Not too long ago, ordering something online meant waiting weeks before it was delivered. That's all changed. Now there's a good chance you can order something and have it in your hands overnight, or even the same day. Let's look at some of the services that make this possible, and what types of things you can get from them.
I remember when 3-5 business day delivery was "fast," and many retailers would take weeks to process and deliver orders. Today, we're almost completely accustomed to orders that process immediately and arrive within days. Now, new services promise to get your order from screen to door in hours. It may sound lazy, but it's actually really useful, especially for people who have mobility issues, lead busy lives, or just love instant gratification. Here are some of the best:
Amazon, for good or ill, is leading the charge into this new "order something and have it on your doorstep in moments" future. The company has three or four services that offer speedy delivery, depending on what you need. Amazon Same Day Delivery will make sure your order will be in your hands before 9pm if you place it before noon, seven days a week. If for some reason you're a little late, you'll probably be able to get next day delivery instead. Of course, Same Day Delivery is only available for certain cities, but most major metro areas in the US, especially on the east coast and midwest and on the west coast and southwest, are covered.
There's also Amazon Prime, as we all know, gives you free two-day shipping on eligable items (as well as tons of other benefits), but their $3.99/item one day shipping is worth highlighting as well. In most cases, that means your item will be on your doorstep the morning after you've placed the order, as long as you're not ordering too late (and the item isn't too far away.) In some cases, even opting for two-day shipping means your item will show up the next morning, if Amazon has it in a warehouse near you (Something I realized when the rechargable batteries I ordered on Friday arrived Saturday, even though it was snowing.
Google Express is an arm of Google Shopping that delivers products to your home the day you order them. If you're too busy, or just have too much else going on that you can't get out to Staples, Costco, Giant, Walgreen's, or a number of other large retailers, Google Shopping can do the lifting for you. You have to sign up for a membership that'll run you $10/mo or $95/yr (your first three months are free), but once you do, you can order as much as you need or like, and get free same day delivery on any order that's more than $15. You can even tell Google Express when it's a convenient time for you to get your delivery, so you're home when they arrive. If you're not, they'll leave your order on your doorstep (or with anyone else authorized to sign for it.)
The membership price is a little steep, but if you tend to run out to do errands frequently and wish you had more time to do the things you want instead of hopping between stores in your community, it's worth a look. Of course, Google Express is only available in a handful of areas, with a few additional regions getting overnight delivery instead of same-day. Even so, Google has been expanding the service to more metro areas, and lets you sign up to be notified when your area is supported.
If you prefer to shop at local businesses that aren't necessarily large retailers or chains, Postmatesmay be up your alley. The service is similar to eBay Now in that they use local couriers and drivers to get your order to you within one hour. The big difference is that instead of nationally known stores, Postmates focuses on restaurants, specialty shops, and other small local businesses that could use your patronage. Their web site, along with their apps for iOS and for Android, put restaurants and local stores at your fingertips. They even hire people in your community to deliver.
You may notice a few recognizable names when you pull up your city though. For example, here in DC I can get delivery from a number of popular bakeries, restaurants, and sushi bars, but I can also order groceries from Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and more. In general, if an item is available at a supported store in your city, Postmates can have a courier bring it to you. Many stores even let you place "custom orders," so if they have it, they'll work up a price for it and give it to your courier.
Postmates' help page shows you which cities the service is available (even alcohol delivery is available in some places), and delivery fees start at $5 and are calculated based on the distance between store and delivery point. Additionally, there's a 9% service fee applied to your purchase price. If it's a busy day, rush hour, or some other peak time, your order may hit "Blitz pricing," which, like Uber's Surge Pricing, will cost you more, but there are more couriers available at that time. If you're into rapid delivery and you live in a supported city, you might be surprised at how quick Postmates really is, and how broad your selection of items can be.
eBay's same-day delivery service, eBay Now, is also in on the local, rapid-delivery game, although it's available in even fewer locations than some of the others here. If you do live in a supported area (New York City, Dallas, Chicago, San Jose, and San Francisco), you'll have access to same-day delivery from stores like Home Depot, Best Buy, GNC, Guitar Center, AutoZone, Office Depot, and others. The service lets you shop from the stock of those local stores, schedule a delivery time between 9am and 9pm, and a courier will bring your order right to you.
Since eBay uses local couriers and picks up from stores in your community (instead of warehouses in your region), you can have your order in as little as a few hours if your item and delivery window are available. You do pay for delivery though—$5 for one order (min $25) from one store, $10 for one order from two stores, and $10 for two orders from the same store. Aside from that however, there are no membership fees or costs. However, you do have to be present (or have an authorized recipient present) for your delivery—if you're not, they'll try to contact you, but if they can't reach you they'll take it back to the store and refund your order.
These may be the big ones right now, but they're far from alone. For example, Uber Essentials is another project where drivers—who are out anyway picking up customers and driving them to their destinations—also deliver select grocery and other items when they're in between rides. It's only available in Washington DC at the moment, but there are similar, other city-specific services across the country.
If you're feeling left out, keep in mind that the services above take a city-by-city approach to expansion, so yours may be on the way soon. It's pretty clear that the days when ordering online meant a day or two for your order to process, then least a week of shipping are over, except in the most rural areas. With more shipping services (including the USPS) offering things like Sunday delivery and expanded hours, and with more stores promising within-hours delivery, it's just a matter of time before "same-day/overnight" is the norm.