What makes a great retail delivery experience?

7th Mar 2022

The rapid growth of ecommerce is continuing and 2022 is looking no different. Meanwhile, according to the British Retail Consortium, more than half of UK customers reported that they would be willing to abandon an online purchase entirely if the delivery turnaround was not fast enough. From the outside, that might look like just another example of the Amazon effect at work, but for many retailers, especially retailers of big and bulky items like furniture and appliances, it presents a special challenge.

How can you keep increasingly demanding customers satisfied while grappling with the logistical complexity that comes with delivering large, often-expensive items?

To answer that question, you have to think about what it is that makes for a successful retail delivery experience in the first place.

1. Self-scheduled deliveries

Customer expectations usually get translated into the language of speed, but in my experience, what customers really want—at least when it comes to major purchases like a new washing machine or fridge—is to feel in control. They have made a big purchase, and they will not have that sigh of relief until their purchase is successfully over the threshold and installed. So, when they have to play phone tag with a retailer to figure out a delivery time, they start to get impatient.

That is why the best delivery experience from the customer’s perspective starts with the ability to schedule one’s own delivery time. Not only does this increase the customer’s confidence in the delivery, it also makes it more likely that they will actually be home to receive the product when the driver shows up.

2. “Right-time” delivery performance

When it comes to parcel deliveries, most consumers feel that the sooner the item arrives, the better. If you expect your new noise-cancelling headphones to show up on Tuesday and they show up on Monday instead, great! But imagine you are expecting a new fridge between 2 and 6 pm, and it arrives at 8 am, this has the potential to be a huge inconvenience. That is why retailers engaging in scheduled deliveries (e.g., for big and bulky items) need to aim for not just the fastest possible turnarounds, but actually showing up at the right time for the customer.

3. 360-degree communication

No delivery plan is ever going to be 100% accurate. Traffic crops up in unexpected places. Customers cancel or change their orders at the last minute, throwing entire delivery routes into disarray. Customers know this, and it is not the end of the world. However, the difference between a late delivery acting as a mild annoyance or a major headache for the customer comes down to communication.

Keeping in touch with customers by text and/or email to let them know that their delivery will not hit the original ETA and providing a notification 30 minutes before their item arrives will turn a potentially poor experience into a far more delightful one for the customer.

4. Sustainability

Sustainability is an increasingly important factor when it comes to consumer perception of corporate brands here in the UK. That means that part of a successful delivery experience can be as simple as finding a way to highlight your company’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions and become more sustainable. You might highlight increases in efficiency through route optimisation, improvements to your transport network that decrease emissions, or any other green initiatives you are undertaking throughout the fulfilment process. You can even engage the customer in your sustainability initiatives by offering them the ability to choose greener delivery slots or more eco-friendly packaging options. This way, customers can feel good about having chosen your brand over the competitors.

5. Post-delivery experience

One of the other elements of great deliveries that I have seen in recent years is an increased emphasis on post-delivery experience. Even something as simple as sending a feedback survey after a completed delivery can have a huge impact on customer satisfaction. This gives your customers the ability to express how they felt about the delivery—but it also lets them know that channels of communication are still open if they have any questions or issues. Feeling like they can reach back out to the retailer if they have questions about installation or other topics helps boost the customer experience even further.

In such a competitive marketplace, particularly around deliveries, customer experience has never been more important to success. But if you can provide a consistent, repeatable delivery process that delights customers from end to end, you can build lasting customer loyalty.

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