It is no secret that the expectations and behaviours of e-commerce consumers have shifted in the wake of the pandemic. Customers expect to receive their parcels at a time and place that is most convenient for them and, as standards evolve, providing a positive delivery experience is paramount.
Since March 2020, the proportion of purchases made online has jumped from an average of 32% to 43%, and is expected to remain at 41%, even once the impacts of the pandemic diminish. However, as recent research from Descartes reveals that 72% of consumers have had an issue with delivery within the last three months, are retailers struggling to meet the increased demand and sacrificing a positive customer experience? With e-commerce demand continuing to increase and the additional strain of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas shopping around the corner, it is vital that retailers consider an effective and efficient delivery service as a top priority.
Minimising the effects of the HGV shortage
The events of the last 18 months have certainly exposed vulnerabilities in the global supply chain, which have only been exacerbated by the severe shortage of HGV drivers across the UK. This deficit is a serious problem for retailers nationwide, who are undoubtedly struggling to keep up with the demand as the shift towards online shopping continues to accelerate. In the absence of effective planning, logistics companies and retailers may compromise a satisfactory delivery experience as they desperately attempt to recruit new drivers and stretch their existing pool to the maximum. Recent studies show that the top three most common delivery issues experienced by consumers are all time-related, and it is vital that businesses consider how they can minimise delivery delays and optimise driver efficiency in order to stay in the game.
Improving the overall productivity of existing drivers by optimising delivery routes should be the first port of call. By using advanced route optimisation software, all delivery options can be evaluated instantaneously, ultimately selecting the right combination of routes and stops to maximise delivery capacity and increase efficiency. By implementing automated route planning, delivery capacity can be increased by up to 35% and offer vast improvements to delivery services.
Convenience is key
Customers value convenience. If delivery slots lack flexibility, or if the options are not up to scratch, they are likely to purchase from elsewhere. It was found that 45% of British consumers are more likely to shop with a merchant if next-day delivery is available at the point of purchase, and whilst an allocated time slot is one of the most preferred delivery options, 83% of retailers do not offer them. By offering the flexibility and convenience of delivery time-windows, businesses could differentiate their customer experience and boost consumer confidence by ultimately giving them control of when and how they receive their products, which may not necessarily be the next day.
With dynamic delivery appointment scheduling, retailers can improve delivery density by offering customers incentivised delivery options at the point of purchase. Advanced scheduling software can offer slots that are in close proximity to existing deliveries at a reduced cost, increasing driver productivity and reaching optimum efficiency. With numerous options available to them, the customer is empowered to choose the slot that best fits their needs, whether that be the quickest method, a specific date and time, or even an ‘eco-friendly’ option.
Whilst timely and convenient deliveries should remain a top priority for retailers, there are other aspects to consider. For example, parcels being left in unsecure locations and receiving damaged goods, are also common issues experienced by customers when ordering products online. If retailers are to stay competitive and grow, they must mitigate these issues with streamlined and efficient logistical operations. Failure to implement the necessary infrastructure will eventually result in retailers suffering a loss of customer loyalty. Customers who believe their experience to have been negative are likely to complain and businesses cannot turn a blind eye to such implications of inadequate service.
Put simply, consumers want simple, reliable and hassle-free service. With GPS-based real-time vehicle tracking, logistics providers can improve their delivery execution and gain trust from their customers. Customer service can also be enhanced with mobile-enabled proof of delivery, as well as automated notifications and delivery status updates to the customer, providing the thoughtful communication and transparency that today’s consumers expect.
It is clear that online shopping will continue to dominate, and retailers cannot afford to undervalue the importance of a positive delivery experience. Nearly three in four consumers have had an issue with a delivery service in the past three months, which has fundamentally led to 24% losing trust in the retailer. With over a third sharing their experience with friends and family, a ripple effect can dramatically impact a business, and damage the reputation of their service. As expectations continue to rise, retailers must enhance the end-to-end experience and implement an effective strategy, otherwise risk the quality of their delivery service undermining the overall customer perception. Technology solutions can seamlessly integrate and instantaneously help businesses to successfully meet their customer experience objectives and gain consumer trust, which will continue to be a pillar of success as we approach the peak season.
Holly brings a wealth of experience in both print and digital publishing. As Modern Retail’s Content Editor, Holly is passionate about helping independent retailers to thrive in today’s ever-changing market.