Ecommerce Examined:
Assessing the delivery experience.

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Some may argue Amazon rule the world.


Today, online shopping is synonymous with the retail giant. But, in reality, ecommerce goes far beyond one (albeit well-known) business model. Take peer-to-peer sites like Shpock or eBay as alternatives. Or Alibaba that holds no stock itself, but connects millions of consumers with retail brands to make up one of the biggest ecommerce sites in the world.

Yep, there’s more to ecommerce than consumers think.

Ecommerce was once—and in some cases still is—a separate, defined sales channel for multi-channel retailers. We report on it and track it completely independently to physical sales. But now, the lines are blurring.

 
Some pure-play e-retailers like Missguided are moving into the bricks and mortar space with high street showrooms, while traditional retailers are closing stores to operate wholly online. At the same time, premium pure-play online sites like ASOS are continually developing their hyper-personalised and customer-centric approaches. And they’re nailing it.

The secret weapon? Perfecting the post-purchase and last mile experiences. Making deliveries personalised and streamlined. Then you’ll be winning the ecommerce game.


How to own the post-purchase ecommerce experience


Today, consumers have come to expect seamless omnichannel experiences, so ecommerce is tightly woven into 
all aspects of retail. And the secret weapon? Deliveries. Nailing the post-purchase experience is a vehicle to ecommerce success. 

Providing exceptional customer service and transparent delivery experiences boils down to embracing innovative technologies that give retailers more control than their legacy systems.

The bottom line? The customer, not the retailer, is at the heart of ecommerce delivery today.

Delivery is a linear process. It really shouldn’t be hard to provide information to the customer up front. If a step gets broken, it’s easy for carriers to see what’s gone wrong. Unfortunately they aren’t good at using this data to update customers. It’s an opportunity for retailers to step in - predict failure and manage customer expectations.
Andy Hill, Sales Director, Sorted

What is the ‘last mile’ and why is it important?


In ecommerce, the movement of goods from the warehouse or distribution centre to its final destination—often a customer’s home or work address—is classed as the ‘last mile’.

But why is the last mile important?

  • Cementing your brand equity
    There are a number of touchpoints in a typical buyer journey. And the final points of contact are where a long-lasting ‘good feeling’ and your brand equity will be remembered.

  • A chance for personalisation
    Giving your customers choice and personalised options for their delivery makes customers feel valued and appreciated.

  • An opportunity to be proactive
    Retailers receive hundreds of Where Is My Order (WISMO) calls a day. These calls are not only inconvenient, they are incredibly costly. Proactive communication flips a customer from feeling disappointed to valued.

Find out more about why nailing the last mile is so important in our blog.

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Where does fulfilment sit within retail delivery experiences?


Fulfilment is an essential arm in the retail delivery experience. Getting your products to the customer seamlessly is a key factor for ecommerce success.

As a retailer, your carrier relations are a hugely important element to this.

 

Carrier relations are key to delivery success 


First of all, your choice of carriers must align with your customers’ shipping preferences, your internal process and your inventory type.

No matter what goods or products your retail business delivers, the competence of your chosen carriers, their customer service capabilities and their ability to meet their delivery deadlines will directly impact your customers’ buying experiences.

Here’s what to consider when choosing your delivery carriers:

Delivery Profile
Are your customers more urban than rural, for example? Are they domestic or international? This will influence your carrier needs. With the growth of customers’ demand for convenient options, does your carrier mix include delivery to local stores or collection points?

Rate
The cost of your carriers will impact your bottom line, or the cost you pass on to your customers. Consider elements such as fuel costs, warranty, insurance and exclusions in this fee. Some carrier rates may be negotiable when you’re drafting your contract.

SLAs
The Service Level Agreement (SLA) your carriers offer to their customers should be aligned with your own brand promise and customer expectations. Service conditions should be clearly laid out in your carrier agreements, and should include details such as the proposed “right first time” delivery target, frequency and format of reporting and the expected number of daily deliveries.

Communication
It’s always possible that deliveries get delayed, misplaced or damaged. How your carriers plan to address these roadblocks and update your customers will make or break the customer delivery experience.

Integration
Consider how easily you can integrate your carriers’ platforms into your own delivery management system.

With a smart carrier management system like SortedPRO, retailers can quickly and easily link up to a number of different carriers. This gives retailers more options for optimising their delivery services, vastly reducing the risk of a single point of failure.
Paul Homer, National Sales Manager, Sorted

The advantages of third party logistics


Third-party logistics companies offer logistics services and support some or all aspects of a business’s shipping operations, managing the moving of goods from manufacturers and distributors to the end customer.

The services a third party logistics firm can provide vary widely across a spectrum of fulfillment and logistics functions. They include:

  • Dedicated transportation
  • Transportation procurement
  • Inventory management
  • Logistics management
  • Freight audit
  • Delivery tracking and tracing
  • Reverse logistics


What is white glove fulfilment?


The term ‘white glove fulfilment’ refers to a level of product handling that goes above and beyond a normal carrier service. We’re talking the rolls royce of delivery logistics. It’s all temperature controlled vehicles to transport perishable goods and advanced security zones to protect high value packages.

For all online retailers, ensuring customers’ purchases reach them in perfect condition is essential to guaranteeing consumer satisfaction and brand loyalty. But certain items are much more delicate or harder to deliver. For that reason, specialist or valuable items like jewellery, fresh foods, or perishable items have still been purchased predominantly from bricks-and-mortar stores.

For online retailers selling such items, however, there’s the option of white glove fulfilment.

Which retailers may require white glove fulfilment?

  • Grocery stores and sellers of perishable items
  • Delicate fabrics and jewellery retailers
  • Antiques and rare items dealers
  • Cosmetic retailers
  • Retailers of medical instruments and equipment
  • Fragile electronics and high-value technology sellers
  • Customised or embellished product sellers

Find out more about the value of effective delivery management in our blog, Retail delivery management inertia is hitting your company’s bottom line. Here’s what to do about it.

 

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Keeping up with innovation in retail delivery


Retail tech moves so fast, it can be hard for retailers to keep pace. And this is one of their biggest worries, according to
new research from Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE).

The research also shows that:

  • 25% of retailers worry about managing and exceeding customer experience
  • 6% struggle to drive and retain customer loyalty
  • 6% are concerned about delivering personalised services for shoppers


Historically, retailers used one giant backend system. This monolithic system is usually deployed all at once, so if retailers wanted to introduce new features and services, they’d have to add new code to the whole code base.

This causes huge problems with agility and flexibility when comes to adapting fast to new trends.

A customer-centric approach


According to Gartner, almost all disruptive online retailers to date have solved a customer pain point. And little matters more than getting goods to customers in the most convenient, pain-free way.

Things to consider as part of your customer-centric delivery strategy:

  • Click and collect/commute
  • 24 hour locker delivery and collection
  • AM/PM designated delivery
  • Next day / same day delivery
  • Specific hour slots for granular delivery windows


Are microservices the answer?


Technological flexibility and agility are the best vehicles for keeping up with the pace of innovation in retail.


Microservices are often built with APIs as the main objective. API-first technology vendors make a primary architectural decision to build their products for flexibility and inclusion. It gives retailers the flexibility to decide whether to introduce a new customer-focused feature quickly.

At Sorted, we’ve been able to develop our solutions in microservices right from the beginning. That means we can react to changes in the market incredibly quickly. But why does that help our retail customers? “Carriers, like Hermes or DPD for example, continually innovate and update their services, introducing new features and bringing new experiences to market. So, because of the way we design our services, we can immediately mirror these new features for our customers. As a customer of Sorted, we keep up with the pace of innovation for you.
Michael Rose, Head of Technical Architecture, Sorted

How should retailers make the move to microservices?


It can be complicated to go from a monolithic to microservices architecture. Deciding which capabilities to migrate and decouple is just one of the architectural challenges, as well as minimising dependencies on your legacy system. But remember, you don’t have to do a ‘big bang’, or jump in feet first. The best path is to pick one new feature and develop it as a separate microservice.

Want to know more about the benefits of microservices and keeping pace with retail innovation? Read our full blog all about it.


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How to adapt supply chains to omnichannel commerce


Omnichannel is not
just a logistics decision, but the supply chain element is incredibly important.

Re-orienting your retail business to embrace omnichannel requires integration with IT, sales and marketing, and procurement, as well as transport. Because of the consumer expectation for joined up retail experiences, the supply chain has to rethink how it is organised. In an omnichannel setting, retailers should consider:

  • What does your new distribution network look like?
  • Where does your inventory for each channel live?
  • How will you keep customers updated on their orders for separate channels?
  • How will you process returns for each channel?


Until now, a vital ingredient has been missing from this equation – control. And this is essential when it comes to omnichannel retail experiences.

Retailers haven’t had the luxury of real-time vision across their networks. Often, the first sign of a late delivery is a complaint from a disgruntled customer. When it comes to omnichannel, developing a supporting infrastructure may be even more difficult. If a retailer adds a channel it may make sense to segment that channel with a unique supplier or fulfilment process.


SortedREACT can rate delivery issues by severity, giving retailers managing multiple carriers the power to prioritise and rectify issues, often before they arise. The functionality also gives retailers the opportunity to cross-and up-sell and can be integrated with the retailer’s CRM system to personalise incentives.
Paul Homer National Sales Manager, Sorted

Eliminate silos


To create omnichannel supply chains, retailers have to remove operating silos that exist between different sales channels. That means combining different logistics processes across sales platforms.

Here are three tips for optimising for omnichannel:

  • Consider outsourcing to a networked supply chain to remove some of your silos.
  • Engage IT early to ensure that your website, order management, fulfilment, warehouse systems and delivery management systems are fully compatible and integrated.
  • Evaluate the impact on your entire supply chain process, including reverse logistics.


Have more than one warehouse


Many traditional retailers still process stock from a single location. Even pure-play "we don't do bricks and mortar" ecommerce types are tethered to bricks and mortar
somewhere: all of their products are still stored in a physical location before they get to the consumer.

Big retailers can still (just about) make the traditional approach work. They use big warehouses and pick up the slack throughout the supply chain. But the real efficiency gains are being made at the cutting edge of logistics, where a single stock view is implemented.

Having a single view of stock is the holy grail. But the retailer can have extra added control when offering their customers realistic delivery options at the checkout.

It’s all down to a simple checkout plugin like SortedHERO, which makes checks in real time against retailer rules, to ensure retailers can give customers the right delivery options. It also connects retailers to over 50 global carriers, meaning you can ship products directly from the DC and offer the jewel in the delivery crown - same day delivery.

Give customers more choice


Providing more choice actually saves you money — both in terms of logistics and better customer retention. Do everything possible to complete the perfect purchasing process with a seamless delivery experience.

Why not allow your customers to choose any pick-up and drop-off point? This could be their doorstep, convenience store, a neighbour. Tomorrow, or a week next Tuesday. SortedHERO is what makes this almost endless flexibility at the checkout a reality. If things change, keep the consumer updated and let the carrier know immediately, with products like SortedREACT.

Make retail systems more flexible


Microservices give retailers the flexibility to introduce features for new channels quickly. They can, in theory, build a brand new microservice for just that channel, and push that out independently.

Ultimately, omnichannel retail is all about speed, agility, and reduction of risk. With a microservice architecture, you can extend your existing ecommerce and delivery infrastructure easily.

Interested in adapting your supply chains for omnichannel commerce? Read our blog all about it.

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Developing a smart delivery strategy


Retailers are desperate to gain an edge over their competitors, so promising beautifully-connected user experiences is often a part of this process. But, despite the big promises, the delivery part of the deal can be left behind.

Retailers need smarter delivery strategies to tackle this inertia. Consider these four aspects for a delivery strategy review:

Always focus on convenience


In today’s retail market, it’s absolutely essential to put your customers first. Otherwise, your brand won’t survive against the ecommerce giants.

In one of our recent surveys, 70% of consumers asked for more flexible delivery options. It’s not rocket science, customers just don’t want to feel like their life is tied to waiting on a delivery.

What’s more, the way your customers prefer to click and collect is evolving to include locations where they socialise, travel and work. As a result, the traditional network of convenience stores is widening to include lockers in shopping centres, train stations, gyms and universities.

The bottom line? Make sure convenience is a core part of your delivery strategy.

Make returns easy (and cheap… or free)


The key to brand loyalty is a smooth and streamlined returns experience.

This, however, is sometimes easier said than done. Spend time uncovering the catalyst behind the bulk of your returns so you can focus efforts on delivering a simple and convenient service. This, in turn, encourages customer loyalty.

In the world of fast fashion, online shoppers increasingly treat their homes as a changing room. They may order multiple sizes, colours and styles from their favourite brands, confident in the knowledge that they can keep their favourites and easily return the rest for a quick refund.

It’s important, therefore, to accommodate this growing customer segment by offering not just free, but easy returns.

 

Use AI for personalisation


While artificial intelligence in the retail space is more chatbot than advanced robot, it really comes into its own when helping you create personalised shopping experiences for your customers. Machine learning provides a way to sift through vast amounts of data and determine patterns much faster and cost effectively than a human could.

What does this mean in practice? Well it goes far beyond creating an enticing display of other relevant products targeting consumers as they peruse online, if that’s what you’re thinking. How about being able to update customers proactively about any changes to their delivery?

A third of consumers have experienced items being sent back to the sorting office, even though they were at the designated location when the delivery attempt was made. Imagine the hero you’d be if you could put a stop to this. No more unnecessarily returned parcels, customers able to change delivery locations just minutes before their packages are due to arrive - it’s the stuff of delivery dreams.

Except, it’s all possible with SortedREACT, which uses AI to tell you about delivery issues as they happen so you can tell your customers before they even notice. You can also communicate with them in your own brand - keeping the delivery experience smooth and simple.


Invest in post-checkout technologies


Make sure you’re accounting for WISMO reduction in your delivery strategy. Customers always want visibility on their orders. But, did you know that the average cost of a WISMO call can be anything around £2.50 per contact?

The ability to give relevant information proactively is key to repeat custom and cost savings in your delivery strategy. By investing in the right tech, you can discover actionable insights, such as if there is a delay in the package being delivered, in real-time and notify your customers before they call to ask for updates.

Want to know more about developing a robust delivery strategy and growing your bottom line? Read our blog about addressing retail delivery management inertia.


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How to manage delivery and returns in peak ecommerce seasons


Despite being lucrative, peak season is the toughest time in retail.

Customer, and business, expectations are high, and the volume of last-minute deliveries is even higher. For all businesses – no matter how small – delivering Christmas is a massive responsibility. Come January, failed Christmas deliveries leave retailers with a returns headache.

Failed deliveries don’t just impact on the number of returns. They also have wider implications on customer lifetime value, as customer satisfaction and loyalty is compromised. According to our research:

  • Two fifths of shoppers lose faith in a retailer’s ability to meet their needs if a parcel isn’t delivered in time.
  • Almost half say a late delivery would make them less likely to shop with that retailer again.


Here are some tips on keeping your retail business ahead of the competition during peak season:


Source more carrier contracts

At Christmas, your customers are more likely to want to choose specifically where and when an item will arrive. And it might not be their home, either.

A great way to avoid a nightmare before Christmas is to ensure you have multiple carriers to deal with the pressure. By spreading delivery across a range of carriers and avoiding over-reliance on one delivery company alone, retailers will find they can offer greater flexibility for customers, without breaking the bank.

Consider ways to integrate new carriers into your existing carrier management system. If that’s not possible, it might be time to upgrade your platform to allow more carrier agility ahead of the next peak season.

Reduce your customer promise

Don’t be tempted to guarantee next day delivery to convert more sales, if there’s any chance your operations can’t cope with demand to fulfill these promises. You’ll only have a barrage of complaints from unhappy customers (and probably more returns, too).

Offering the right options at checkout, however, is far easier when you have a delivery options plugin. You can easily add and remove delivery options based on your demand and capabilities. It’s still possible to do this manually, of course. Without a checkout personalisation plugin changes are more labour-intensive, rather than just writing a rule and clicking a button.

Use AI-powered tech

When it comes to customer experiences during peak, nothing keeps shoppers happier than information on their orders. With the right software, forward-thinking retailers are reducing the number of incoming calls by proactively updating customers on any issues with their deliveries in real-time.

Want more tips and tricks for handling peak season deliveries? Read our blog outlining the best technologies to ease the pressure.


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The importance of transparent parcel tracking


We know, consumers lead busy lives, and that means one touchpoint when they’re purchasing a product is more than enough. What they don’t want is to be directed to a carrier’s website which offers very little, or inaccurate, information.

Instead, the expectation is that retailers will manage their entire delivery experience. But how? You may be asking.

Well, it means far more integration with fulfilment partners and their technology.

Naturally, consumers are disappointed if the information they receive about their delivery is incorrect, and promised time slots are not adhered to. Yet the technology, including user-friendly apps for consumers, is already available. With products like
SortedREACT, real-time accurate information for retailers to share with their customers is finally coming into view.

Not only that, but you can communicate with your customers through your own brand environment, on whatever channel you chose. This means the experience for the customer is hassle-free and seamless.

As retailers increasingly compete on the last mile, consumers have now become accustomed to receiving seamless deliveries — they expect speed, convenience and personalisation as standard.
David Grimes, founder and CEO at Sorted

What is the cause of failed deliveries?

Did you know that ‘lack of convenience’ accounts for a quarter of failed deliveries due to shoppers not being able to change their delivery options once an item has been shipped?

According to our research:

  • 13% of customers have realised in advance that they would be out for a delivery time slot and not been able to rearrange it.
  • 12% have gone out last minute despite knowing an item is due for delivery.
  • 17% got bored waiting for a delivery that they couldn’t reschedule and gave up waiting, only to find a delivery ‘calling card’ left when they returned.


Tip 1 — give information up front

People like to know what’s going on. This is never more true of a parcel delivery. Right now, this communication is generally led by the consumer. Retailers receive hundreds of daily WISMO calls asking for delivery updates. These are inconvenient, they are incredibly costly.

Nail the last mile experience by proactively updating your customers. Warn them if there’s a problem. Proactive communication flips a customer from feeling disappointed at best (or downright outraged at worst) to valued.

Tip 2 — manage expectations

You can’t always prevent a mistake, but you can manage it. With AI-powered delivery tracking software like SortedREACT, all your delivery data is in one place, gathered in real time, no matter how many carriers you use. This means you can tell your customers if something goes wrong before they even notice. All in your own brand voice and environment.

Using the latest technology will help you surmount the challenges of delivery, and greatly improve the overall delivery experience you offer your customers. But time is of the essence. If you’re not embracing these new ways of working, be sure that your competition is.

Want to know more about enhancing your delivery experience? Read our blog outlining 4 ways to do exactly that.

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