Even before online commerce took off, transport companies were handling hundreds of thousands of parcels every day. E-commerce boosted this number into the millions, and as we’ve learned, not getting the parcel into your customer’s hands as and when they expect it can lose them for good.
Whether you are a manufacturer/importer who sells into retail shops and perhaps also online, a retailer expanding into online or a dedicated online retailer, the single most important factor for success is fast and accurate delivery to your customer.
Online retail is putting extreme pressure on transport companies to pick up, sort and deliver literally billions of parcels every year. In 2018, for example, the Australia Post Group including StarTrack delivered more than 3.3 billion items to more than 12 million addresses across the country. How can you make sure your customers are happy with their deliveries, every time?
Step 1: Make sure your warehouse is in order
Customer satisfaction begins with how their order is received, acknowledged and acted upon. Especially in times of heavy demand such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas and other major shopping events, internal systems must be up to the task of handling all incoming orders from receipt to picking / packing to dispatch, without going astray in the system or being delayed by overloaded personnel.
Same day dispatch is more an expectation than a preference these days, and customers will be quick to go elsewhere if they feel that their order is not your upmost priority.
Step 2: Make the process visible to the customer
Online tracking provides visibility of the parcel and is a great way of communicating with customers. By implementing scanning and online updates at every step of the delivery process and sending regular information by email or text (if desired), the customer will have a virtual image of their order getting closer and closer. To you, they may be just one of hundreds of customers, but to them, the order is a very special occasion.
Step 3: Make the transporter selection a top priority
Back in the good old days when shopping was done only through brick-and-mortar retail outlets, distributors more often than not allocated all their outgoing deliveries to one transport company that took care of local, intra- and interstate deliveries. For B2B distribution the model worked well and companies used the same transporter for many years if not decades.
Today, it is more than likely that you will have as many B2C customers as B2B. It is also very likely that you will not find one transport company that can handle all deliveries better than everyone else, so it will pay to shop around. Simplifying the complexity of dealing with a number of different carriers is possible through the implementation of a good Transport Management System (TMS). After inputting the parameters for your chosen transport companies, the TMS will select the most suitable and cost-effective transporter, prepare and print the appropriate (label) stationery and manage communications with the transport company.
Step 4: Turn your stores into warehouses
If of course you operate physical retail outlets as well as online sales, you can speed up deliveries to your digital customers by allocating time and resources to order preparation within the stores. Dispatching the goods from a local outlet instead of the central warehouse will not only save transport costs but also delivery time, boosting the margin and, most importantly, customer satisfaction.
Step 5: Make alternative delivery addresses an option
While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to work from home and able to receive deliveries at more times than before, not everyone is available to receive deliveries within the transport company’s working hours and, more often than not, transporters will not have drivers on the road when the customer is at home.
For this reason, click-and-collect has become a popular option, with the customer buying online but collecting the goods from your store. Alternatively, rather than insisting on a street address, external collection points can be a good option, such as Australia Post’s Parcel Lockers, 7-Eleven’s ParcelMate or Woolworths’ Parcel Drop Off service.
Step 6: Make returns as easy as 1-2-3
The one definite drawback for both retailers and customers with online shopping is the question of returns. What if a pair of shoes are the wrong size? What if the tool is the wrong model? What if the book is not liked? Any doubts about the ability to return an item can turn the shopper off purchasing it in the first place, so a simple returns process is almost mandatory.
One, make sure the fact that products may be returned, and under what conditions, clear and easily available on your shopping page. Two, make sure to include a return label and instructions with the products so the customer is clear and comfortable with what to do. Three, credit the return promptly. Offering alternative products based on the customer’s purchase history is a good way to promote additional sales.
Step 7: Make data analytics a daily habit
Data, data, data. Every customer, every sale, every delivery provides a mine full of information about the what, where, who and how of improving your sales and deliveries. From analysing transport routes, transporter performance and delivery details to customer preferences and product optimisation, analysing and understanding your data is an essential tool for delivering success.
Taken to its extremes, you could even join Amazon in utilising the concept of “predictive analytics” to design an “anticipatory shipping” system that will ship products towards customers even before they place an order predicting that they will, indeed, order them.
Clarity is key
And finally, here clarity is an essentially important factor in delivery satisfaction. Transport companies have specific label requirements in terms of the designs, size and shape of address labels. In addition, printing must be very clear and sharp – with the bar code on the label being scanned many times throughout its journey – any smudges or unclear lines will send the parcel onto a time-consuming reject loop.
Brother’s TD-4 range of dedicated label printers can be configured to accommodate the label specifications of all the major Australian transport companies and can be quickly and easily integrated into an organisation’s dispatch system. The labels print fast and clear at up to 300 dpi resolution, helping your parcels arrive quickly into your customers’ hands.