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Are You Geared Up to Deliver on Your Christmas Promise?

Over the last few weeks there’s been no escaping the TV and print adverts encouraging us to “buy now for Christmas”.

For retailers looking to take advantage of seasonal demand it’s not surprising that their loudly trumpeted message is ‘Guaranteed Christmas delivery’. But a new sofa bought especially for the big family gathering at Christmas will miss its big moment if it’s delivered the day after the in-laws have left. And the new dishwasher that doesn’t arrive for its busiest day of the year will be a wash out.

While marketing campaigns happily make a commitment to deliver every new sofa or dining table in time for Christmas, this promise of a merry Christmas places a lot of pressure on those responsible for last mile delivery, as well as the order fulfilment teams.

At this time of year, customers are looking for absolute certainty when it comes to the date and time of their delivery window. But when a sofa has to be specially made in one of 30 different fabrics, the retailer’s promise of ‘buy now for Christmas’ is dependent on more than vehicle and driver availability.

Retailers of made-to-order goods need to be 100% confident that the delivery windows they offer customers at the point of sale are aligned with their manufacturing capacity. There may be space in a delivery van on the 10th December, but this window can’t be promised if the sofa won’t be available until the 19th of the month.

Coping with seasonal demand not only requires last mile delivery capabilities to be ramped up at the right time. It also calls for a joined-up approach to fulfilment that means a website, or customer services system, displays delivery windows that take account of workshop capacity as well as delivery resources.

On top of this, making customers’ Christmas wishes come true is set to become ever-more
challenging as traditional purchasing patterns are disrupted by events like Black Friday and customer expectations around delivery continue to creep ever-closer to Christmas.

Retailers are risking their reputations if their home delivery systems can’t help them rise to these challenges and factor in all that needs to happen to successfully prepare and deliver orders during their busiest sales period of the year.

If you’re responsible for home delivery order fulfilment this Christmas, you will already have your peak plans in place. For many made-to-order pieces, you may have even reached your order cut-off point for Christmas delivery. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you work your way through all those Christmas orders:

  • Are my orders always ready for the delivery date?

Seasonal sales surges put enormous pressure on production, particularly for made-to-order products. If your home delivery system doesn’t factor in manufacturing capacity, you could well find that some of the delivery windows you offer in the festive season aren’t feasible leading to added pressure in the warehouse, or disappointed customers.

  • Do my delivery windows allow for managing and picking orders?

The time and effort involved with getting orders ready for delivery varies enormously, from simple on-site picking to trunking items from a number of locations to one depot. These differences make pinpointing realistic delivery windows dependent on your system knowing and using data about your picking and distribution capacities.

  • Can I maximise the chance of my customers being at home to receive their delivery?

The cost of delivering any large item of furniture means it’s really important to make the journey just the once. By allowing customers the chance to choose their own delivery window and then amend that booking the week before, or even the day before, will improve first time delivery success, keeping your customers happy and your costs under control.

If you answered ‘Yes’ to each question, I suspect you’re already using one of the latest home delivery solutions. A solution that means you never offer delivery windows that can’t be fulfilled because of other supply chain limitations.

If you said ‘No’, then perhaps it’s time to start thinking about when you can do differently to make Christmas 2017 your best year ever. For late deliveries don’t just mean Christmas day disappointment, they can also mean brands lose some of their sparkle in customers’ eyes for good.

If you’re interested in finding out how Argos and Dreams have put customers at the centre of their home delivery operations, why not read Key considerations for home delivery best practice: a few words of advice from Argos, Dreams and Wincanton.

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