The last mile: How can retailers diversify their carrier strategy?

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Retailers know they need to use technology to enable consumers to shop wherever and whenever they want. Just as customers expect to easily browse according to their preferences, they expect checkout and delivery to go just as smoothly. It’s no secret that consumers prefer fast delivery. According to a recent survey by Accenture, 66 per cent of consumers say same-day shipping is valuable, and that number jumps to 77 per cent for consumers under age 30. 

Delivery has become a clear indicator of retailer competence, defining the brand value as much as any other part of the customer engagement. Today’s customers are used to lightning-fast service and a poor delivery experience can be the dividing factor to turn a first-time shopper into a loyal customer. 

A survey by Logate showed that if brands fail to deliver goods when promised, 51 per cent of respondents are hesitant to shop with that same retailer again and 18 per cent vow never to return. 

So how do you reduce the risk of misdeliveries and delays while creating a memorable post-purchase experience for each customer? 

With escalating pressure on carriers to deliver in faster timeframes, at the brand’s expense, it’s time to consider a multi-carrier strategy.

Ensuring resilience is essential to living up to your brand values and providing a remarkable customer experience. Here are five ways to ensure carriers aren’t a weak link:

  1. Multi-carrier all the way

Supply chain delays and disruptions are part of a new normal. Diversifying your carrier mix with multiple carriers allows your orders to be allocated to the right carrier at the right time – even if your primary carrier is short on capacity. Volume limits, like those imposed by national carriers in 2020, paralysed retailers who had no Plan B. With a multi-carrier model, you can offer your customers more delivery options at checkout, offering faster or cheaper (particularly for urgent delivery to be guaranteed by a certain date) to improve the customer experience. Put simply, if a customer could have bought the dress elsewhere in time for the party, they won’t be returning. The days of single sourcing are over. 

  1. Explore the benefits of regional carriers

For a large volume of deliveries in a specific geographic region, it’s worth considering a shipping software that can facilitate deliveries across regional areas. They may also offer better frequency and transit times than a national carrier, such as daily, weekend or even same-day delivery to a more local area.

  1. Consider a carrier aggregator

With a multi-carrier strategy, retailers often need guidance on how to choose the best option in real-time. Shipping aggregators, such as Shippit, can validate the optimum carrier to service an order and help reduce overall shipping costs. Making a single call during the shopping experience saves critical time when compared with separate calls to each carrier and can reduce page load speeds. The aggregator confirms the delivery route and responds with transit times, carrier rates and rules, allowing for rapid confirmation with the customer. In the case of free delivery, the retailer can set the margin on each order. 

  1. Own your delivery experience

Some retailers and brands, especially those with stores, may prefer ownership of the whole delivery process. This means sharing an on-brand delivery experience that keeps your brand front of mind with a customised track page and notifications with your logo and colours for a seamless omnichannel delivery experience. You’ll be in control of an entirely branded delivery experience. 

  1. Get sharing with crowdsourcing

In urban areas, crowdsourcing has the potential for fast and convenient delivery, with additional options to pick and pack. Crowdsourced drivers can collect packages and deliver them just like carrying passengers. Uber offers on demand delivery to provide one-hour deliveries direct to consumers around Australia in a national retail industry first.

The role of order management

Order management plays a vital function in a multi-carrier strategy. A retailer’s Order Management System (OMS) is the HQ for its sourcing. It manages stock availability and location in real-time and can leverage business data to determine the optimal fulfilment location. Using data from a carrier or carrier aggregator it shows the best service to deliver this order to the customer.

The OMS also manages the overall fulfilment process which might include one or more of the following: triggering customer notifications, manual fraud checks, value-added services, tracking order status, in-store pick and pack, and exception management. Once the order is passed to the carrier, the OMS fields and shares tracking updates with other systems.

Your carrier represents your brand

In a truly omnichannel world, shopping and delivery feature in the same single commerce experience, especially in your customers’ minds. In fact, more than 50 per cent of respondents to a 2020 Accenture survey hold the brand responsible for delivery issues. This highlights the need for retailers to ensure a delivery strategy can validate delivery before purchase. Providing this seamless customer journey, from social media to the last mile, is paramount to delivering on customers’ expectations and increasing brand loyalty. 

About the authors: Jamie Cairns is chief strategy officer at Fluent Commerce and Rob Hango-Zada is co-founder of Shippit.