Long gone are the days when “fast and free delivery” was the only solution to meeting last mile delivery expectations.
At Home Delivery World 2019, supply chain leaders echoed in chorus that last mile delivery is a critical customer touchpoint for each brand. Retailers from Lego and FreshDirect to Bodybuilding.com, focused their discussions around utilizing technology to positively impact customer experience in the last mile and effectively scaling their businesses.
Using Technology to Improve Customer Experience (CX)
As customer expectations only grow and delivery becomes more complex, retailers cannot leave the critical last mile to chance. Investments in processes and tools were at the top of mind for all who wanted to improve their customer experience.
Adam Kalikow, Senior Director of Operations at HelloFresh, strives to eliminate waste from his supply chain. Due to the nature of food delivery, shorter transit times and accurate forecasting are imperative to making sure that his customers get the fresh ingredients that his brand promises.
At the show, Kalikow emphasized that he couldn’t do this without technology. In addition to utilizing customer data and feedback to make improvements to the supply chain, his team has built an algorithm that allows them to better forecast supply and demand for certain foods. His technology also allows him to notify customers when they can’t meet their brand and delivery promises.
Other CPGs who rely on cold chain or high on-time percentages to keep their food fresh, such as Nutrisystem, have implemented other strategies to ensure fresh ingredients to customers. During CSCMP last year, they discussed redistributing their DCs according to their customer location. Their new warehouses have allowed them to give their customers more consistent experiences and helped them improve transit times across the board.
Taking Control of Last Mile Variables
Dan Bebout, Co-founder and VP of Customer Success at Convey, emphasized just how much a first impression counts in last mile delivery. He turned the tables by discussing a piece of patio furniture that arrived damaged at his house.
Not only did Bebout have to spend time and energy fixing the situation by calling customer service in this scenario, but the experience also negatively impacted his perception of the brand from where he ordered. He wished that his brand had the connected data to see the large-item delivery going off the rails, notify him, and make a change so that he could enjoy his summer in peace.
For Greg Dahlstrom, VP of Logistics at Bodybuilding.com, the stakes of a negative delivery experience are too high. Taking proactive action is imperative to his strategy to improve customer experience for parcel shippers as well. Otherwise, he’ll lose customers if they experience issues with delivery.
“Customers trust us to know what’s happening, they trust us to provide a good experience” -Greg Dahlstrom, VP of Logistics at Bodybuilding.com
He uses a technology platform that integrates his company’s order and carrier feeds through an API, empowering his team to see all of their shipment data in one place, and empowering his customers to know when their orders will arrive through detailed and on-brand tracking pages.
He doesn’t just stop there, either — Dahlstrom attributed his team’s ability to take proactive action as the reason why his customers rave about the shipping experience — they never have to ask, “Where is my order?” He said that it’s all about maintaining trust between brands and consumers, and expressed enthusiasm that technology will continue to improve in the next three to five years. He said: “Customers trust us to know what’s happening, they trust us to provide a good experience, and providing good Delivery Experience Management to the customer means exactly that — when they choose to purchase, they’re going to be satisfied because we know what’s happening.”
Alleviating Cost-Drivers through Carrier Collaboration
Carriers showed up in a big way at Home Delivery World. Brands set up their trucks throughout the Exhibition Hall and touted their ability to work with brands to meet rising customer expectations drive better customer experiences. For carriers like SEKO, customer trends are changing fast, and carriers are key to the equation of keeping up.
According to John Hill, CCO and President at Pilot, there are two different customers that he wants to make happy. He said, “In home delivery eCommerce space, there are two customers that you’re working for. There’s your customer — the retailer — and there’s their customer — the final consumer. So, you have to satisfy the end-consumer. You have to make sure that those two parts of the equation fit exactly together, and you have to meet everyone’s expectations.”
During his presentation, he emphasized that as Amazon continues to penetrate the market and drive eCommerce sales, delivery expectations will only continue to grow for big and bulky items (dubbed H3D by Pilot). Hill suggested that those who can successfully navigate the last mile have an at-bat at the $6.5-8.5B market. Carriers not only recognize this, but have made acquisitions to increase their own capacity and data, giving their customers better technology to improve customer experience.
Shelly Brick, Vice President of National Accounts at Estes Forwarding Worldwide (EFW), said consistency is underrated when trying to build a positive reputation in the last mile. As an extension of retailers, EFW uses technology to create positive experiences, even going so far as to implement features such as delivery appointment scheduling, sending end-customers to branded (retailer) tracking pages to make carrier appointments. They also rely on technology to give them more robust scorecards than what retailers can provide themselves. She said, “Having metrics like damaged ratios, on-time performance, and milestone accuracies only make us better as a carrier.”
In Last Mile Delivery, Consumers Will Win
As delivery expectations continue to rise year-over-year, retailers can no longer throw money at acquiring customers. They have to learn to keep up and utilize the resources at their disposal in order to win over customers. Those who are successful will win big — they’ll be able drive healthy top-line growth and retain customers.
Ultimately, consumers are the real winners here. As carriers and retailers strive to keep up with demands, they continue to innovate their strategy and find solutions to create even more consistent and positive experiences across the board.