Experimenting to transform delivery
By Nima Yassini
The rise of eCommerce at the same time as delivery challenges have erupted. Think staff shortages, poor conditions and worker strikes contributing to frequently delayed shipment arrivals that have exposed the fatal flaw of eCommerce: the disconnect between the brand experience and the customer final touchpoint.
No matter how premium the online experience, or how well you’ve optimised your website, the fact is that the last mile is in the hands of delivery businesses, from Australia Post to courier companies, which means they have the power to influence how the customer receives your product. At best, at least presently, this might be a delayed package arrival, keeping customers waiting; at worst, the product could go missing, which either requires a response from the brand or sends the customer into the delivery partner’s system.
What this means is that winning the customer experience is not about the digital side, but the delivery experience. Most brands in Australia don’t recognise this. Amazon does. In the US, it has redefined delivery with initiatives like Amazon Prime membership, which gives customers fast and free delivery for a low ongoing monthly cost. And here, over the last five years, Amazon has built delivery infrastructure in order to own the end-to-end customer experience. It means they have control from the moment the customer buys the product to the moment they hold it in their hands.
From cart to hand
Given that the battleground for eCommerce is not a better digital experience, but how fast and reliably you can get the product into the customer’s hands, you need to test to understand how critical delivery will be for a visitor on your site.
Testing will help indicate customer sentiment with regard to delivery and give you a way to manage expectations. Timing could be an issue here: most retailers mention delivery on the product detail page or cart summary page. The best way to know for sure is to experiment. Our experience is that the earlier you manage delivery expectations, and the more you empower the customer by enabling them to switch between delivery options, the better. The way you frame delivery options can be the difference between making a sale and having an abandoned cart.
The role of click and collect
As delivery becomes less reliable, the attraction of click and collect increases, and retailers with physical stores should start thinking about how to manage this experience.
On the one hand, stores control the delivery of the item into the customer’s hands, from the store environment to the in-person customer service experience. On the other, this marks a shift from a retail store as a place to browse and touch – including trying on clothing, for example – and turns it into a distribution centre. Retailers need to think of a good system to track and store orders, manage pick-up queues and give the customer a positive impression to complete the brand experience.
Experimentation can help with expectations management, optimising pick-up times to ensure queues don’t get out of hand and may even help you predict busy periods so you can roster on more staff. You can test to see if you can influence customer arrival times, for example, which can help balance out high and low traffic periods.
Managing returns is a game-changer
Click and collect can also help reduce the cost of returns, which has grown with the increase in eCommerce. How easy it is to return a product and how much it costs can be contributing factors to purchase, but this is one area where retailers struggle.
Effective management of returned goods may be the biggest game-changer in the delivery ecosystem. Returns cost millions of dollars for brands, not just in lost sales but in additional delivery charges to send the items back to the warehouse or store for stock management, as well as the cost of personnel to handle and process returns. The time an item takes to become ready to be resold is also a cost, and at the end of all of this the best you can hope for at a customer experience level is ‘not negative’.
Experimentation to identify customer behaviour that leads to returns, so you can intervene and provide the right assistance, can help increase customer confidence in a purchase and reduce returns, as well as enhance customer experience at the point of purchase.
The eCommerce customer experience is no longer simply about the digital landscape a brand creates. Delivery can be one of the most influential aspects of the customer experience that is not controlled by the retailer. While few have the means to start their own end-to-end solution as Amazon has, organisations are definitely taking a closer look at how to transform the delivery end, the tangible aspect of the customer experience. Testing and improving every touchpoint is the only way eCommerce businesses can hope to give customers a consistent brand experience from website to delivery.
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