The last year has been incredibly frustrating for consumers, retailers and last-mile carriers alike as we all faced unforeseen stress due to COVID-19. Lockdowns and restrictions caused a boom of e-commerce and home delivery, at a time when many retailers were not prepared to make the logistical shift so quickly.
As a result, customer confidence in retail delivery has taken a hit, with a recent study finding that 53% of consumers reported receiving damaged packages in 2020, and 43% had packages lost in transit. With last-mile fulfillment accounting for anywhere from a quarter to half of the overall cost of delivery, there is no room for error in today’s digital-first retail landscape.
As e-commerce continues to grow, last-mile pain points will increasingly make or break the overall shopper experience. To avoid common pitfalls, last mile carriers must understand what end-consumers prioritize and plan against these concerns.
The three biggest pain-points for e-commerce consumers can be summarized as a lack of visibility, control and accountability. While these concerns are far-reaching, the solutions are manageable for last-mile carriers willing to adopt new innovations to regain customer confidence in the short, medium and long term.
1. A lack of visibility turns customers away
Consumers overwhelmingly desire transparent communication throughout the delivery process; being kept informed of their order status is essential. Inconsistent or unreliable updates are among the biggest pet peeves of retail customers today.
Without updated tracking information, shoppers will seek out customer service and WISMO (Where Is My Order) contacts, costing employee time and energy and further frustrating the shopper. To meet customer expectations, be sure to provide tracking numbers, with clarity around expected delivery, through real-time notifications.
The worry that an order has got lost in transit causes more stress for customers than knowing their package is delayed. So, when it comes to providing information on the last mile of delivery, more information is better.
In the short term, creating a single source of truth — either internally or with your third-party logistics (3PL) partners — can eliminate the chance of multiple reference codes, contradictory delivery dates or multiple phone numbers that misdirect customers and waste time.
Looking further into the future, retailers will be seeking out last mile carriers that can integrate real-time data and analytics and explore the efficiency provided by AI and machine learning. These innovations can incorporate real-time tracking, dynamic routing, warehouse optimization and more. Advanced technologies like these are ever-changing, but it’s worth working them into a road map now so competitors don’t get there first.
2. Shoppers seek control in an uncontrollable world
Visibility alone is not enough to satisfy online shoppers. So much of 2020 felt totally out of control. Now, U.S. consumers are seeking actionable choices so that they can be in control of where, when and how they get their packages.
Too often, delivery locations are limited, only inconvenient times are made available, or there is only a single choice of carrier. This lack of consumer control leads to a higher rate of failed deliveries and therefore a higher rate of disappointed customers leaving negative reviews.
One solution is to offer a self-scheduling and tracking system that allows each customer to schedule their deliveries and receive information throughout the delivery process. Customers can personalize the alerts they receive and get notified when their order goes into transit or is scanned in along the way to its final destination.
Personalized delivery options and alternative sites like lockers help customers acquire their purchase when and where they want, allowing them to experience the utmost security, control and comfort.
3. When mistakes happen, accountability goes a long way
Most customers understand that mistakes happen. However, their understanding nature can quickly be reversed when a company doesn’t own up to its mistakes or make amends.
According to Convey, almost nine out of 10 consumers think brands should make up for missed delivery dates in some way. When experiencing a delivery failure, or a last-mile fulfillment error, customers often must ‘play detective’ to find the right person to contact. A lack of accountability puts responsibility onto the customer, adding undue stress and making a bad situation worse.
No matter the reason for the issue or delay, retailers and carriers must be coordinated and communicate issues upfront, then keep the customer in the loop. Last-mile companies can stay accountable by leaning into delivery performance analytics that are designed to keep the company and the customer up to date.
With advanced analytics, leadership can quickly identify where slowdowns happen and where efficiency can be gained. When potential issues can be predicted, they can also be communicated to customers, thus showcasing accountability and transparency — two factors that greatly contribute to customer loyalty.
Be proactive whenever possible
Last year taught us that unexpected challenges might be right around the corner. To avoid being caught in the chaos again, last-mile fulfillment companies should explore the recent innovations shaking up the industry in 2021.
The demand for a contactless customer experience has driven expectations for more personalized delivery options that provide a sense of control for consumers. New technologies and innovations are providing greater levels of visibility that can be shared with customers at every step.
Being unaccountable to shoppers isn’t a good strategy. Instead, owning mistakes and making customers aware of them is the only way forward. As consumer needs and expectations evolve, make sure you work to actively mitigate common pain points, and lead the way in servicing happy and fulfilled customers.
Lukas Kinigadner is co-founder and CEO of Anyline, a mobile data-capture company.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.