2020 is finally drawing to a close, and for retailers the year has delivered a clear mandate: agility. This is especially true when it comes to order fulfillment, a critical aspect of the customer experience where expectations continue to climb despite the challenging conditions.
The year-end holiday season has undergone a stark transformation, with shoppers flocking to the Web in unprecedented numbers while physical outlets enact crowd controls for peak events like Black Friday. Furthermore, nearly 4 in 10 respondents in a Convey survey said they started their holiday shopping early due to the pandemic — and they’re granting retailers leeway when it comes to order fulfillment, with 89% saying it’s okay to take extra time for gifts to arrive.
Underlying this goodwill, however, are high expectations for efficiency and accuracy when it comes to order delivery that are likely to outlast the peak season.
Delivery is more crucial than ever to the customer experience
Even as consumers made plans to accommodate pandemic slowdowns for the holiday season, they affirmed that on-time order delivery is critical — and retailers risk lost business if they don’t get it right.
- Despite their willingness to be flexible for the holidays, more shoppers than ever said on-time delivery is important to the overall shopping experience– close to 9 in 10, up 21% since 2018.
- Successful order fulfillment is so important to shoppers that fully 68% won’t shop with a brand again after a poor delivery experience.
- That’s because when a package is late, 1 in 5 consumers blames the retailer. This hard reality is especially true among heavy web shoppers: fully a quarter of those who planned to buy all their holiday gifts online blame the retailer when deliveries are late.
Agile delivery management is a critical priority for 2021
Given how much retailers’ reputations depend on successful delivery experiences, organization-wide improvements to fulfillment and customer service should be high on the priority list for 2021. Among the initiatives to consider:
- Create a single source of truth for delivery information. Organizations need to harness disparate data streams from distribution centers, delivery networks, store locations, and suppliers, and eliminate silos that can lead to miscommunication.
- Consider putting machines to work. Artificial intelligence can derive insights from the mountains of data generated by fulfillment operations, detecting and predicting patterns in the supply chain so retailers can avoid slowdowns.
- Expand delivery networks for maximum flexibility. With capacity from major carriers in ever-higher demand, retailers need viable alternatives. Working with smaller and regional carriers gives sellers the agility to accommodate sudden changes, such as weather events, and reroute last-mile deliveries.
- Scrupulously audit the end-to-end customer experience. Shoppers want transparency around order fulfillment: Nearly 6 in 10 are more likely to complete a purchase if the estimated delivery date is visible in the cart prior to checkout, according to Convey’s survey. From there, retailers should strive to provide proactive and accurate information throughout the purchase process and post-purchase period.
As retailers approach 2021, agility is more important than ever — especially when it comes to all-important order delivery. By adopting a data-driven approach and diversifying their options, retailers can meet and exceed customers’ delivery expectations.