As consumers increasingly turn to ecommerce for their shopping needs, offering an exceptional delivery experience is no longer just “nice to have”. It is a vital component in every online purchase, writes Sean Sherwin-Smith, product director post-purchase, nShift.
Rather than being the end of a long customer journey, the ‘last-mile’ of deliveries, returns, and fulfilment are rapidly moving up the priority list for consumers to be front-and-centre of the entire shopping experience.
But it’s nowhere near enough. We’re still seeing too much of retailers’ great work to get their customers to buy from them get wasted because something goes wrong with the delivery. Or because customers can’t choose the sort of the delivery to fit in with their plans. Or they are unable to return products that don’t do what they hoped. Or they can’t keep track of where a delivery is. This is an area we covered in detail in our recent report, ‘The five customer complaints that matter most – and how to avoid them.’
In fact there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests that deliveries are a key “moment of truth” in the customer experience, and an important driver of long-term loyalty.
Deliveries drive growth
The growth figures are indicative of the scope for improvement in this area. According to Allied Market Research, the global last mile delivery market was valued at over $131 billion in 2021, and is projected to reach $289 billion by 2031.
Nevertheless, many companies are still getting it wrong. By some estimates, as many as half of shoppers have abandoned their online shopping cart due to a shortage of satisfactory delivery options. While it is clear that shoppers will vote with their feet (and their wallet) if the delivery experience doesn’t meet their expectations, it also provides a huge opportunity to shape a customer’s perception, and establish or build a long-term relationship.
Opportunity to shape customer perception
From the moment they visit an online store to the moment they receive their order, today’s customers expect a smooth, friction-free shopping journey. Customers who have had a bad delivery experience often don’t come back, which costs retailers, both in terms of brand reputation, and of repeat revenues from loyal customers.
While e-commerce has revolutionised how we shop, it often means that delivery is the only part of the experience in which a customer physically interacts with an online retailer or brand. Strong relationships, based on a mutual understanding – of a customer’s needs, and how a retailer can meet them – can create trust. And trust, in turn, will help to increase sales and customer retention.
Take ownership of the delivery experience
This suggests that retailers need to take ownership of the delivery process. This will allow them to more directly serve their customers, leading to greater loyalty. As shoppers, we like to know who we’re dealing with but in many cases, the only thing customers will hear about their delivery will be from the shipping carrier – not the retailer or brand they’ve bought from.
At other times, the customer will hear directly from the retailer. But the look and feel of the communication often fails to match the slick and professional nature of the website. Neither of these scenarios do a brand justice at such a crucial moment in the customer experience.
Four ways to maximise growth through delivery
Doing deliveries right, combined with insight into a customer’s preferences and concerns, will go a long way to keeping customers happy and coming back for more. Here are four approaches that retailers and webshops can follow to address these issues and maximise their growth potential through delivery management:
- Ensure that the delivery management platform supports a joined-up experience running end-to-end, from checkout to returns.
- Deliver outstanding customer experiences. Offer delivery options that customers expect, so they can make the choice between the cost, speed and sustainability of each delivery.
- In deployments, go for pre-built integrations with carriers and technologies, rather than building bespoke ones. Insist on straightforward, pre-built integrations with retailers’ existing tech stacks, and with large carrier libraries. Building carrier libraries manually can add significantly to the time and cost of deploying delivery management software. Pick a partner that has the carriers in place to start with.
- Make returns part of your retention engine. A study by WBR Insights found 89% of consumers are less likely to buy from a retailer following a bad return experience, while 97% would likely buy again after a positive return experience. Data from Accenture supports this notion: 82% of consumers consider a retailer’s return policy important before making an online purchase.
Run deliveries smarter
Delivery management today is about far more than book and print, and carrier management. It is crucial to customer satisfaction but can be difficult to execute at scale. Every mistake represents a cost – and, potentially, a lost customer. On the other hand, deliveries done right present great opportunities for customer retention. Indeed, we’re seeing more and more brands opting to invest in suites which help them run deliveries smarter – while also meeting the high expectations of customers today.
The benefits of owning the delivery experience, from one end to the other, are clear. Building strong, trusted relationships with customers goes a long way to encouraging loyalty and repeat purchases. It’s important, then, that online retailers don’t jeopardise those relationships as their business grows. Deliveries done right make customer experiences that “stick”.
Sean Sherwin-Smith, product director post-purchase, nShift