Make delivery a marketing opportunity rather than a cost center
By Ziv Fass, Package.ai
High-value retailers are under increasing pressure due to a significant rise in consumer expectations for last-mile delivery.
According to a report by global consultancy Accenture, consumers have become conditioned to expect the slick user experience offered by Amazon, Uber and Deliveroo, regardless of whether they are making a low-value purchase such as a food, or a high-value purchase like a sofa or laundry pair. They now expect a fast, transparent and satisfying delivery experience, no matter what they are buying. This requires a change of mentality by businesses.
Retailers have traditionally viewed delivery as a cost center. This is not surprising given that the final stage of the delivery process accounts for 41% of total supply chain costs, as Accenture found in a separate study. Last-mile delivery is the most expensive, complex, time-consuming and potentially problematic step of the fulfillment process. As such, it not only requires delivery staff to plan routes and orchestrate fleets, but also the customer service team to interact with customers and contend with the aftermath when things go wrong. And, as we all know, things often go wrong.
In fact, nearly three-quarters (73%) of North American and European consumers experienced delivery problems in the last three months, according to a recent poll by Descartes and Sapio Research. Their survey found that:
● Deliveries arrived much later than expected (26%)
● Consumers received their delivery at a different time than expected (22%)
● Consumers were unhappy with the offered delivery time (22%)
● Or, worst of all, the delivery never arrived (16%)
This poor level of home delivery service should be a massive wakeup call for dealers. That a whopping 87% provide a delivery experience below customer expectations underscores what Retail Insight described as a massive “delivery experience gap.”
But for retailers who can meet or even surpass their customers’ expectations, last-mile delivery provides a significant opportunity. This entails retailers transitioning from regarding the fulfillment and delivery process as a cost center to embracing it as a prime marketing opportunity.
Enter Artificial Intelligence and Automation
Transforming fulfillment into a truly customer-centric experience is key to meeting this era of heightened consumer expectations. High-value retailers who can achieve this will be able to form meaningful relationships with customers, turning them into brand advocates and repeat buyers while revealing new marketing and sales opportunities.
To achieve this, dealers need a transparent account of each engagement with customers, as well as their customers’ preferences, purchases and delivery experiences. To that end, Accenture said, companies looking to improve their fulfillment process are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to improve their delivery efficiencies and reduce delivery costs. These technologies are transforming the customer journey to deliver a flow of customer data points that allow retailers to track and better understand their customers’ behavior to meet their customers’ needs.
However, using separate solutions for different aspects of the fulfillment process, such as customer engagement and logistical planning, may detract from the benefits those technologies offer. We believe a single, unified solution is necessary to ensure the seamless flow of information and data throughout all departments to optimize the customer journey. In contrast, separate software solutions will ultimately deliver a disconnected customer experience where information is stored in silos, resulting in your delivery, customer service, marketing and sales departments being blind to each other’s engagements with customers.
While single-platform AI and automation adds efficiencies and lowers cost throughout the fulfillment process, it is during the last mile that the insights they provide truly make a difference. This is due to the abundance of customer data captured from the personalized conversations conducted throughout the customer journey. All customer interactions and data are centralized and visible to all internal teams, allowing this knowledge to flow naturally from sales to fulfillment and back, breaking team silos and giving full visibility to every aspect of your customer’s experience.
Connecting Sales, Marketing and Fulfillment Around the Customer
It is important to recognize that final delivery provides an ideal face-to-face opportunity with customers and should be used to ensure the last touchpoint provides a memorable end to a VIP experience. This is possible because by the time the delivery arrives at your customer’s door you will have a wealth of personalized information to make your customer feel cared for. The delivery agent, for example, could ask how the customer’s previous purchase was performing or remind them to check out your website for products that complement the one they just received. This kind of personalized end to a delivery experience shows you know your customer and can help forge deep, loyal customer relationships.
Then, once the delivery is complete, an automated but highly targeted nurturing and upsell campaign can be engaged to help uncover additional sales and marketing opportunities. The customized campaign is based on product SKU, purchase history and, most importantly, the customer’s fulfillment experience, since every department across your company will know what each customer bought, when they bought it, and how they felt about the customer experience. Such coordinated knowledge will dramatically improve your ability to craft and sharpen marketing and sales messaging to automatically re-engage with customers to drive future sales and build loyalty.
The fact that all messaging is personalized and highly relevant, and that your customer has been through a highly engaged delivery process, will radically increase the rate of positive responses to your marketing and sales messages. This then allows your sales team to seamlessly engage with the customer to further develop the relationship for upsell and repeat sales opportunities.
Retailers today are faced with declining brand loyalty and an abundance of alternative purchasing opportunities. But those who make each of their customers feel connected and heard by providing personalized fulfillment engagement will effectively forge, nurture and monetize meaningful relationships with them. Such relationships will be key to driving revenue, increasing the number of repeat purchases and optimizing sales opportunities. Retailers who fail to achieve this will be placing themselves at an increasingly difficult competitive disadvantage and risk seeing their customers choose alternatives that meet their increased demands for a satisfying delivery and customer journey experience.
Ziv Fass is the CEO and co-founder of Package.ai, a customer engagement platform that’s benefitted BrandSource furniture and appliance dealers. Fass holds an MBA from The Wharton School of Business and has decades of experience envisioning and building customer-centric communication software, including product leadership roles at Microsoft and Skype.