Learning the delivery management lessons from Black Friday

By Niklas Hedin, CEO, Centiro.

Last year's Black Friday was a story of mixed success. While most retailers gained a much welcomed boost in sales, delivery networks and carriers were left struggling to cope with the increased delivery volumes and higher than normal rates of returns.

At the same time carriers like Yodel stopped taking new orders to focus on clearing its existing backlog. What are the lessons to be learned to ensure this year's Black Friday isn't doom and gloom for retailers and carriers' operations?

Keep your promises

During Black Friday last year many retailers were unable to meet their delivery promises to customers. Some retailers found the period extremely costly, paying over the odds for extra carrier capacity at short notice. The chaos caused over those few days showed, in stark terms, why integrating many different carriers simultaneously and being able to scale quickly to meet demand is now essential to ensure a seamless customer experience. Managing delivery networks effectively and keeping the customer promise need to be at the top of priorities.

Meeting promises can not only ensure you stay afloat for Black Friday, but can also create a great customer experience to appeal to shoppers. Consumers are now more demanding and sensitive to a poor brand experience than ever, so retailers need to meet their promises and meet their expectations. According to research from YouGov, 71% of shoppers said a poor online shopping experience would encourage them to switch to another retailer. If just one bad experience can send the customer to the competition, retailers definitely need to have a reliable carrier network and processes in place.

Delivery needs to come first

Currently many retailers' delivery networks are unfit to meet the demands of omnichannel - last year showed how quickly a spike in customer interest over a short period can quickly rip the best laid plans apart. Consumers now want to receive goods quicker than ever before, and are demanding order-to-delivery windows to move from weeks and days to hours and even minutes. These omnichannel demands are presenting a challenge for retailers, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel if retailers get the basics of fulfilment and delivery right.

For too long getting the basics right with online has been ignored in favour of other marketing tactics taking priority – revamping in-store branding in physical stores or trying to be cutting edge with new shiny technology like mobile apps. While online customers to date have been seen as a lower priority, the voice of this shopper has gotten louder as their spending power has grown and they can no longer be ignored. Retailers need to meet the demands of all customers to succeed over periods like Black Friday, so having complete visibility over delivery options and lead times is now essential.

Deal with returns effectively

Some figures have estimated over one third of all items bought over the Black Friday period were returned. The research from YouGov also showed 63% of consumers said ease of returns were a key factor when choosing which retailers they shop online with, so returns need to be a priority. While this presents a challenge for the retailer to get returns right, there is a big opportunity for those retailers that do. Dealing with returns effectively can engender customer trust and encourage them to shop with you again.

If retailers optimise their delivery networks to more efficiently cope with reverse logistics, this can form part of a full circle brand experience that increases customer satisfaction. This can also create more efficiency: it might be a good move to only offer returns to loyal customers or not return some items at all, since the cost of the return itself is often more than the value of the item itself. Retailers need to have the right insight into their carrier network to offer the right return options to the right customers at the right times.

Black Friday will undoubtedly once again place strain on delivery networks this November, but by putting deliveries first, keeping customer promises and making returns a success retailers can make Black Friday a dream for the bottom line rather than a logistical nightmare.

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