Today’s consumers carry out extensive research, evaluating purchases, perhaps searching multiple retailers, review and social media sites before they engage with brands. Their evaluation process takes into account a range of factors beyond the product and the price, including the ease of ordering, variety of delivery options and simplicity of returns processes. A retailer’s entire offering is under scrutiny, so now, more than ever, it is time for vendors to ensure the quality of their delivery service is aligned with the rest of their offering.
We all have our own delivery horror stories to tell, but how often do we sit back and think about how these encounters influence our buying preferences? The IMRG UK Consumer Home Delivery Review 2016 found that a good delivery experience directly encouraged 67.75% of customers to place a repeat order and that a fellow customer’s review influenced the choice of retailer 51.8% of the time.
All of this adds up to one indisputable fact: delivery is no longer a necessity thoughtlessly tacked onto the end of an operation. Instead, it is now a key differentiator in the consumer purchasing decision.
Ensuring that each individual customer receives a great delivery experience can improve buyer loyalty and reduce the risk of negative reviews or social media posts. In addition, many retailers are now finding that establishing an outstanding delivery service can work as part of their marketing strategy, bringing in new customers and elevating their services above that of their competitors. We only have to think of big players like Amazon and Argos to see how delivery options can form a valuable part of a brand’s offering.
Firstly, when considering how to improve your last mile service it is important to think about your specific sector. Yes, we all know that some big brands are setting high standards for delivery experience. But, are they actually a rival in your space? What are your competitors offering? What are the services that your customers need? It is essential to consider what services are relevant to your product offering, are attractive to your customers and can be provided profitably. For example, next-day delivery is great for a last minute birthday present, but when it comes to an oven or sofa, customers do not expect next day delivery and may in fact find it inconvenient, preferring to pick a delivery date in the future.
We have put together a list of 4 key areas that are important to get right if you are looking to create a positive, frictionless experience throughout the customer journey. Making sure you address all of these things with your market in mind will help you create a great customer experience.
Whether your customers are ordering in store, on your website or through a call centre agent, the order process should be quick, simple and transparent. With access to your competitors at the click of a button, you need to ensure that each step of your order process meets your customer’s needs. If your website is too slow, you ask for too much personal data, or your customers cannot easily find what they are looking for, they will abort their purchase and go elsewhere. A factor that has increased in importance over recent years is ensuring clear information about delivery options and returns policies is available early in the ordering process. In particular, vendors emphasising great delivery services as part of their offering need to ensure that the detail is easily available or risk frustrating prospective buyers and increased levels of basket abandonment.
41% of respondents to the IMRG Consumer Delivery Review, said that having ‘no convenient delivery option available’ had stopped them making a purchase. In short, your delivery offering could be having a negative impact on your business before your customer has even placed an order. The key to solving this is understanding what your customers really want from your delivery service, and then displaying that information early in the buying process. Offering a wider range of choices, more convenient options to fit around their lives and providing transparency promotes trust in your brand and can put you ahead of the competition. It is also important that you have the processes and systems in place that ensure your delivery team has confidence in delivering your service promise on time and in budget.
Given the significance of delivery options, it is surprising to learn the lack of choice available to consumers. Research from eDelivery and netdespatch suggests 64% of retailers are not currently offering same day delivery, 58% are not offering evening delivery and 59% are not offering Sunday delivery. If we combine these findings, with statistics from IMRG showing that consumers would find online orders more convenient if they were able to choose, a Sunday delivery (45.69%), an evening slot (55.0%) or a specific time slot (67.8%), it is clear that there is currently a sizeable gap between what customers would like and what vendors are providing.
Identifying which delivery options suit your business can, however, be difficult, and providing those services reliably and profitably can be even more challenging. So what’s the solution? The first step is to understand the needs of your customers – either using existing data or through surveys and focus groups – and then to identify the service delivery gap.
You may be able to address the gap by investing in a technology or software solution to help you provide these delivery services reliably and profitably. Whether this is a warehouse management system to better manage stock for shorter lead times or an order fulfilment solution to provide convenient and cost effective time slots, choosing the right system can help you streamline your delivery operation and satisfy the consumer demand for choice and convenience. You also need to factor in the delivery experience provided by any third parties that deliver on your behalf, and the processes and systems you can put in place to ensure it is consistent through all of your delivery channels.
Providing a good on-site service is essential to a positive customer delivery experience. Whether your drivers are your own employees or those of your carrier, providing them with the sufficient training and resources to carry out your desired on-site service is essential. Electronic proof of delivery software can streamline daily tasks and processes for your drivers, giving them more time to focus on customer service and increasing drops per driver. Simplifying the on-site process for your drivers may also allow you to offer additional services further improving the on-site customer service. For example, furniture assembly, room of choice delivery and packaging removal can all improve customer satisfaction with your delivery offering.
Additionally, equipping your drivers with proof of delivery software removes delivery paperwork making the on-site transaction quicker and promotes a more professional brand image, increasing customer confidence in your delivery offering. An electronic system also provides your drivers with access to detailed delivery information without the need to leaf through lots of paperwork. For example, special instructions from the customer can be transmitted for drivers to view before beginning a delivery. IMRG found that 61% of customers believed that ‘being able to add specific delivery instructions to your order’ would make receiving online orders more convenient.
Keeping your customers informed of progress throughout the delivery process can make the difference between good customer service and an outstanding delivery experience. Providing frequent communications about an order, whether that be via email, SMS or tracking portal, not only increases confidence in the reliability of your operation, but can also improve first time delivery success rates. Providing your customer with updated time slot notifications means they are better able to plan their time, which is more convenient for them, and reduces the number of failed deliveries for you, reducing the costs of your delivery operation accordingly.
According to research by eDelivery and netdespatch, providing ‘the ability for consumers to track their order’ is a high priority for improvement for 51% of retailers, with ‘providing update notifications at various stages of the journey’ also being cited by 27% of them. It is clear then, that most retailers understand the importance of frequent delivery communication. However, the practical implications of implementing the desired level of notifications can be difficult to manage and costly to implement.
With electronic proof of delivery software, you can automate some of your customer communication, meaning that your customers receive a better service without burdening your staff with extra procedures. With advanced proof of delivery software, you can:
Introducing improvements to any combination of the above areas of your delivery operation can improve your customer service and help you manage the cost of your delivery operation. However, investing in longer-term goals to align your last mile strategy with your customer needs and brand positioning, in order to differentiate your offering is more likely to provide a sustainable strategy. Providing customer service levels above and beyond those of your competitors can help position you as a key player in your space while relevant systems will allow you to do this both efficiently and profitably.
To discuss how you can improve you customer delivery experience with one of our experienced team, get in touch with Paragon today.
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