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The age of e-commerce has simplified many business processes, while also increasing their sophistication. This is definitely the case when it comes to product delivery, especially delivery of large or bulky items.

When getting this larger inventory to customers, businesses commonly operate on a 2- to 5-day delivery system. Sometimes deliveries can take even longer. However, thanks to more efficient logistics, many companies have succeeded in incorporating same-day and next-day delivery strategies within their customer service strategies.

According to data from Statista, nearly half of the consumers who participated in a U.S. survey said they would willingly wait about two days to receive their deliveries. Amazon and other companies that offer same-day/next-day delivery options created expectations of quick deliveries for suppliers of large products like furniture and appliances. But answering the question as to whether same-day or next-day delivery is better for these suppliers requires an understanding of these two processes and methods. 

Same-day delivery

With same-day delivery, customers who place their orders within a specific time frame get their orders processed, packaged and delivered within 24 hours, either by the business’ delivery transport system or a third-party delivery solutions provider.

A delivery expectations survey carried out by PWC showed that 41% of consumers are willing to pay an extra charge to get a product during the same day. Yet the survey also noted that only 24% would pay for almost immediate (a one- or two-hour window) delivery. While this proves that the demand for instant delivery is set to grow exponentially, there are still drawbacks to the sustainable implementation of this method.  

For small-scale retailers, especially those handling bulky items, adapting a same-day delivery strategy means hiring more staff for efficient and faster processing of orders, the activities of which would include instant packaging and getting the product to the correct address. Put simply, it is a lot of work that has to be done quickly and precisely. 

Next-day delivery

Similar to the same-day delivery method, next-day deliveries require quick processing. And next-day deliveries require cut-off time specifications, similar to those of same-day deliveries. The difference is that next-day delivery orders are generally processed after businesses have closed for the day. In comparison to the same-day delivery process, this method leaves more room for the business to properly organize the orders they have received. They can schedule shipping, based on the proximity of the delivery locations. This allows orders targeted for the same community or region to be shipped at the same time, and by using the same delivery personnel.

Next-day delivery provides a larger time gap between order and expected receipt. This allows retailers to take extra care in the packaging and sorting of orders. If the business is using a third-party delivery service, they can place the delivery personnel request and receive confirmation of availability to avoid mix-ups and delays.  They can also follow up on orders through the tracking feature if the service offers this.  

Which is more sustainable?

Now that we have broken down these methods of delivery, it is important to cross-check their sustainability for the business and the environment, as well as customer appeal.

The same-day delivery process requires more rapid order processing and immediate transportation, which can mean more resource consumption. This leads to higher logistics costs which many times are passed on to the consumer. 

In theory, same-day delivery can work for a furniture or electronics retailer, as most of their products may be available, either in their retail stores or warehouses. But next-day deliveries give the staff more time to ensure proper order fulfillment. This, in turn, means fewer customer complaints and product returns. Fewer product returns mean less carbon emissions from trucks having to return to a customer, pick up an order, and travel back to a warehouse or distribution center.

Additionally, same-day deliveries can contribute to higher levels of noise and air pollution due to multiple runs throughout a particular route. On the other hand, next-day deliveries are more environmentally friendly because they involve a well-mapped delivery route, which saves on the cost of fuel and gas while reducing carbon emissions. 

Although the customer satisfaction and comfort derived with either method are very similar, the costs of operating same-day deliveries, especially as a small-scale business, are relatively higher than the cost of next-day deliveries.     

The reduced operations costs of next-day deliveries means costs savings for consumers. It also means that businesses have more profit, which can be redistributed into marketing or other activities.  

Diversified delivery options are one last-mile challenge faced by retailers, especially those that sell larger items. For any business trying to maintain relevance and a competitive advantage, employing an efficient delivery system is non-negotiable.

As such, when considering the effectiveness of a quick delivery method for a retailer, next-day deliveries end up more sustainable than same-day deliveries; they are more sustainable, suitable and eco-friendly.

About the author

Jay Sackos is vice president at Dolly. Dolly provides nationwide same-day and scheduled delivery of items. It works with major retailers, small businesses and individuals to schedule and deliver purchased items.