Taking Last Mile Visibility Back to School

School’s back in session! With classes beginning this week and next, parents and students are rushing to get their new books, supplies, and clothes for the year — just in time to have a successful first day. According to the NRF, more students than ever are also searching online for good deals instead of department stores. Online stores were the second highest shopping destination for students K-12, with 55% of consumers opting to shop online, and the highest destination for college students — with 49% shopping online only.

With high traffic coming from back-to-school shoppers, delivery volume will start rising for supply chain leaders and customer experience teams. Learn how to use increased last mile visibility to your advantage and ace your customer experience this year.

Back to Basics: What Does Last Mile Visibility Mean?

In the modern shopping experience, consumers now expect to know where their shipment is at all times, and they aren’t forgiving to their shipper when the final touchpoint of delivery goes sideways. In a recent survey, almost half (47%) of online shoppers said they would not order from a retailer again due to lack of supply chain visibility, and 70% of customers said they would not make another purchase if they had a negative delivery experience. In other words — delivery must be seamless, or shoppers won’t return.

In the final mile, there are many variables that can cause delivery exceptions to happen that may be out of the shipper’s control. For example, according to our data, attempted deliveries, delays, and shipping label replacements/incorrect addresses caused the most delivery exceptions in the month of August. Still, 94% of consumers still say they will blame their shipper, not their carrier for any issues, especially if their delivery arrives late or in bad condition.

With increased consumer expectations and an increased risk of exceptions in the final mile, real-time visibility allows shippers to easily see all shipments from all of their carriers, making managing higher delivery volumes a reality.

Match Shopper Expectations to Ace Customer Experience

  • Let customers know exactly when their package is coming

    While Estimated Delivery Dates (EDD) are important, shoppers emphasize the importance of understanding date commitments in the delivery experience, which can be done through using real-time APIs. When asked to choose the most important delivery factor during the holiday season, 29% reported a desire for a specific promise date.

    Beyond just being important to the initial purchase decision, consumers indicated that shipping delays and date changes were at the top of the list for desired retailer response. In our annual survey, over 95% of shoppers reported that they expect retailers to proactively respond if the carrier’s estimated delivery date changes while a shipment is in transit and over 90% expect some form of action or compensation for missed promise-by dates.

  • Over-communicate, especially if there was a delivery issue

    It’s important to invest in keeping customer promises beyond just EDD changes. While customer complaints and WISMO calls regularly occur, they can be customer experience nightmares. Just as customers want to know when their package is arriving, they also want to understand what happened in the event of an exception, especially a delay or damaged delivery.

    In in our annual consumer survey, 93% of consumers wanted notifications if something happened with their package, and 40% of shoppers want to know immediately if there is a delivery disaster such as a damaged shipment. This is an opportunity to build trust and loyalty with customers — those who expected alerts also were less likely to blame their shipper for the issue.

Extra Credit: Align Your Team to Beat Expectations

  • Identify deliveries that are destined to go off the rails

    Improving supply chain visibility helps shippers to monitor issues as they occur, and solve them or alert their customers about them before the problem lands on a customer’s doorstep. In 2017’s peak season survey, those who had an issue that was resolved were 42% more likely to report that they would return than those who had an issue that went unresolved.

    If a delay occurs early in the fulfillment process, retailers such as UncommonGoods use visibility to enable proactive support to their customers. In the event of a big holiday when they know they will see big order surges, they will identify deliveries with exceptions, and then they will expedite a new package to the shopper to ensure delivery still meets the service level agreement committed to at the time of purchase.

  • Resolve any issues before they impact your customers

    With so many different final mile variables, getting shipments back on track quickly is key so that it doesn’t impact customer experience — or worse, leave the customer to deal with a shipping issue on their own. Collaborating with your carriers and customer service teams to create workflow priorities on actionable exceptions  and cases can help both teams solve issues before they land on a customer’s doorstep.

Eliminating the root cause, not just specific issues

Especially when it comes to maintaining positive brand reputation around customer experience, it is not just about the “what” of fixing an issue — you must also address the “how.” While it’s important to build positive experiences from the get-go, exceptions happen, and last mile visibility can help turn delivery hiccups into moments of trust and loyalty.

Our consumer research shows that customers don’t want to deal with shipping issues, and they are counting on their shippers to fix them before it is too late. Having the ability to see every shipment in one place empowers your team to ensure you always act using the most complete and up to date information available.

Learn how to automate delivery scheduling to address Failed Delivery Attempts in our video, or prepare your team for peak with our Interactive Peak Season Action Plan, or learn more about supply chain visibility here.