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A-Z of Fulfilment Concerns for Online Retailers – Part Three: Consumer-centric Delivery

  GARRY YOVICH
  SALES DIRECTOR @ DIRECT COURIERS

In the previous instalment in this series, Garry Yovich discussed some concerns relating to delivery service coverage in Australia. In this final instalment on fulfilment, he provides some advice on how to best serve your customers.

There has been a large amount of discussion in the past few years regarding the fundamental ways in which the internet has revolutionised the shopping process.

Australian consumers in particular were once very much a captive market, but with the advent of online retail, the world is truly their oyster.

No doubt by now you've heard of the customer-centric reality of contemporary retail. I'm here to tell you that this kind of thinking represents the way retailers should approach every element of their business. And that includes fulfilment.

It's About Choice, Not Charity

Customer-centricity doesn't entail that a retailer should relinquish profitability to meet customer needs. In fact, it should mean almost the opposite: retailers need to be using a customer-centric approach in order to enhance profitability and therefore sustainability.

What does this mean? It means putting yourself in the customer's shoes.

The rise in popularity of free shipping and free returns is a direct result of this ethos. In saying that, this doesn't mean a retailer needs to take a loss on fulfilment in order to compete. Sometimes there simply isn't a business case for offering free, nation-wide, same-day delivery.

Nor does it mean you can't offer your customers the choice of, say, free five- to seven-day delivery nation-wide, alongside next-day delivery for an additional fee

The Rise of the User-Pays System

As the market matures, we will slowly see more and more of a shift towards a 'user-pays' system. While so many businesses are offering free delivery (and potentially building this into the cost of sale), they are trying to get the best possible rates from the carriers. At some point soon the carriers are going to have to increase their rates to cover the cost of the ever-increasing number of non-deliveries, the administration involved in re-organising delivery, and the cost of the actual re-delivery (sometimes more than once).

This issue – of not being able to complete the delivery of goods because there is no one home to receive them – is possibly the largest fundamental problem facing the courier industry for home deliveries. Many different solutions are being tried. Some businesses have done deals with newsagents, service stations and other retail outlets to use as drop points for their deliveries. Others are setting up security boxes in densely populated areas, and are also delivering outside of business hours, including the weekends, to try and get these deliveries completed when someone is home to sign for them.

At Direct Couriers we've taken a new approach to combat these issues, and whilst at the high end of the delivery market, our service offering is fast becoming a real alternative.

The approach here is to offer retail clients flexible delivery options that their customers want. While some consumers want to receive their goods at a moment's notice, others are more flexible about the window in which they accept deliveries.

A Premium Service Equals A Premier Solution

A shorter timeframe between order and delivery generally means buyers will be available to receive the goods, but there's still a chance they may be unavailable when the driver arrives. So in order to present e-retailers and consumers with more transparency of their deliveries, we notify the consumer via SMS and/or email when the goods are collected and en route. The email allows the consumer to track the driver the whole way to the delivery point through our live mapping software. This is available on any PC, tablet or smartphone. Furthermore another optional message can be sent when the driver is approximately five kilometres from the delivery location, alerting the consumer that the driver is almost there.

As a result, the notification system has reduced non-delivery (due to the customer not being available to sign for the goods) from 27 percent to six percent. This has to be the ultimate indication of where the fulfilment industry is headed, as well as being an excellent example of the beauty of customer-centric thinking in fulfilment.

In my opinion, it's absolutely critical to let the buyer select the level of service and the cost they are prepared to pay for the delivery. They know it doesn't come free, so give them the choice.