Recent years have seen considerable innovation in the online delivery space. Courier service Shutl was a pioneer in offering deliveries to customers within an hour, while Amazon has expanded its Prime Same Day delivery service to new parts of the UK; including major cities across England and Scotland. The recent Black Friday and Christmas period also saw retailers offering more delivery options to customers to encourage sales. However, retailers can’t stand still, writes Niklas Hedin – CEO, Centiro. Today’s omni-channel customer is king. In the future, offering speed and multiple delivery options simply won’t be enough – as customers will demand and expect the next level of delivery flexibility.
Options, options everywhere and not a drop to drink
While no customer would ever say having multiple delivery options is a bad thing, wouldn’t it be better if you could provide the customer with one option that could be adapted according to their individual requirements?
Research conducted last year by YouGov highlighted that delivery convenience rather than just choice is becoming more prominent in the minds of consumers; 20% of UK adults said it was most important to be able to change the delivery date or time slot for an order after it has already been shipped. A further 7% stated it was important that they were able to change the delivery destination after an order was placed. Flexibility of this sort can deliver a positive customer experience, encourage loyalty and give the retailer a bigger share of the customer wallet in the long run.
Bending the rules
The YouGov research also highlighted that the ease of deliveries and returns is now a consideration that helps determine if shoppers should choose one retailer over another. The next age of omnichannel retail will make delivery flexibility a key differentiator for retailers as they look to appeal to customers that want to make changes to their deliveries on the fly. There are a few examples of how this can appeal to the modern shopper.
While customers might previously have accepted waiting at home all day to receive an order, they now prioritise convenience – therefore expecting items to be delivered at a time and place that suits them rather than the retailer. This is changing the nature of retail fulfilment; River Island now offers “click and don’t collect”, so customers can have items delivered if they are no longer able to collect from a store. There is no reason why delivery networks cannot also cater for the opposite scenario. If a customer waiting at home for an order suddenly needs to leave the house to run an errand, they should also be able to flexibly change their delivery option to collect from a retailer’s store. Greater flexibility can also create new efficiencies for retailers having to handle reverse logistics. If customers are, for example, able to receive and return items at the same time, this is more convenient for the customer and the retailer can essentially halve their transport costs.
Stretching into the future
In the future, we will see greater innovation as retailers and carriers experiment with flexible delivery options, with some retailers coming out on top and some falling by the wayside. Of all the new technology that can facilitate this innovation, mobile has exciting potential. Mobile can revolutionise delivery services because it can be used as both a way to make easy payments and to give detailed, real-time information on the customer. In the future, you might pay for an item using your phone and then allow the carrier to track your location until a courier finds you and hands you your item. Using real-time customer data like this can help optimise delivery networks to better serve the needs of the customer and improve the success rate of deliveries for the carrier and retailer.
Offering a number of set delivery options to the customer is no longer enough – deliveries must be tailored to the customer to beat the competition. Flexible delivery options can create a full circle brand experience for the customer, wherever and however they engage with the retailer, and empower them with greater choice. For the retailer, this is the Holy Grail; they can maximise revenues from customer loyalty and reduce the cost of transport and reverse logistics.