It is no surprise that Christmas this year will be a little different, especially when it comes to buying the all-important presents for under the tree. With the second lockdown underway and the high-street closed, shoppers have once again turned their attention to ordering items online, thereby increasing the amount of home-deliveries.
In December 2019, retail sales in the UK amounted to an astonishing £53 billion. It shows that people are not shy of spending for the festive season and treating their loved ones (or themselves). This year it’s anticipated that we will see the increase of ecommerce and a digital Christmas as people may choose, or have no choice, to spend more time inside.
Bringing joy via ecommerce
The first lockdown saw the rise of ecommerce, with online orders and deliveries being the perfect pastime while stuck indoors. In May, shopping online accounted for a record 33% of retail sales, compared with 19% a year earlier.
Indeed, parcel deliveries became a welcomed distraction for the months stuck indoors, whether that was people finding and ordering the best summer deals or families ensuring their loved ones received birthday gifts despite being in lockdown. It comes as no surprise therefore that Royal Mail revealed that 36% of people said that receiving a parcel in lockdown was the highlight of their day.
As key workers, delivery drivers worked hard to bring this little bit of joy to individuals in their homes. But it’s not all good news – it was found that over half of British shoppers experienced delivery issues during lockdown, meaning that many deliveries were not bringing the joy to consumers that was intended, resulting in a negative brand experience. This clearly highlights the need for companies to step-up their ecommerce game as they prepare for a more digital Christmas.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has warned of the ‘nightmare before Christmas’ for retailers with the expected influx of online shopping orders, warning customers to start their purchasing early this year to prevent any Christmas chaos and allow retailers the chance to meet expectations.
With a third of Christmas shopping expected to take place online this year, retailers need to ensure they can handle the increased demand and that deliveries are received when and where consumers want them. This means retailers will have to make certain that the systems and processes behind their deliveries are as efficient as possible, and geared up to support drivers who will likely be making a record number of deliveries this Christmas.
Delivery companies are already noticing the strain, with companies such as DHL hiring 10,000 new workers as it prepares for a record Christmas season. It is essential that retailers prepare as customers will be expecting to get their parcels delivered on time, regardless of whether companies are making use of third-party logistics (3PL) or keeping their deliveries in-house.
Who is coming on a Christmas night?
To succeed in making sure that presents are all wrapped up and safely under the tree in time for Christmas, companies need to consider investing in solutions to optimise their fulfilment processes. This will not only safeguard drivers and increase efficiencies but will also reduce the number of complaints by avoiding late or missed deliveries.
With the uncertainty of December lockdowns, whether that be local or national, companies must ensure they have operational efficiency for those people relying on deliveries if they cannot leave their homes or the high-street has not re-opened. To meet the demands this Christmas they need to be smart about solutions to leverage greater accuracy and get more parcels delivered.
A solution that provides visibility, from initial collection to the last mile of home delivery is the key here, with integrated telematics and mobile data communications which provide increased visibility for both the fleet manager and the consumer. Retailers need to take into account the changing consumer behaviour and the expectation that deliveries should arrive when they are expected and scheduled for a specific convenient time or next-day. The scheduling software will therefore allow consumers to see in real-time exactly where a vehicle is and how long it will take until they get their item.
Additionally, further insight allows transport operators to add or amend jobs to avoid disruption, for example traffic or accidents caused by the unpredictable winter weather and send automatic updates to the customer about any changes to delivery. There may be chaos on the roads with the Christmas rush this winter that could cause delays en route for drivers, or an increased level of last-minute orders that mean drivers need to rush back to pick up another parcel. This solution maximises the number of deliveries, drives efficiency and improves the whole customer experience and with so many unknowns about the lockdown situation around Christmas, it is all the more reason to be prepared.
The ultimate delivery service
Unfortunately we cannot all live up to Santa’s legendary service of delivering presents to people’s homes around the whole world in one night, but a solution that encompasses route planning software with continuous background optimisation based on virtual real-time delivery capacity information and proposed route information enables retailers to transform the delivery options they can offer customers.
It is clear that Christmas will be different in many ways but there’s no doubt that this year more than ever people will rely on delivery drivers acting as Santa’s elves to get them what they need, from presents to groceries, to make this festive season as special as possible.
Andrew is Head of Marketing at Descartes Systems UK Ltd and has over twenty years’ business-to-business senior marketing management experience with high technology solutions (hardware, software and services) in complex business-to-business markets that includes logistics and transport with organisations such as Intel, Securicor, Unipart Technology Logistics and Orange.