When Amazon and other online-first retailers increase their commitment to high-speed delivery, they inevitably have an impact on the way buyers think about eCommerce. Getting an item the day after it’s ordered is a far cry from the “six to eight weeks for delivery” that people of a certain age remember from TV commercials. It’s even a significant difference from three-to-five day shipping.

This changing world means one thing to the Amazon-sized giants and another to the rest of the eCommerce community. In an era of extremely frequent online shopping, the pressure is on for every business. People have a quick decision to make while hovering a cursor over a “place order” button. Should they click, or try another merchant that can offer some improvement – in price, service or delivery options?

Retailers have to ensure their offerings are strong and appealing enough to make consumers commit to ordering from them. This can mean meeting or exceeding very tough modern expectations of shipping times, prices and extra features. The standard was set by big companies, but everyone has to deal with them.

Staying effective

As DC Velocity contributor Travis Peter recently pointed out, companies following in the wake of Amazon and Walmart have a challenge on their hands: Giving consumers the fast shipping they have become accustomed to without losing their profit margins. The true challenge in providing quick delivery isn’t in getting parcels in front of customers – the infrastructure already exists. Making sure the eCommerce business responsible doesn’t lose a lot of money on the order is the issue sellers have to contend with.

Will companies be able to scale up during peak seasons?

Dealing with shipping providers effectively is one of the keys to manage costs while delivering goods with the speed that consumers have become accustomed to. Peter suggested that responding to modern shopping habits is one of the main ways to accomplish this feat, with companies that are able to track their customers’ multiple orders in a single day able to save money by packaging them all together. In addition, becoming keenly aware of various shippers’ policies regarding package sizes and weights – namely what triggers a price increase – can help retailers shave dollars from their costs.

Responding to demand

While there is no silver-bullet solution for providing fast delivery at reasonable prices, there are a few valuable tactics that apply in numerous circumstances. For instance, Forbes contributor Hugo Moreno suggested that merchants can craft multi-carrier strategies that maximize their effectiveness, and that these will differ based on region. Each business has its own optimal mix of delivery partners, and some research into current and potential agreements may help a business improve its options.

“Retailers’ job is meeting or exceeding very tough modern expectations.”

Moreno added that good delivery strategies are flexible based on consumer demand fluctuations. Needs will differ wildly between the holiday peak season and the bleak beginning of February, and companies that can’t scale up to deal with high levels of demand may end up disappointing their shoppers. It’s not uncommon for stories to emerge in January of businesses that fell significantly behind their delivery targets at the holidays – organizations that don’t want to join these ranks should plan for peak demand well in advance.

There are other techniques that can add year-round value, and business owners should be investigating ways to make their shipping better throughout the year. Moreno suggested increasing the amount of automation present in systems, as this can cut down on time-consuming hands-on labor, freeing employees to work on other projects and making sure the process from click to delivery is as smooth and simple as possible.

Orders have to arrive quickly, without breaking the bank.

The advantages of not being chained to one carrier or network are clear: If someone can do the job as effectively at less cost, it’s a wise decision to work with that organization. However, discovering the financial case for a given shipper at a particular moment is not a hands-on process that can be handled by employees. Instead, companies will need strong back-end algorithms.

Working with a third party

ECommerce merchants don’t have to carry the weight of their shipping practices on their own shoulders – when they sign up with the right third-party logistics partners, these companies gain access to advanced and tested shipper networks that are ready to deliver the kind of value and speed their customers expect. From high-speed capabilities to international offerings, these organizations specialize in making the eCommerce process as painless as possible for sellers and buyers alike, making them a potential valuable ally in the ongoing quest to become simultaneously fast and affordable. Competing with the Amazon-sized retailers of the world means improving processes across the board. Sometimes, the right partnership is what unlocks this next level of capabilities for merchants.