Nowadays, online shoppers can close their browser or visit a competitor’s site within seconds. There’s no savvy store manager to smooth things over or suggest alternative products if you are out of stock. With less time to change the customer’s mind, operations must be seamless from online checkout to final delivery. It takes five good impressions to make up for one bad impression.
The eCommerce market is extremely competitive so ensuring that every aspect of your business is operating smoothly is crucial. One area that does seems to remain overlooked is the final stage: delivery. Flawed delivery is one of the biggest reasons behind poor customer reviews and in the end they will blame you, not the courier. You chose them. Let’s look at four case studies from some of the biggest names in e-commerce.
- Your delivery driver is often the first and last human interaction your customer has with your online business.
Case Study: M&S & Yodel
Marks & Spencer’s ran into unwanted problems over Mother’s Day 2015 with its courier partner Yodel, when hundreds of customers’ mothers did not receive their flowers for the big day. Poor Mum! Customer tweets expressed frustration and even confusion as to why the retailer was relying on a courier with a dubious track record. Over Christmas 2014, major retailers like Waterstones, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer’s admitted that services were delayed up to four days with Yodel. Yodel was also forced to suspend deliveries in a bid to catch up. Over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, customers claimed items were left in bushes, in bins and with unknown neighbours. It’s claimed Yodel drivers only receive 50p per delivery and that the company relies on casual or contract drivers.
Verdict: If you are relying on a logistics partner, don’t try to save on courier services with a cheaper provider. Cheapest has been often proved to not be best. Your customers will thank you (or at the very least you won’t receive angry tweets).
- Is it better to have a van deliver your products with your company’s branding or a courier’s branding?
Case Study: Net-a-Porter & In-House Logistics
Premium brands like net-a-porter.com offer a masterclass in warehouse operations and logistics. Net-a-porter relies on robots to fulfil its endless stream of orders. Robots swish up and down the warehouse packing new products away or selecting boxes and totes to be delivered on a conveyor belt. The robots move at 30mph to pick, pack and dispatch simultaneously. The company behind the robots, TGW offers engineers on site 24/7 to make sure nothing stands in the way of the e-commerce’s relentless operations. As part of the operation’s complete package net-a-porter retain their own in-house delivery fleet, with branded vans.
Founder and executive chairman of the group, Natalie Massenet explained the success of the platform, “A lot of people are trying to create social shopping destinations, but they’re missing some of the ingredients. Either they don’t have the scale and reach and audience already, they don’t have the relationship with the brands, or they don’t have the logistics or in-house tech team we have.”
Verdict: Net-a-porter understands that logistics leaves a lasting impression on customers. However, few e-commerce sites can afford their own in-house logistics team and van fleet. Net-a-porter’s logistics is impressive, if not unusual, given its size. The company has invested heavily in its warehouse operations and delivery fleet as a core proposition. Net-a-porter’s strategy is aspirational, setting the bar very high for other brands. While you may not be able to afford your own van fleet, you can select a trusted courier partner to represent and deliver your goods.
- Real-Time Tracking information reduces customer queries & improves operations.
Case Study: ASOS & DPD Partnership
One of the biggest (but worst kept) secrets behind ASOS’s success is its logistics strategy. Over the past two years, the company has expanded into China, Russia, Asia, India and Brazil. This expansion comes at a price. The company has invested heavily in warehouse operations and technology.
AllPort Cargo Services keeps a tight reign over ASOS’s international transportation management, managing its international air and sea movements. In June 2013, ASOS and DPD introduced the ‘Follow my Parcel Service’ to provide real-time tracking, dramatically cutting the delivery window down to a 15-minute slot. On the day of delivery, ASOS customers are sent a text or email message with a one-hour delivery slot. Customers have the further option to have their parcel delivered to a safe place, collect from the nearest depot or upgrade their delivery. The service allows customers to track their purchases with GPS and online mapping on the web or with mobile devices.
Verdict: Accurate Real-Time tracking information has been instrumental in ASOS’s international expansion and customer experience. DPD’s innovative tracking services has allowed customers to arrange deliveries around their schedule and reduce the number of customer queries.
- Offering multiple delivery and/or return options can dramatically increase conversion rates, encouraging customers to return to your site.
Case Study: Zappos & UPS
While you may not have heard of US-based retailer Zappos, it is a household name in the US. Zappos was an early pioneer of putting customers at the centre of the shopping experience. From the beginning, the company made returns a core part of their marketing strategy. If you’ve ever worked in merchandising, you’ll know shoe fit and sizing is one of the most challenging aspects of store planning. Zappos removed the challenges of selling footwear online by allowing customers to order any style, colour and size of footwear and return the shoes free of charge. Not only does Zappos allow free returns, it actively encourages returns with an innovative UPS returns section on their website, which allows customers to call a driver for pickup. After pickup, UPS handles the rest.
It’s no surprise that Zappos maintains 75% of its customers as ‘return shoppers’. The company asserts that service is not an expense, but an investment. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh gave credit to the company’s partnership with UPS. He said Zappos had ‘found similar cultural values and a joint passion for logistics’ with UPS.
Verdict: Zappos’s partnership with UPS and its flexible return policy has been instrumental in retaining its customer base with a tricky product. Customers enjoy the shipping experience as much as they enjoy the returns process, mimicking how they might behave in a real shoe store.
If you can’t afford to have your own in-house logistics and van fleet, you can follow in the steps of Zappos and ASOS and partner with a professional courier service to ensure your brand always makes a great impression on customers from start to finish. Don’t let your brand down on your customer’s doorstep.