Sometimes the most obvious answer is the right one, and sometimes it’s staring you in the face waiting for you to recognise it. This could be said to be the case when it comes to retailers gaining an advantage by giving customers what they want. While customers can be fickle and hard to please at times, there are also times when what they want couldn’t be any clearer. One such case being delivery and collection, writes Stuart Godman, chief strategy & marketing officer at DX, the independent mail, parcels and logistics operator.
E-commerce and m-commerce activity is soaring, with more and more consumers reaching for their mobile devices and computers to seek out and order a wide variety of goods. As a result, many consumers now see online shopping and home delivery as the norm – and most expect to have a range of different delivery options available at the checkout. Retailers therefore have a clear window from which they can improve customer satisfaction.
Home delivery, a choice of time slots, two man support and click-and-collect are just some of the particulars that can improve customer satisfaction in this area, and with it, loyalty for the retailer. As such, retailers should not view these services as ‘added bonuses’ for a consumer, but rather as a must-have that customers now expect and demand.
The good news is that home delivery can give retailers an opportunity to delight their existing customers and win new ones. However, there are challenges to overcome as well. To satisfy consumers’ demands and stay one step ahead in this increasingly competitive industry, retailers and logistics firms will need to work closely together to satisfy the shopper from the point of sale, and provide a consistent service until the parcel arrives at the customer’s home.
Managing delivery demands
With customer expectations changing rapidly, retailers and delivery companies need to continually adjust their services. For example, when shopping online, customers now expect to see services ranging from next-day delivery to convenient pick-up options. However, shoppers don’t always understand what these different choices involve, or how suitable each option is for their particular order.
The key to success here lies with the parcel carriers, who must educate retailers on the differences between delivery options. However, retailers have a role to play here as well; they need to make sure that their online checkout facilities include a detailed breakdown of what each delivery option entails – along with the costs involved. This way, customers can decide which choice will be best for their particular needs, even if it’s not the cheapest.
As the online retail space becomes increasingly crowded, online shoppers have an almost unlimited number of websites to buy from, so cost and convenience will be at the forefront of their minds. With competition running high, customers need to understand that suitability is an equally crucial factor when opting for delivery choices – and it’s up to logistics partners to provide this expertise and retailers to communicate it to savvy shoppers.
When it comes to home delivery of bulky or heavy goods, for instance, some service options may only require the courier to deliver the goods to the customer’s doorstep. Many couriers will be familiar with the difficult position they are left in when customers expect large parcels to be carried inside the house, and sometimes to the room of their choice, when in fact this added value option has not been selected, or even offered by the retailer. To avoid situations like these, it is vital for retailers to understand exactly what each service includes, and then share this information with the customer.
Planning for peaks
Another big challenge for delivery efficiency is the recent growing trend in “flash sales” days. During high-volume sales periods such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, retailers often slash prices and offer ambitious next-day delivery promises. Courier firms must instil in retailers’ procurement and planning teams what effect this will have on the supply chain and encourage these promotions not to be committed to without a clear understanding of the impact on deliveries. The relevant preparatory steps must then be taken to avoid disappointed customers. At this point, it will be the supply chain’s responsibility to prepare for the expected spike in demand and fulfil the delivery promises that retailers have made. For their part, it is equally important for logistics firms to regularly communicate their capacity and abilities to retailers, both ahead of time and throughout these promotional or sales periods. Based on previous experience and predictions of customer demand, couriers can help to ensure that retailers are making realistic promises and therefore increase their chances of satisfying them.
A number of safeguards can be put in place to help here. These may include the hiring of more temporary staff both on the road and in warehouses, or the assignment of secondary and tertiary courier companies. If performed correctly, efficient planning and communication can help to protect the retailer’s brand reputation and boost customer loyalty considerably.
Consumers’ expectation levels seem to be growing as quickly as delivery volumes. However, even though competition in the retail industry is tougher than ever, logistics firms can improve the customer experience by sharing more information about different delivery options with retailers, who must then educate their shoppers.
By working together in this way, retailers and logistics partners can both achieve success and thrive in the ever-growing retail market. However, it’s vital that both sides agree to follow a clear strategy that not only helps consumers understand the different delivery options available, but which also reflects their changing needs, expectations and demands.