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What is on-demand delivery? Understanding express and same-day delivery options

Quality products and great customer service may be the most important cornerstones of a successful business. But today, customers care just as much about how your products get to them. That makes the last-mile delivery experience a crucial business consideration.

Uber recently partnered with Edelman to learn more about how consumers think about delivery in 2023. In interviews with more than 5,700 people across age groups and regions, the findings were clear: quality delivery has moved beyond a “nice to have” service to a core expectation.

Specifically, customers expect to have a range of on-demand delivery options at their fingertips and increasingly seek out the ability to receive products as fast as possible. Put simply, the last mile of delivery can be a strategic opportunity for your business to win over customers and boost your bottom line.

In this article, we’ll help you think through ways to build a standout delivery experience by exploring key findings from the report and covering the following topics:

What is on-demand delivery?

On-demand delivery allows customers to choose exactly when and where they prefer to have an order delivered. Oftentimes, customers can choose from a number of different delivery speeds based on their needs. These speeds might include express (within 2 hours), same-day, or scheduled. Even more, customers can track delivery progress in real time, which isn’t necessarily a standard feature with more traditional shipping options.

Read on to learn more about 2 of the fastest on-demand delivery speeds—express and same-day—and how businesses can offer these services.

What is express delivery?

Express delivery is the fastest fulfillment method available. It means that customers will place an order from your business and it will arrive at their specified location as quickly as possible. Generally, this is defined as within a 2-hour timeframe.

How does express delivery work?

Express delivery has long been standard in certain industries, like the restaurant industry. Someone ordering a pizza wants to know it will show up while it’s hot and fresh. But express delivery has also become a common expectation in recent years across many more industries. For example, for food-related categories like groceries and alcohol, more than 20% of our survey respondents chose express as their ideal delivery timeframe.

The way express delivery works can vary depending on the platform your business uses. Big businesses like Amazon can get orders out quickly by keeping stock in warehouses strategically located to keep delivery distances short. Even so, they have to hire many drivers and partner with other carriers to provide deliveries at the speed that customers want.

For small and medium businesses (SMBs), express delivery presents a bigger challenge. Sometimes SMBs can fulfill express orders with the help of on-staff drivers, but it’s a difficult service to scale. If you get a high volume of express delivery requests, you’ll likely struggle to fulfill them on time with only your own staff.

To work around these challenges, many SMBs opt to partner with a third-party delivery company. Instead of purchasing company cars and hiring a fleet of drivers yourself, you can tap into a large network of drivers already using the third-party platform. Then all you have to do is package the order appropriately and make sure it’s ready when the courier arrives to pick it up.

Generally, this process unfolds in the following steps:

Step 1: Customer places an order

A customer may place an order through your own channels (such as your website, app, or phone), or through a third-party app like Uber Eats. During this step, a customer will select their desired delivery speed and delivery address.

Step 2: Order request is processed

Your business will receive the order and process a delivery request. This may happen manually or automatically, depending on the delivery platform and integration.

Step 3: Delivery person picks up the order

Your business will be connected to a courier, who will arrive at your storefront, your warehouse, or a destination where you prepare orders. From there, the courier will handle transit to your customers.

Step 4: Customer receives their order

The courier will hand off the order to the customer. Along the way, your customer may have the option to track progress. This is important, because nearly 3 in 4 customers said real-time tracking visibility is important for a satisfactory experience—especially for express orders, for which customers pay a premium for speed.

What is same-day delivery?

Same-day delivery is when customers receive their items the same day they place an order. Same-day delivery often means an order will reach its destination a few hours after it’s placed.

How does same-day delivery work?

Same-day delivery is now an option customers commonly encounter when placing online orders. It’s also emerging as a preferred timeframe in industries that haven’t always been associated with delivery speed. For example, 15% of customers said they preferred same-day delivery for health and beauty products.

If your business uses a third-party delivery platform like Uber, same-day delivery requests are processed the same way express delivery requests are. The key difference is that customers will select a different delivery window at checkout—and for same-day delivery may bear a slightly lower cost as a result.

From a logistical standpoint, your business may want to specify a cutoff time for same-day deliveries, such as requiring orders to be placed by noon to qualify. This can save you from having to prepare items in a rush right before closing time while still providing a faster delivery option that customers clearly want.

Benefits of offering on-demand delivery

If you’ve made it this far without offering on-demand delivery options, you may wonder if it’s really necessary to add it to your services. In 2023, providing express and same-day delivery brings powerful benefits you don’t want to miss, including:

Winning more customers

Two-thirds of respondents (69%) in our survey said they would choose a company that offers express delivery over one that doesn’t.

Driving purchase consideration

Forty-four percent of people say they’ve chosen not to order from a company because it doesn’t offer express delivery. The numbers are even higher for Gen Z, with 66% saying they’ve abandoned a cart because they didn’t like the delivery options.

Earning repeat customers

The right delivery options can lead to customer loyalty. Almost all consumers (94%) say a good delivery experience makes them more likely to order from a business again.

Improving word-of-mouth marketing

A massive 92% of consumers say they’re more likely to recommend a business after a positive delivery experience.

Strengthening the customer relationship

Ninety percent of people say they feel more valued as a customer after a good delivery experience. Plus, 63% say express delivery makes them feel more in control of their life, and 68% say it gives them more time to focus on what they care most about.

Get a deeper understanding of how on-demand delivery affects the customer experience and how expectations differ across industries.

How to offer on-demand delivery with Uber

Offering on-demand delivery is a good way to grow your business, win customer loyalty, and stay competitive. Scaling your delivery operations may sound overwhelming, but partnering with a third-party platform like Uber can make this process more manageable. With Uber, your business can tap into 2 easy options to provide on-demand delivery:

  • Use white-label delivery with Uber Direct. Offer on-demand delivery through your own sales channels (like your company website and app) with Uber Direct. From the customer’s perspective, the shopping experience is associated entirely with your brand, while the work of fulfillment is handled by delivery people in Uber’s network.

  • Partner with Uber Eats. Expand your reach and find new customers by joining the Uber Eats marketplace. Customers specifically looking for express delivery options will see your store when opening an app they regularly use.

You don’t have to choose between the 2 options. Many businesses working with Uber are already using both to meet their goals. Uber Direct helps improve customer satisfaction with customers who already know you, while the Uber Eats marketplace helps reach new customers who might not find you otherwise.

Focus on running your business and let Uber’s network of couriers handle getting your products to customers—quickly and reliably. If you’re ready to begin scaling your delivery options, get started today.

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