Learn the lessons from Santa: Deliveries need to come first this Christmas

By Niklas Hedin, CEO, Centiro.

This Christmas, UK consumers are expected to spend a record-breaking £26.7bn online. So, with crowds of shoppers hitting the web for their festive fix over the Christmas period, retailers really need to ensure they are able to handle peaks in orders and make sure the experience they deliver is consistent throughout the whole supply chain.

According to recent research, almost half of European shoppers has experienced problems with online orders in the last 12 months, citing qualms such as late, damaged or even missing deliveries as core issues. In order to ensure that you are not one of the retailers to be caught out this year, here are four factors that you need to consider to ensure your delivery experience is a real gift to customers over the festive period:

Make Christmas wishes come true

With the rise in online shopping showing no signs of slowing down, retailers are now under more pressure than ever to perform and ensure Christmas presents are delivered in time. With an abundance of choice when it comes to online shopping, consumers now expect more flexibility and choice from retailers, with no tolerance for poor delivery experience. Increased competition means that retailers now need to ensure they are offering the crème de la crème of customer experience. With these higher expectations, consumers now expect to have a product delivered as and when they want, and demand visibility into the delivery process and their choice of delivery slot. These demands are only heightened during Christmas as shoppers are keen to get their purchases before the holiday begins. With these factors in mind, retailers need to make realistic promises to shoppers and ensure they have the carriers on board to meet this demand.

Boys and girls around the world

Once more, over Christmas the scope of a retailers' delivery map may broaden, so being able to set up or increase their carrier network quickly and efficiently - both at home and internationally - is essential. However, today many retailers can find it a challenge to quickly integrate new carriers due to technology constraints, meaning adding new carriers can be a time-consuming exercise. Using a cloud service can enable retailers to get their delivery networks at home and internationally up and running in a matter of weeks rather than months. Furthermore, it can provide them with greater visibility and control over performance and cost throughout the whole supply chain.

Getting help from the Elves

However, even once a retailer has onboarded extra carriers to cope with increased deliveries; another challenge is maintaining consistency between the purchasing and delivery experience. For example, a retailer will often transfer a customer to a nominated carrier's website to track their delivery, which can confuse and concern customers who are anxious to receive their purchased goods. This can result in them losing control of their brand experience as last-mile interactions are owned by the carriers they use. Those retailers associated with a poor delivery and returns experience risk damaging their brand and ultimately losing revenue.

Many happy returns

However, it is not only the delivery experience that is important in maintaining customer satisfaction. In the same way that modern technology and current omni-channel environment has allowed customers to pick and choose to buy products how, where and when they want; they now also demand the same flexibility when it comes to returns. Using new technology, retailers can begin to offer a more personalised returns experience to their customers to foster brand loyalty. For example, stores could provide high net worth customers with different returns options, compared to those customers who don't shop regularly with them. This could take the form of a certain number of free deliveries throughout the year, or more precise pick up windows. Ultimately, returned goods should not only be a cost recovery exercise for retailers, but another great opportunity to enhance the customer experience.

Ensuring a positive delivery/returns experience this Christmas needn't cause headaches. The experience a retailer delivers to a customer should be consistent all year round, and shouldn't suffer during busy periods like Christmas. Retailers need to increase visibility of their carrier networks, enabling them to provide customers with a broad range of delivery options based on geography, cost, lead time, pick-up location or home delivery. This ultimately means that retailers can better tailor delivery/returns services to consumer needs and fulfil order promises – the perfect gift for customers this Christmas.

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