By Matthew Robertson, Co-CEO, NetDespatch.
In the age of instant gratification and personalised experiences, consumers are increasingly expecting more and more from retailers, particularly from the delivery stage in the buying cycle.
This is what makes partnerships so critical in today's competitive commercial environment. Today, delivery is a key differentiator in winning customer spend and a crucial part of a brand's proposition and marketing strategy.
Our own research, which was conducted in conjunction with eDelivery, showed that 42% of the survey's respondents - around 50 out of 120 retailers - would work with numerous partners to best meet consumer expectations. This highlights that despite the operational challenges such a structure might pose, a significant number within the industry believe that it is necessary nonetheless to take on multiple partners in order to meet the ever increasing demands of consumers.
On the positive side new delivery models are being trialled and introduced by various retailers pushing the limits of delivery, with innovations such as the delivery subscription model expected to grow substantially.
On the downside however, our research found that there is more to be done in terms of exploiting additional innovations. 7 in 10 retailers are not yet using lockers services, more than half are not offering same day, Sunday or evening deliveries, and 40% are not offering click and collect.
Our research found that innovation is primarily hampered by three key barriers. The first barrier is cost, the second is technology, and astonishingly for just under 3 in 10 retailers (29%) their delivery development plans are hampered by the partners they are working with. Indeed, many retailers say that their delivery partner could do more to help them improve their business by sharing more information with them.
The fact that partners can be an obstacle against progress is jaw dropping. The challenge though is not insurmountable. It is imperative for retailers to strive to offer what customers expect and therefore, partnerships are vitally important.
Click and collect is an example of an area that is primed for collaboration and which can play an important role in improving the customer experience. Click and collect also offers a huge opportunity for retailers and their delivery partners to work more closely together to improve the customer experience, especially since it can drive additional spend instore.
Collaboration in this area in particular can help deliver a quicker and more seamless buying experience for consumers – many of whom are now often time poor due to busy lives. Happier customer's increases loyalty and spending which will benefit partners; so click and collect has the potential to provide benefits for retailers, partners and customers.
Whichever delivery channel retailers choose to develop – and there were many identified by the retailers in our survey – working together for the same cause is key. Being open and sharing information, best practice and what has been achieved has been a key part of the huge innovations the market has seen in recent years. If retailers want to continue to meet and beat customer expectations this is a trend that has to continue.
With all this in mind what are the main things to keep front of mind?
- Ensure a partnership approach
- Confirm that you are offering what the customer actually wants
- Work with suppliers across the board and aim for transparency and flexibility
- Don't overpromise – be honest
- Embrace the power of click and collect to drive revenue for both online and offline channels
- Test and innovate when it comes to delivery services
I believe that with consumer expectations only going in one direction – towards creating more demands on the delivery aspect of the retail experience – it is vital for companies to have effective and beneficial partnerships in place. This more often than not will require working with numerous partners. Offering distinctive, fit for purpose delivery services is vital to win customers' hearts, minds and purses, but it does require a close partnership approach.