The big news story of 2015 retail spending was the vast growth in online purchasing. That spending was welcomed by retailers but it also resulted in them ‘grasping the nettle’ in terms of rethinking their delivery work paradigms. |
Online Christmas Boom
Consumer holiday spending in the conventional brick-and-mortar high street outlets was, for many retailers, something of a disappointment. That started with the ‘damp squib’ of Black Monday and rolled on into Christmas itself.
Fortunately, the picture for them online was entirely different. Analysts have speculated as to the causative factors (security, weather, etc.) but it seems that huge numbers of shoppers preferred to do their buying online, as opposed to walking along looking in shop windows.
However, not everything arising from this generated broad smiles as the money poured in. That’s because the consequences of this boom created some painful realisations for retailers that their delivery work operational processes just weren’t up to scratch.
As the volume of online buying surged, particularly in the period immediately before the Christmas holidays, it became apparent that significant components of existing delivery work processes just couldn’t cope with the load. Late deliveries, lost parcels, goods arriving damaged and so on, all led to consumer complaints and potential brand damage for the retailers concerned.
The retailers’ post-holiday analyses have now been completed and they have typically indicated the need to focus strategic development on to the areas associated with delivery work. There is now recognition that the consumer experience of deliveries and returns may be a major differentiator between the sales propositions offered by different companies.
Those retailers that will succeed in attracting customers on this basis are those that will grasp certain key points:
• Their responsibilities do not end when the sale has been dispatched but only when the customer receives it.
• Delivery work, even when provided on an outsourced basis by a third-party carrier, must be fully integrated into the retailer’s day-to-day operational processes.
• Those processes must be entirely visible to the consumer.
• Delivery times must be stated in advance and then met. Consumers will no longer accept “it will get to you eventually” sales propositions.
• Transit times must be fast for the vast majority of consumer addresses. Right or wrong, expectations in this area are high and growing by the day.
• These delivery processes must also include equally efficient operations to facilitate returns when required.
These changes will be challenging for retailers, not only in terms of implementing revised processes but also conceptually.
Today, numbers of retailers still appear to be of the opinion that delivery work is something they can pass over to another company and forget about. That attitude will need to change and new customer-centric delivery philosophies developed – and quickly, given the evolving nature of the marketplace. Being left behind others in the new online marketplace is not something that is likely to yield success.
Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day delivery work in the express freight exchange industry. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.
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