the time and trouble of having to find drivers to hire and ensures that you only need to pay for actual orders, rather than hours on the clock. For businesses that want to provide same-day local deliveries while keeping your own branding, you also have the option of using Uber Direct for white-label delivery.
If your small business is just starting to offer delivery as an option, working with Uber reduces your risk while enabling you to better meet customer expectations. For any small businesses already offering delivery, it’s an easy way to supplement what you use now in order to offer more deliveries to a wider customer base. Either way, Uber is a good option for small businesses in need of a reliable local delivery platform.
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