Despite the complexity that exists when shipping large-items, shopper expectations remain high. Large-item retailers face a unique set of complex and costly fulfillment challenges. Below we will discuss some of these delivery challenges and provide ways to overcome them to drive loyalty.
Challenge #1: Delivery Speed, Final-Mile Scheduling & Flexibility
Delivering large-items requires significant coordination during the final-mile. This extra orchestration can cause significant delays. Carriers are incentivized to get items to the destination terminal as soon as possible. But, getting the item to your customer quickly is not necessarily a priority. When shipping is not free, expectations rise and tolerance for speed of delivery drops from 8 days to only 6. The time required to orchestrate these deliveries drives delays beyond typical tolerance levels. This leads to higher operating costs and harder to please customers reducing the likelihood of repeat purchases.
Also, the majority of shoppers want more flexibility with regard to scheduling the deliveries. 53% of shoppers are not satisfied with their current ability to change a delivery date – a real problem if they can’t be home at the scheduled time. This leads to missed appointments, extra cost, and unhappy customers.
Don’t rely on the carrier to schedule the final-mile appointment. Proactive communication with your shopper can speed up final-mile delivery and reduce costs. We’ve seen implementing this one tactic can reduce the average time at a delivery terminal by 22%. Go a step further by allowing your shopper to schedule these appointments in whatever way is most convenient to them whether it’s SMS, online, or via a phone call.
Challenge #2: Large-Item Returns are a Customer Experience Nightmare
Customers expect that if they need to return an item that it will be as easy and simple as possible. Creating an easy returns process is imperative to retaining customers. In fact, shoppers that return items are more likely buy again – 42% will make an additional purchase.
Unfortunately, for large-items, “simple” is often not the appropriate adjective. Scheduling large-item returns can be a manual process full of time consuming look-ups and rating inefficiencies. Even worse, sometimes the onus is on the customer to go call on a list of local carriers! We’ve even seen retailers suggest the shopper sell the item instead because of cost!
These inefficiencies lead to return shipments with less than ideal carrier selections. For returns, it’s most important to reduce losses. Carrier selection should be based on cost and damage percentage not a list of phone numbers.
Returns are a key area for optimization both for customer experience and operational efficiency. For the customer experience, the key is to reduce effort. Make it easy for customers to initiate a return. Allow the shopper to schedule at their convenience without having to call customer service. This is important as 1/3 of shoppers would rather clean a toilet than call a customer service hotline.
Optimizing the returns process has 3 key benefits:
- Reduced customer effort & complaints arising from direct communication with the carrier
- The ability to identify and schedule with the best carrier to minimize losses
- Control and visibility into return shipment status driving down costs and putting all stakeholders on the same page for the purpose of issuing credits
Challenge #3: Lack of Control Over Customer Facing Experiences
The higher the AOV, the higher the expectations around delivery quality. In general, large-items generate higher ticket prices. Purchasers of these items are in turn some of the best customers. Retailers need to tie the carrier network to these higher service-level expectations. Despite a lack of control, the experiences carriers provide reflect on the retailer’s brand. Something as simple as the tracking messages provided by freight carriers can cause significant confusion and frustration for customers. Remember, carriers are not customer service organizations. Relying solely on carriers to deliver exceptional experiences is risky business.
Take control of the shopper-facing experience for all carriers (LTL, White-Glove, Threshold etc.) Provide customers with a self-service tool capable of identifying and translating the nuances involved in the transit messages related to these shipments (i.e. scheduling delivery appointments). We’ve seen when carrier messages are appropriately translated actual exceptions for large-item deliveries are nearly 5x the self-reported percentage of shipments (17.9% compared to 3.4%!). Being able communicate these before the customer self-reports the issue will go a long way to improving the experience and reducing inbound calls.
Additionally, ensure the carriers chosen (especially white-glove carriers that will enter a shoppers home) represent the brand you are trying to create. Doing this well requires decisioning on qualitative factors outside of cost. Decisions should be made using historical carrier performance data as well as customer feedback.
- Shoppers’ have high expectations when it comes to delivery experiences.
- Shoppers are underwhelmed with the large-item delivery experience
- Poor experiences’ damage a retailer’s brand and have a profound effect on repeat business.
- As competition increases, retailers need to invest in this pivotal component of the experience