Productivity / Outsourcing

Are you an online retailer? Here’s your must-have checklist for selecting a delivery company

If you’re a company that sends goods via mail or courier, then selecting a delivery company will play a big part in the customer’s overall brand experience and your reputation. So don’t settle for second rate service.

22 January 2016 by

There are many advantages in having a third-party logistics partner for your online retail business, rather than your own dedicated courier fleet. It’s scalable to your operation’s size, can cater to a geographically-wide customer base, and operates on a fee-for-service basis.

Some of the better providers offer a trackable service using GPS, or a predictable delivery window for consumers.

But there are disadvantages too.

In the online retail world (which I operate in) positive reviews and social media mentions are crucial to ongoing business. If a courier let us down, it could sour the customer’s positive experience. Such a small detail could determine whether the customer recommends our product to others. In a cut-throat online world, we can’t afford to risk it.

Thankfully, many third-party logistic providers now recognise the value of their service to both the online retailer and the shopper. We now see more ambitious service level agreements from the likes of Direct Freight Express, Star Track and TNT, along specific delivery times, GPS tracking, call on approach and even after-hours service from companies such as Zoom2U.

"For an online retailer, the delivery company is an extension of the brand and a very important link in the chain."

When selecting a delivery company, focus on how well the service meets your specific requirements. Here are my ‘must-haves’:

  • Reputation – are they well established with a strong reputation? Do they care about maintaining a positive experience?
  • Experience/current customer base – do similar companies to yours use their service? What is their track record with other online retailers?
  • Coverage – can they deliver everywhere you need them to including national/regional and even remote parts of Australia? Do they have capacity for regional deliveries or a third-party solution? How does it work?
  • Delivery speed – Are they fast? Are they reliable? Do they offer a consistent delivery timetable? Can they offer additional services such as two-hour delivery windows or a call on approach?
  • Care and attention – do your goods arrive looking battered and bruised, or does the courier look after your items. There’s nothing worse for your brand image than a ripped carton and damaged goods.
  • Customer service – how do they rate on customer service and problem solving? It is easy to be wooed by a professional sales rep, but the ongoing service will determine the longevity of the relationship.
  • Rates – Are they willing to negotiate rates?
  • Tracking – Can you or your customers track the delivery (with a tracking number or GPS method)? How efficient is it? Is there a solution for re-delivery if needed?

Customer expectations have changed the game for retailers and transport companies alike.

You shouldn’t have to accept disappointing service as the status quo. An innovative third party logistic company that shares your values can deliver a real point of difference for your brand.

What has been your experiences when selecting a delivery company?

Matthew White

is director of Ergoflex Australia, an online retailer of premium quality memory foam mattresses. As well as helping Australians get a better night's sleep, Matthew is a marketer, sleep blogger, father of two and home renovator.


  • Some good points there Matthew, be conscious though that not all “Freight Carriers” are 3PL’s – the larger freight carriers do have 3PL logistics divisions, but many of the smaller carriers advertise “warehousing and distribution services” but are little more than a small shed with a bit of racking, a 3PL will receive your product in bulk, store it, pick and pack your orders prior to handing them to a delivery company to deliver directly to your clients – but back it up with a good software system and customer service team.

    Matthew’s “Don’t accept disappointing service” relates to your whole business stream, while price is obviously very important, poor service coupled with cheap prices can cripple your online business – even with a great delivery company, a bad 3PL can loose business for you just as fast if they can’t get your orders ready and out in the required timeframe…

    The good thing about a good 3PL is that they’ll offer the freight services of more than one freight company, this provides a good buffer but more importantly allows the 3PL to give the appropriate freight to the appropriate freight carrier, while Startrack Express are “ok” with residential deliveries, they are more suited to business deliveries, they don’t particularly like pallet deliveries either so making sure that the right freight goes with the right carrier is also paramount to achieving the service levels required for a fast and efficient delivery service.

    No longer is the “one size fits all” freight agreement with a single carrier relevant, look for a spread of companies who provide exceptional service…

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