When we launched eDelivery, roughly a year ago, one of the little bits of shorthand we started using to explain our focus was that we were interested in the people, processes and technology that lie behind the business of fulfilling the multichannel promise.
The procurement of logistics and operations systems is one area where the people, processes and technology mantra starts to really come into its own.
Procurement – as a strategy, a department within businesses and organisations – is a highly influential activity. Tenders, RFIs, RFPs, rigorous scrutiny of potential suppliers’ financials, references and so on. Without doubt, this is enormously valuable work. Why do we all hate being put through it then? Maybe it’s because the process side of things is steering the ship a little too much.
The lessons you may find yourself learning in the next two months, when weaknesses are most likely to break under pressure, need to be fixed and not just papered over. In a feature entitled Connecting the Last Mile to the First, I spoke to retailers, carriers and systems providers about the procurement process. It covers top tips and things to avoid, advice on how to help your prospective suppliers quote more accurately, and how putting culture and personality right in the centre of procurement can lead you to an all round better result.
The feature forms part of the InternetRetailing Operations & Logistics Top500 Report, which you can find more details on here, including how to download your own copy.
Elsewhere on eDelivery, we have news from Tesco – the first retailer we’ve seen to start forewarning shoppers that they might have to expect delays to their orders this peak. There are many aspects of the impending peak that are beyond control – good customer communications is not one of them. So it’s good, heartening even, to see a big name like Tesco make this move.
Whether others will follow suit, or what effect it might have on sales conversion rates, remains to be seen. Certainly, the link between a choice of delivery/collection methods and sales has been well documented, according to parcel management firm GFS and others. There will be a danger that some shoppers will abandon their carts and buy from retailers being less open about possible delays.
As winter follows autumn, so returns follow sales. At the recent Retail Connections event, where our editor-in-chief Ian Jindal was one of the speakers, the problem of returns eating into the gains made during peak sales was one of the topics discussed. Returns are also a key part of N Brown Group’s digital-first strategy. The group, which owns retail brands like Figleaves, Jacamo, and Simply Be, has partnered with InPost to offer free returns via lockers. While lockers have been slow to take off in the UK, compared with Germany for example, they may yet find their place in the delivery and collection ecosystem.
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