The "beating heart" of retail: how delivery management platforms help businesses drive ecommerce success


This article is brought to you by Retail Technology Review: The "beating heart" of retail: how delivery management platforms help businesses drive ecommerce success.

By Johan Hellman, Vice President, Product & Carrier at nShift.

Delivery management is about much more than ensuring that the right goods reach the right customer on time, though that can be complicated enough. 

Online shoppers have a low tolerance for mess-ups or glitches: most will leave after just two problems, never to return.  Unfortunately, deliveries are particularly prone to them: according to Citizens Advice, one in three UK consumers has had a problem with parcel deliveries in the past year.

On the other hand, a slick, speedy, and effective delivery experience can show the brand living up to its promises.

Deliveries done right can drive loyalty, increase revenues, and unlock novel business models - as well as improving business efficiency and improving emissions performance. 

Here are six advantages that ready-built delivery management solutions can have over internally developed alternatives.

1.   Real carrier connectivity

Delivery management’s ability to build customer loyalty and reduce costs hinges on deep connectivity with the carrier (or carriers) the retailer uses to deliver parcels.  Those connections enable customer choice, power tracking alerts, and underpin returns.

Providing the right range of delivery options can increase conversions by 20% as customers value being able to make the choice for what works best for them.

2.   Supporting the journey to net zero

Deliveries make a significant contribution to retailers’ carbon footprints.  Customers, and legislators everywhere are pressuring them to reduce their impacts.  This is leading to greater scrutiny of carbon emissions in the last mile.

Consumer awareness of climate issues has grown dramatically in recent times.  Some 88% of shoppers expect brands to help them live more sustainably. 

What is more, emissions reporting is becoming more onerous. 

In mid-2024, the EU’s Corporate Social Responsibility Directive (CSRD) will come into force, requiring around 50,000 businesses working in the EU to provide detailed, validated reports on their carbon emissions - including those in the last mile. Penalties for delayed or incomplete submissions are likely to be stiff.

That means retailers will need to be able to collate reports on their emissions, and verify their data is accurate.  Shipment-level emissions data can help retailers identify quick wins for reducing emissions, so their footprint shrinks even as the business grows.

3.   The power of delivery innovation

The onward march of customer expectations drives retail innovation.  What may seem cutting-edge today could be yesterday’s news in a matter of months.

Customers expect a choice of delivery options, a slick, branded tracking experience, and easy returns. They want delivery updates via the social apps where they live their digital lives.  And, they want to be able to request a return the same way they followed their delivery.

Meeting these demands also opens the doors to creating new opportunities to build stronger relations with customers, and experiment with novel retail business models, like marketplaces for “vintage”, pre-loved, or used items, supported by reverse logistics.

4.   Seamless integration with key business systems

Deliveries sit at the heart of a complex retail technology ecosystem, including shopping carts, ERP systems, payments platforms, and warehouse or inventory management applications.

That makes deliveries uniquely sensitive to upgrades, system changes, or alterations to API specifications - any of which could lead to glitches and delays in dispatching parcels to customers.

Ensuring these systems integrate effectively with one another is time-consuming, intricate work.  On the other hand, best-of-breed delivery platforms which integrate with a very wide range of technologies mean retailers can effectively outsource their integration headaches.

5.   Support and uptime

Systems that run slow or, worse, go offline without warning, can lead to customers shopping elsewhere. It follows that checkouts, delivery tracking, customer communications, and returns not only need to be always-on, but also always-brilliant.

Retailers should therefore ensure they have strong service level agreements for delivery management - whether built in-house or sourced from an external provider.

Do they know who to call when things go wrong - regardless of the time of day?  How confident are they that their deliveries platform won’t become obsolete when the people who developed it leave the business? 

At a minimum, they should expect support during business hours at their business locations and guarantees of product support that could span several years. 

6.   Easy expansion into new markets

Often one of the constraints into moving into new markets is to have the infrastructure on the ground to deliver there, even from existing home-country warehouses.  By connecting to global carrier networks and automating the production of customs declarations and other key documents, delivery management solutions can facilitate merchants’ international growth.

Deliveries are the “beating heart” of ecommerce. A smoothly beating deliveries capability means more sales, satisfied and loyal customers, and smooth-running operations.  When deliveries develop a tic - or fail altogether - the whole business soon notices.

nShift has been innovating in delivery management for 25 years.  As a global leader, we understand how the delivery management experience can drive business growth.  We invest a fifth of customer payments in R&D, so our customers remain at the cutting edge of delivery and post-purchase experiences.

Find out more about our delivery management suite - contact nShift.

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