Guest Column | January 3, 2019

Delivery Data Is The Driving Force For Retail Customer Experience

By Rob Taylor, Convey, Inc.

Customer Service Helps Luxury Brands Thrive

Retailers today face the daunting task of keeping up with Amazon in the race to meet customers’ increased delivery demands. Online shoppers have been trained to expect fast, free shipping and significant control over the delivery experience while logistics and supply chain teams struggle with increased complexity and rising costs.

In turn, retail strategies have had to evolve to address these expectations, creating a never ending list of initiatives from branded tracking pages, delivery notifications, ship-from-store, pop-up warehouse/distribution centers and other on-demand, same day fulfillment.

Retail leaders are being asked to strike the perfect balance between providing a fast, positive delivery experience and running a profitable business. Between distribution strategies, inventory availability, transportation performance, packaging and more, retailers must grapple with a complex array of issues — all while addressing ever-rising consumer expectations. The challenge presented is only exacerbated by exploding amounts of data and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence.

To thrive in the current environment, retailers need to think holistically. Balancing these initiatives can only be achieved by managing the profusion of data and using it to enhance and personalize the customer experience. It’s a challenge consumers are forcing with their pocketbooks, driving reinvention across the industry.

Convey surveyed 1,500 shoppers to better understand the leading expectations of consumers today and how to bridge the delivery divide with between shoppers and retailers.

Delivery Is Crucial To Long Term Business Success

The good news for retailers is that most customers (56 percent) approve of how brands handle deliveries, an increase from 42 percent in 2017. However, the consequences of a failed experience are escalating: 98 percent of consumers confirm that shipping impacts brand loyalty, while 84 percent are unlikely to shop with a brand again after a poor experience, up from 62 percent last year.

Fast And Free No Longer Cut It, Experience Management Is Key

Shoppers want retailers to take the lead on communication and resolution when there is an issue, no matter who’s at fault. Nearly 88 percent expect brands to make amends when they miss a delivery date, and 52 percent expect a refund or discount on shipping costs. Getting it right the first time is clearly the best way to reduce costs and ensure customer loyalty, but proactive communication and resolution can go along way toward bridging the gap.

Demands For Convenience Are Rising At A Faster Pace

Not surprisingly, shoppers also want more self-service features so they can have more control over how, when and where they receive their deliveries — and the option to change their minds after pressing the “buy” button. A whopping 98 percent want to self-serve or interact with their retailer directly to solve their delivery issues, which may include rescheduling appointments (55 percent) or making in-transit routing changes (70 percent) to a new address, terminal or pick-up locker.

The Ability To Provide Feedback Is Crucial

Interestingly, although 89 percent of shoppers expect to provide feedback when they have a negative delivery experience, most customers actually prefer to vent in private. Only 3 percent said social media was their preferred method for providing negative feedback, while 11 percent prefer not to contact the retailer at all. Retailers that do use social media as their primary feedback channel risk not only negative reviews and attention, but also miss a valuable opportunity to connect with customers on a more personal, authentic level.

These survey results underscore an undeniable fact: consumers hold brands primarily responsible for delivery success, regardless of where something might go wrong along the way. In turn, retailers must continue to implement new strategies that allow them to meet these high expectations while keeping an eye the bottom line.

Meeting Customer Demands Requires Systems And Teams To Play Nice

The “Amazon Effect” has redefined modern retail, from marketing and sales to supply chain and support. And across all of these groups, retail IT is racing to keep up. Legacy systems and silos have created artificial barriers between teams and business partners, driving up costs and inefficiencies and leaving the customer with a disconnected experience. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Modern business intelligence, analytics and AI technologies can empower retailers to harness Big Data from myriad sources -- including OMS, CRM and TMS systems -- to improve order tracking, proactive communications and collaboration, personalization, issue resolution, and more.

Interestingly, recent Capgemini research reveals that retail organizations are prioritizing cost, data and ROI when deploying AI, at the expense of considering the customer experience. I’d argue that’s a misplaced strategy. Retailers must find ways to integrate their systems and teams to view delivery data and strategies holistically, not just through the lens of departmental excellence.

Solving for success requires a comprehensive view of customer data across carriers, consumers, suppliers and other specialized service providers to make the most informed decisions and trade-offs. And retail IT has a key role to play by implementing innovative tools and processes that not only manage data, but unleash its ability to transform how their companies interact with customers.

In doing so, retailers can not only stay afloat in this increasingly competitive market, but also, differentiate their services and build lasting brand loyalty that puts them in the position to succeed for years to come.

About The Author

Rob Taylor is Co-Founder and CEO of Convey, Inc.