Whether you’re a budding startup or an established brand, if you want to succeed in the online retail space, it’s vital to have good delivery management processes in place. Without them, your customers could end up with a negative perception of your brand. This could lead to reputational damage, a lack of repeat custom and, ultimately, a loss of revenue.
Ensuring your deliveries are dispatched and delivered on time and arrive in pristine condition is paramount. However, staying on top of orders and deliveries can be time consuming when trying to grow your brand. Follow our delivery management tips to work smarter, not harder, and free yourself up to focus on what you do best.
Why are multiple delivery options so important?
According to the eCommerce Delivery Benchmark report of 2020, 27 per cent of shoppers say they have bought from one retailer over another because they had better delivery options. This statistic highlights the need for businesses to carefully consider the important role delivery choice plays in consumer decision making.
Satisfying the wants and needs of your customers is a crucial element that ultimately leads to successful basket conversion. If the same product is provided by multiple online retailers, for instance, the nature of a business’ delivery options could be the deciding factor of where the customer chooses to complete an order. One online retailer may offer more expensive delivery than another, meaning the cheaper option may be preferred. However, it’s not always black and white as it may be worthwhile to choose the pricier alternative if the customer gets certain benefits through paying more for delivery.
Furthermore, it’s worth taking into account the growing trend towards online shopping, which has been expedited by the coronavirus pandemic. In December 2020, the Office for National Statistics reported ‘online sales reaching higher than usual levels over the course of the pandemic’. Bearing this out, online purchases represented 28.5 per cent of total sales in October compared with 20.1 per cent in February. With so many shoppers now looking to e-retail to satisfy their needs and an abundance of retailers competing for business online, it’s reasonable to assume that consumers’ already high expectations of delivery are likely to increase even further.
Even before the pandemic, speed, convenience and cost were key deciding factors for shoppers when choosing which retailers to invest in. According to KPMG’s Annual Retail Survey 2020, 43 per cent of shoppers select next-day delivery when placing ecommerce orders. But, interestingly, almost three quarters (73 per cent) of consumers said they would be put off making a purchase if they had to pay for delivery. The survey warns businesses against providing cheap, quick delivery at all costs however. With consumers looking for convenient end-to-end services and positive brand experiences, it’s important for businesses not to drop the ball when it comes to the quality of their delivery service. After all, this may be the only human interaction a customer has with the brand.
What does a customer want?
Of course, the types of delivery options you offer your customers will depend on your business model, the products you offer and the volume of parcels you ship. What’s key, however, is understanding the consumer perspective. Increasingly, customers are looking for innovative delivery solutions that satisfy their growing desire for choice and convenience – often over price. For example, KPMG reported that 38 per cent of survey participants said they would pay for delivery of groceries that took less than two hours. And it seems shoppers have come to expect a range of customer-focussed, convenient delivery options, such as:
- Same day
- Next day
- Nominated day
- Nominated time
- Lockerboxes and click and collect stores
Consumers are also looking for more control and visibility over their deliveries. In the past, shoppers may have had no choice but to wait seven to 10 days for a product to arrive, with no option to either track or change their delivery preferences. However, that’s all changed, helped by the emergence of super-fast delivery subscription services such as Amazon Prime and ASOS Premier Delivery.
With couriers that provide full tracking services and the ability to alter your delivery time and location, shoppers of today have come to expect more. From a business perspective, by providing your own branded tracking pages and regular delivery updates, you can reduce the time spent on resolving customer service and delivery tracking enquiries and provide your customers with an enhanced experience.
Whether your customers want an item to arrive next day, they need their product to be shipped to their workplace instead of their home address or they have to change the delivery time to fit in with their busy schedules, giving your audience the option to choose express delivery services and the ability to track and change their delivery location and arrival time puts more control in the hands of the shopper and creates a superior brand experience.
What is the best way to give your customers the choice they crave?
For enhanced flexibility and competitive rates, businesses should consider adopting a multi-carrier approach. This allows you to choose from a network of courier partners to get the best price and service for you and your consumers. It also acts as a disaster recovery fallback should one of your carriers be unable to take your parcels. However, getting quotes from multiple courier companies can be an onerous and time consuming process.
To maximise productivity and create a seamless customer experience, it’s worth investing in platforms and technology to help you to manage your orders and deliveries. This will give you the ability to automate manual processes and choose from multiple carrier options to get the best rates. If you’re shipping overseas, using the best tariffs and automatically producing any international customs documents will consistently save you time and money.
How to create a delivery plan
A good delivery plan should include everything related to the delivery of your products, from how the delivery information appears on your website and in your marketing collateral to the manner in which the items arrive at a customer’s doorstep.
Here are some top tips to bear in mind when creating a delivery plan:
1. Provide detailed delivery information
When optimising your delivery information online, it seems the devil is in the detail. According to the IMRG UK Consumer Home Delivery Review 2019/20, 18 per cent of shoppers who have abandoned a transaction at checkout for delivery reasons stated that they did so because the delivery time slots given were too vague. Providing your users with detailed information about when they can expect their delivery to arrive can give shoppers the confidence to purchase and ultimately, drive online conversions.
2. Automate processes where possible
Manually managing the minutiae of the delivery process by yourself may seem like a viable option but if you are to avoid human error, increase sales and grow your business successfully, it is worth investing in delivery management software to automate processes and increase efficiencies. You should also look to integrate your order and delivery services in order to create a truly streamlined and frictionless process.
3. Get your rates right
The aim of the game is to offer the lowest delivery rates possible and provide your customers with options that are convenient to them while still covering your costs. A Sales Optimize eCommerce Market Report stated that eight out of 10 shoppers would make online purchases more often if free shipping was available. However, according to the UK eCommerce Market Report 2019, only 32 per cent of online retailers offer this option. Free delivery is an appealing option for customers, although if paying for delivery means receiving an order sooner, at a specific time or with additional services such as tracking, they may be more inclined to invest in this method – the key here is choice
4. Select the right partners
The eCommerce Delivery Benchmark report of 2020 states that 37 per cent of shoppers would not return to a retailer following a bad delivery experience. The couriers you choose to work with will reflect back on your brand so it’s important to partner with reputable companies that put customer service first. Failing to do this could lead to reputation problems and difficulty retaining customers. By partnering up with a network of reputable courier companies, you can take advantage of competitive rates that will allow you to keep your overheads low while also providing your customers with the positive experience they desire. Also, consider providing your own branded tracking, to ensure a consistently high delivery experience, whichever courier partner is involved.
5. Don’t forget about returns
An effective returns policy is equally as crucial as an outbound delivery plan. According to a 2019 Guide to Returns, 50 per cent of shoppers abandoned their purchase at the final stage due to lack of choice when it came to returns and, as a result, 56 per cent of customers were put off from returning to the same retailer in the future. As with deliveries, choice and convenience in returning items to the retailer will help with basket conversion and customer loyalty.
With online shopping booming, there’s never been a better time to grow an e-tail business. Whether you’re selling crafts from your bedroom, turning your passion for fashion into a profitable business, or operating out of a fully automated warehouse, online retail presents a world of opportunities. It also offers challenged bricks-and-mortar retailers a chance to breathe new life into their brands and achieve growth. Getting your delivery strategy right and automating your processes can help to give your customers the brand experience they deserve and keep them coming back to you for more.