This is a guest post by Gilad Maayan.
Retailers are starting to understand that the delivery experience plays a central role in the overall customer experience. Not only do people want more rapid delivery, but they also want more choices in their delivery options. In 2018, some of the key trends that evolved included same day delivery, click and collect, and the problem of people habitually returning items they’ve ordered.
In an ultra-competitive retail landscape, the delivery experience can be a differentiating factor for companies who want to make their customers happy and ensure future business from them. In fact, some studies have found that a negative delivery experience has such a poor impact on customer retention to the extent that 38 percent of customers would never return after a poor experience.
In 2019, expect to see more retailers taking huge strides towards becoming more efficient with their delivery and further expanding customer options. This article informs you of eight major delivery trends to take 2019 by storm.
Nominated Delivery Times
Influenced by customer demand for higher levels of convenience and personalization when ordering products, expect to see more companies offering nominated delivery times as part of their delivery propositions.
Such nominated time periods can refer to a chosen day of delivery or even a specific one hour time slot, depending on how the company implements this option. The main premise behind the expected surge in popularity of nominated delivery is that customers know their own schedules better than anyone, meaning they can choose a delivery day or time that best suits them, which is likely to lead to a more satisfactory experience.
Optimizing the Last Mile
The last mile presents a perennial headache for retailers in terms of maximizing the efficiency of their operations, minimizing costs, and making customers happy. This last mile is a metaphor that refers to the final step of a product’s journey, typically from the nearest distribution center to the final address.
A slew of factors influence the inefficiency and dissatisfaction of the last mile, including delivering to incorrect addresses, not being able to find customers’ homes, and customers not being home to sign for their parcels.
More retailers will look into tracking the last mile to ensure greater visibility of processes and highlighting areas in which they can improve. Last mile tracking capability can also be provided to customers to ease the anxiety over not knowing when their product is expected to arrive.
In 2019, more companies will try to improve their communication about the delivery process. This means providing more information about delivery all the way through the customer journey. Before purchasing, customers can expect to see a growing range of delivery options presented to them.
After ordering, acknowledgments of successfully placed orders and order processing will help to ease customer anxiety about when their product might arrive. Then, after the order has been processed and shipped, businesses will look to send confirmation of this along with an expected arrival date. Many businesses may move towards offering shipping tracking so customers can know exactly where their goods are.
The last mile tracking option outlined in the previous point will provide the required visibility as the product completes its final journey to the customer.
Lastly, increased communication with customers will likely extend to the post-delivery window. Businesses can send e-surveys to customers asking them to rate the delivery experience. The data obtained from these surveys can be used to further improve delivery services.
New Modes of Transport
Expect to see more companies adopting new modes of transport in 2019 that leverage the best of modern technology to get goods to their customers. Drones offer huge potential for retailers trying to get products to customers in rural or remote areas. For omnichannel or eCommerce companies, the cost of delivering to rural areas can hugely impact their bottom line. By using drones, fuel costs and labor costs are reduced to almost nil.
Delivery robots are another mode of transport with exciting potential in retail, particularly for delivery in urban areas. These robots can navigate the concrete jungle of built-up urban areas without being halted by heavy traffic. Furthermore, the entire journey can be tracked via an app, with the customer being the only person who can open the delivery robot and obtain their goods via a special code.
Lastly, electric vehicle technology has reached the point that it offers a viable eco-friendly alternative for delivering goods compared to petrol or diesel-powered motor vehicles. Pollution is a growing problem in built-up urban areas, and customers are becoming more conscious of environmental sustainability in relation to how they receive their products.
In-Home Delivery Services
As part of the drive towards enhancing their available delivery options, many more retailers are expected to adopt in-home delivery services in 2019. These services can take the form of extending the concept of delivery from merely dropping off a product to either assembling it or placing it inside a customer’s home.
IKEA, for example, offers in-home furniture assembly for an additional fee. Leading UK retailers such as Waitrose are trialing their own type of in-home delivery services in which a driver, equipped with a mandatory camera strapped to their chest, gains temporary access to customers’ homes and places their groceries in appropriate locations while the customer is out of the home getting on with their day.
Increased Use of Delivery Lockers
Delivery lockers or parcel lockers provide a powerful method for improving the efficiency of retail delivery, particularly over the last mile. These secure locker systems are typically run by dedicated companies that establish lockers in multiple locations throughout specific regions.
When customers order for delivery, they can choose a delivery locker location nearest to them. The drive simply delivers to the delivery locker and the customer collects their product using a secure code to open the locker, known only to them. Such services instantly wipe out all the inefficiencies of the last mile, and 2019 will see further growth in what is already a rising delivery trend.
Battling High Return Levels
It has always been important for businesses to offer returns for customers who are dissatisfied with their products. Two of the main reasons for customers returning items are receiving the wrong product and goods being damaged during shipping. Retailers will certainly look to take action to battle high return levels due to these reasons, perhaps by improving packaging and improving logistics at their fulfillment centers.
High return levels cost retailers a lot of money. When products are returned, they spend an extended period of time outside a company’s sellable stock, and customers typically receive a full refund, meaning no benefit at all to the retailer.
Another factor contributing to high return levels is return fraud, which is when people return items without a valid reason. Because retailers see it as good business practice to cater to customers needs, some people exploit this by returning items very frequently.
Expect to see retailers combating fraudulent returns in 2019 by identifying customers with a clear pattern of frequent returns and communicating with them. Some retailers will take the approach of trying to dissuade people from returning items. For example, some may draw inspiration from Jet.com, which offers reduced prices for goods if customers opt out of their free returns option.
Advancements in artificial intelligence and data analytics can be used to assist businesses in solving the last mile delivery dilemma. Machine learning algorithms can equip systems with the power to perform tasks autonomously, using data alone, without human intervention.
The relevance of machine learning for delivery is that machine learning algorithms can use historical delivery data to identify ordering patterns and predict future trends. Such predictions will help better prepare retailers to cope with high order volumes during times like Black Friday.
Powerful real-time data analytics systems can accelerate last mile delivery via route optimization. These systems can optimize routes and delivery schedules in response to a variety of constantly shifting conditions, including current weather and traffic.
Last mile delivery costs comprise 53% of the overall cost of delivery. It is no surprise that retailers will look towards advanced technologies to help cut these costs and become more profitable.
In summary, 2019 will see the rise of some intriguing delivery trends, including greater adoption of new modes of transport, better streamlining of delivery operations (particularly via last mile tracking), and more customer choice. The last mile problem remains to be solved but last mile tracking systems and data analytics provide the best hopes of improving this difficult leg of the delivery journey in 2019.
The end goal for all retailers in the competitive modern landscape should be to provide a stellar delivery experience that encourages people to make repeat orders. High-quality products are, of course, the ultimate contributor to customer satisfaction. However, with more people ordering goods online, the delivery experience is more vital than ever.
[About the Author: Gilad David Maayan is the CEO and Founder of Agile SEO, a digital marketing agency focused on SaaS and technology clients. He has done strategic consulting, content marketing, and SEO/SEM for over 150 technology companies including Zend, Oracle, Electric Cloud, JFrog and Check Point. Together with his team he has helped numerous tech startups move from zero to tens of thousands of users, and driven double to triple digit growth in conversion and revenue for established software businesses.]