Speed – consumers want it and businesses need it. Wireless companies are working to improve their cellular speed to meet customers’ demands of faster service. Airlines are working to improve their planes so they can offer nonstop services across the globe for a quicker and more convenient travel experience. Likewise, the retail industry is implementing new tools to offer same-day delivery to its customers in order to provide a better experience and meet demands.

Consumers are used to having information at their fingertips, which means their expectations on delivery are just as high. Gone are the days of expected two-day shipping. Now, today’s retailers must strive to offer same-day delivery. According to BRP Consulting, the percentage of e-commerce brands already offering this shipping service increased from 16% in 2017 to 51% in 2018. Experts believe this will increase even more to 65% of retailers offering same-day delivery within the next two years.

No retailer wants to be part of the last 35% to implement this service, but this speedy shipping offering can be difficult to incorporate into a shipping strategy. Fortunately, retailers can use a variety of tools to close the gap between order time and delivery to meet customer demands and boost business.

· Create more fulfillment centers. It’s all about decreasing the distance to the customer. By utilizing brick and mortar stores, suppliers and manufacturers, and even third-party logistics companies, items are located all across the country and even around the globe in order to reach the customer faster. For example, GNC, a global health and wellness brand, recently chose multi-carrier shipping software in order to offer ship-from-store capabilities from its 400+ retail locations and plans to offer quicker delivery options to its customers. Other shipping partners, like suppliers and manufacturers, can ship items directly from their facilities to ensure your customers receive their orders even quicker. Third-party logistics companies can also provide additional shipping, especially during the peak shipping season surge.

· Add a variety of shipping carriers. One size does not fit all. Retailers should use local, regional, and national carriers to create their own unique shipping carrier network in order to get the best shipping rates and times. While national carriers cover a much larger area and offer a variety of services, local and regional carriers provide competitive pricing. These carriers also typically offer a wider schedule of pickup and delivery times. Many retailers shy away from these carriers, but their delivery areas are larger than you think. In fact, local carriers can typically transport shipments 80 to 100 miles within a specified zone. This is perfect if you have a distribution center in a specific area or a higher concentration of customers in a particular region. Local and regional carriers are also great options during peak shipping season, when some of the national carrier’s lanes are overloaded or unavailable. Another benefit of local and regional carriers is their more personalized, caring service for customers, adding to a superior customer experience.

· Develop your own shipping strategy. The first rule: make it scalable. The easy way out would be to follow the same shipping strategy as your competitor or even a retail giant like Amazon, but your shipping strategy needs to be customized to fit your business and specific customer preferences. Customers want a variety of shipping options and niche experiences, so offer them. It’s also important to remember that the most successful shipping strategies have the ability to adapt to other geographies and expand as your business grows. This way, your strategy can be implemented into other markets and your customer experience isn’t lost along the way.

· Incorporate multi-carrier shipping software. You can’t do it all yourself, which is why innovative shipping software can be the tool to set you apart when offering same-day delivery. Multi-carrier shipping software can identify the fastest shipping route by rating hundreds of carriers and their services against each other in seconds, instead of associates doing it manually. It will then produce a carrier-compliant shipping label so no shipment is delayed due to inaccuracies and customers will receive their orders when they expect them.

Even after all of this, retailers must take into account a variety of limitations and restrictions, like labor and inventory. Without the associates or inventory to get the product to the customers, same-day delivery isn’t possible. Once you find the right people, have the inventory on hand, and the warehouse management software to manage this new shipping service, retailers need to identify the cost of the service. Two questions to ask include: What will this cost the customer, and is your customer base willing to spend this amount of money?

In order to compete in this world, you need to be fast. If a commercial plane can take you from New York to Sydney in less than a day, why can’t a customer’s order get to their doorstep that fast? By implementing these tools and innovations, you’ll be able to meet your customers’ demands of same-day delivery while creating a superior customer experience. In the end, speed really is the name of the game.

Justin Cramer is Global Project Management Director and Co-Founder at ProShip, Inc, the global provider of today’s #1 multi-carrier shipping software. Throughout his time at ProShip, Cramer has designed shipping solutions responsible for executing more than 1.1 million labels per day and has worked with many small to global shippers on achieving certified carrier labels.

This article originally appeared in the November/December, 2019 issue of PARCEL.