Delivering on expectations and avoiding ghosts of Christmas past
Stuart Godman, Chief Strategy Officer at the independent mail, parcels and logistics end-to-end network operator DX (Group) Plc, says that delivery companies and retailers must look back together at the previous Christmas to identify any areas for improvement. The countdown to Christmas has already begun for the majority of logistics firms and retailers, who are keen to maximise the opportunities provided by the festive season. The build up to the Christmas holiday proves a busy time of year for logistics companies and has the potential to be extremely profitable for retailers. However, in order to ensure the holiday season is a success, delivery companies and retailers must look back together at the previous Christmas to identify any areas for improvement and create a cohesive strategy to ensure a positive customer experience.
Christmas is a crucial time for retailers when it comes to reputation. Customers’ expectations are increased due to the emotive and timely nature of when gifts need to arrive, meaning retailers’ reputations can be easily damaged if presents are not delivered on time. Businesses that are affected by this seasonality need to review their strategy from the previous year to see what lessons can be learnt. It could be that the previous Christmas was considered a success, in which case how can the business not only continue this but also improve on the previous peak season?
When it comes to the Christmas season, a common pitfall many retailers fall into is not managing expectations and over promising on what they can deliver. The festive season is a competitive time for retailers with a crowded marketplace battling for shoppers’ attention with sales and offers starting earlier and earlier every year. The move to online shopping has not helped with ecommerce now a 24/7 operation and now, more than ever, customers have increased expectations as to when they expect to receive their goods – regardless of what time of day they make the purchase.
In order to manage customer expectations, retailers need to engage with logistics firms early on to agree what delivery options will be realistic during the festive period. ‘Business as usual’ delivery assurances are frequently promised but are often unrealistic; especially during the busy holiday period, delivery propositions such as next-day delivery, pre-09.00hrs delivery and one hour delivery slots may not be possible to achieve. Over-promising in this way can leave retailers and logistics partners struggling to manage demand and run the risk of failing to meet expectations.
Managing demand also involves educating customers on the different types of delivery options available to them. With more shoppers ordering online, they expect a consistent experience from the moment they enter the website to the point the delivery arrives at their door. This will usually include demands for a delivery service that is both quick and inexpensive, meaning online shoppers will often select the cheapest or quickest delivery option without considering the most suitable delivery method for the goods they’ve ordered. For example, customers who have ordered heavy or awkward sized packages could find themselves struggling to get the item into the house if they haven’t reviewed the various delivery options available. In this instance, choosing a 2-Man service where two couriers are there to transport the item and deliver it to a customer’s room of choice can help prevent any unnecessary stress. Providing sufficient information so that customers understand the delivery service they require will go a long way to preventing disappointment.
Delivery with a difference
It isn’t just the actual delivery which needs consideration, however; thought needs to be given to the entire supply chain. Whilst retailers will welcome the extra sales that the festive season generates, they must communicate with warehouses and carriers well in advance to understand the delivery capacity available to them and plan their sales strategies accordingly, in order to prevent any issues arising with the increased load. Precise stock management is also vital so consumers are not offered items which appear to be available for delivery on the website, but in fact are out of stock. This damages the reputation of both the retailer and the carrier, and also risks upsetting someone’s Christmas.
With Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas putting immense pressure on delivery networks, retailers may discover they need to offer other delivery services. One solution that addresses customer demand for convenience, whilst reducing the pressure on warehouses and logistics firms, is encouraging customers to use convenient collection points and intelligent 24/7 lockers through offering a click & collect service. Collecting online orders in-store or at specified collection points – such as supermarkets, train stations, locker banks or local corner shops – means that customers have the convenience of picking up their parcels on their way home, avoiding excess stock build-up in warehouses and reducing the strain on delivery networks.
It’s clear that, in order to ensure a successful, profitable festive season, firms will need to plan well in advance of the rush in order to sustain an effective service throughout the season. For both retailers and logistics firms, the Christmas rush starts as early as November ahead of peak sales days such as ‘Black Friday’ and often continues right through the sales period in the New Year.
Efficient communication, both between retailers and logistics firms, as well as with shoppers themselves, will be vital in the build up to Christmas, allowing for delivery promises to be kept and ensuring everyone has a truly festive time over the holiday season.