rural deliveries for ecommerce can be a challenge - letterbox

How to solve rural delivery challenges and boost customer satisfaction


Written by David Renwick

Picture this: You’ve just started your new online business; the orders are rolling in and you’re getting rave reviews online. But then a bump in the road – your number of rural deliveries starts to tick up, and so do your shipping costs.

Delivery to rural addresses typically means dealing with additional freight costs and the need to identify and correct sometimes inconsistent rural addresses. That’s not to mention the higher fuel costs for couriers, slower delivery times and more.

How are you supposed to service your customers with rural addresses while keeping a handle on shipping costs? Don’t worry. In this article, we’ll cover some of the main challenges you’re likely to face when shipping rural, strategies you can use and how to keep rural delivery costs down.

We’ll also look at the story of Mountain Culture – a real-life Australian brewery now shipping to addresses all over Australia.

rural delivery challenges for retailers include longer lead times and higher costs - tractor and trailer

The number of rural online buyers is set to grow

Across the globe, over 90% of internet users now visit online retail stores. That’s a lot of online shopping – and a lot of rural customers!

What’s more, in Australia, a report from Deloitte (2020) found that in just one year there were 36 million parcel collections in regional post offices and hubs. The report also found that half of regional Australians make a purchase online which requires a delivery at least once a month.

The total value of regional eCommerce was also estimated at around $10.6 billion. There’s no denying that this market will continue to grow – both in Australia and beyond.

Rural deliveries: Top pain points for retailers

So, what are some of the main challenges retailers face when shipping orders to these rural addresses?

  • Shipping costs – It’s not cheap to deliver orders to rural customers. In fact, there are often unavoidable rural delivery surcharges.
  • Stretched delivery timeframes – Particularly a problem for Australia and the United States, rural deliveries always take much longer than deliveries within or between cities. This can be an issue for food retailers.
  • Fewer delivery runs – It makes sense that for the most part, rural locations get fewer delivery runs than urban locations. This ties back to the delivery timeframe problem above.
  • The need for clear rural customer delivery instructions – While not a problem exclusive to rural deliveries, the timeframes and distances involved with rural deliveries can make clear rural customer delivery instructions even more important to ensure customers get their orders on time.

How to manage rural deliveries

With the growth of rural deliveries unlikely to slow, retailers will need to consider a few different options to manage customer expectations and get orders out in a timely manner.

🚚 Limit delivery areas

In some cases, depending on the products you’re shipping, you may want to consider limiting your delivery areas. This is particularly relevant for businesses shipping food and other perishables.

📦 Send orders all together

Partial shipments are a great tool and customer incentive, but they don’t always make sense for rural customers. Instead, wait until orders are complete and send the order in one shipment.

😊 Manage customer expectations

Keep your customers in the loop throughout the delivery process with SMS and email shipping notifications as well as branded tracking pages. These tools let your customers know expected delivery times, when orders hit key delivery milestones and if there are any delays.

🆓 Offer free delivery for orders over a certain amount

You may want to encourage your customers to place larger orders so they can get free shipping. The idea is that the additional spend covers the shipping costs you’ll have to pay to get their order out.

🤝 Pick the right courier partners

Some couriers are better than others at servicing rural locations. For this reason, you may want to use specific couriers for rural addresses and other couriers for urban addresses. Using a so-called multi-courier strategy is a great way to manage shipping in general, as you’ll be able to easily add and remove courier services as required.

Wondering how you might manage all these recommendations? Managing your shipping in one centralised dashboard with shipping automation can be a great place to start. In this next section, we’ll cover how Starshipit can help.

Having trouble with rural deliveries? Consider shipping automation

As you’ve probably gathered from the section above, getting a handle on rural customer deliveries isn’t exactly easy. After all, there are a few different areas you need to address. Thankfully, shipping automation can help.

If you haven’t come across shipping automation before, it’s the process of using a single, centralised software platform to manage the different parts of your shipping. You can plug all your various platforms – like your eCommerce platform, warehouse management systems and different courier services – into one dashboard, letting you manage shipping from one dashboard.

Let’s see how shipping automation with Starshipit works to make managing rural deliveries easy for you and your customers.

Use Starshipit smart rules to automate the dispatch process

Create shipping rules

Using Starshipit’s Rules Engine, you can create custom rules which can be set to apply based on certain triggers. For example, you can create rules based on postcode, which lets you set specific couriers to apply to orders from certain post codes.

This is useful when you have couriers suited for rural deliveries, and others for urban deliveries.

Shipping automation also helps you to display different delivery options at checkout, so your customers can choose the one that suits them.

Free and friendly five star support is only an email or phone call away.

Keep customers informed about their deliveries

With rural delivery timeframes often slightly longer than urban timeframes, it’s always important that customers know where their order is and when to expect it.

This is another area where shipping automation has a large part to play. In Starshipit, you can use a template builder to create your own shipping notifications and branded tracking pages, and then set when you want to send your notifications.

Starshipit: Fulfilment and shipping platform

Manage shipping costs

Whether you’re shipping to rural addresses or within the city limits, it’s important to manage shipping costs. In fact, this is one of the main reasons businesses turn to shipping automation.

You can set up automations to ensure your shipping isn't eating into your margins. For example, you can create rules to account for variations in your shipping costs based on destination, weight, or delivery timeframes. You can then display accurate rates at checkout.

Reduce human error and simplify support through address validation

Auto correct invalid addresses

Starshipit can automatically flag and fix invalid addresses, even if your customers input the wrong details.

Starshipit dashboard with courier costs

Manage couriers in one platform

Have you ever tried to juggle multiple courier systems? It isn’t easy, and as your business grows and order volumes climb, it gets even harder. Shipping automation let’s you manage your different couriers from one platform, so you never need to copy order details between your eCommerce platform and couriers ever again.

How one Australian brewery overcame the challenges of rural deliveries

Mountain Culture is a brewery based in the Blue Mountains town of Katoomba. After suffering through the 2019 Australian bushfires and COVID, founders DJ and Harriet McCready knew they had switch to online selling in order to remain afloat. The challenge? Getting beer delivered to Australians all over the country.

In just a few weeks, they set up an online store, designed cans for their famous brews and started working out how they would get their beer out and into the hands of their eager customers.

Turning to Starshipit for shipping automation and Sendle for deliveries, it wasn't long before Mountain Culture had a smooth shipping operation up and running. With Starshipit, managing rural deliveries is as easy as sending orders within the same town. Now, the team saves 6-10 hours per week on packing and logistics alone.

Focusing on the customer experience

How Starshipit helps Mountain Culture

  • Save time in the packing stage by allowing Mountain Culture to filter orders by items.
  • Allows Mountain Culture to automatically assign the correct shipping rates to customers, even if they live rural.
  • Integrate with their courier and the other systems their business depends on.
  • Auto-corrects any invalid addresses (including rural addresses).
  • It just works – Starshipit handles the shipping basics for Mountain Culture without asking too much of their staff, or their time.

    Interested in reading the full story? Check out the case study.

Wrap up

To sum up, shipping to rural addresses can present a challenge to retailers, including increased costs and longer delivery times. However, by considering options such as limiting delivery areas, sending orders together, managing customer expectations, offering free delivery for larger orders, and choosing the right courier partners, retailers can effectively service rural customers while keeping shipping costs under control.

Shipping automation with Starshipit can further streamline the process by centralising shipping and allowing for custom rules and customer tracking.

Don't let rural deliveries hold you back from growing your online business – try shipping automation with Starshipit today and see the difference it can make. To experience the full benefits of shipping automation, sign up for a free trial or book a demo with one of our friendly team.

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David Renwick

David Renwick

David is Starshipit's Product Marketing Lead. When he's not whipping up a fresh new product update or chatting to customers for an exciting case study, you'll typically find him scoping out coffee spots and talking about what's on at the movies. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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