The Importance Of Proactivity In Delivery
This post was written by Parcelhub, a trusted partner of OnBuy.
The global pandemic has radically altered retail, shifting the majority of sales to online and mobile as locked down consumers found new ways to shop – both for essentials and for ‘self-gifting’ to cheer themselves up.
This shift to eCommerce, which saw between four and six years of development happen in a matter of months according to Forbes, has also shifted eCommerce itself. Shoppers are looking not only for the cheapest way to shop, but also the channels that provide the greatest choice, the most flexibility in delivery and those that are easiest to use.
The rise of the marketplace
Part of this shift has been towards marketplaces during the lockdown. Increasingly, consumers are finding the ‘all under one roof’ idea of such platforms to be the easiest way to find variety, inspiration and competitive pricing.
While a couple of names spring to mind as the obvious beneficiaries – and drivers – of this trend, consumers waking up to the idea of the marketplace have gone in search of better marketplaces and better deals. In fact, even before the pandemic, around $1.66trn was spent annually around the world on the top 100 marketplaces.
As a result, a crop of newer and more niche marketplaces have sprung up around the world, looking to offer everything from new ways to find unusual items (Etsy, NotOnTheHighStreet) to those focussed on a particular niche (Asos, ManoMano) and those that offer a new, better business model to the merchants that sell on them (OnBuy).
For consumers this plays into the convenience and price side of their wants. For merchants it can be something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, marketplaces of any stripe give them reach into new customers, new territories and new outlets. On the other, it can erode brand, it can cost money and it can just pitch them against their competitors even more harshly than in the ‘real’ world.
Marketplaces such as OnBuy that operate a business model that seeks to help these merchants by not competing with them and by investing in them can help, but it still leaves one aspect that is increasingly becoming something of a deal-breaker for consumers: delivery.
The delivery differentiator
As competition on price errs towards zero – there is only so low anyone can cut their prices – so other factors come to dictate shopper behaviour. Delivery is one of them. There is a growing move by consumers in the lockdown to seek out next day and same day delivery as a key buying decision.
Research by Parcelhub in 2019, before the pandemic, revealed that already 66% of consumers had chosen to shop with a particular eCommerce brand based on delivery options.
But it is more complicated than that: flexible delivery, delivery to collection points, click and collect, BOPIS (buy online, pick-up in store) and even changing delivery details ‘in-flight’ have all come to determine how consumers want to manage the delivery aspects of their eCommerce transactions.
This puts a huge strain on merchants, especially the mid-tier and SME retailers that tend to gravitate towards marketplace selling, as they need to be able to offer the kinds of delivery services that the big boys take for granted, but on a budget.
They also need to handle the customer service and user experience aspects of delivery too, which are also things that consumers are starting to see as key to the brands they choose to shop with.
All this can be a head-scratcher for many merchants: how do you run a delivery offering that can differentiate you from your competitors and, more vitally, from the likes of the big-name retailers?
Multi-carrier delivery management
The answer lies in third-party proactive delivery management. Effectively outsourcing delivery operations to someone else leaves the merchant not only free to concentrate on what they do best, but also helps level the playing field in terms of logistics.
As big brands and marketplaces start to make a play with same and next day delivery, as well as a host of other delivery and collection options, having a partner on board that can help you offer the same allows smaller, mid-tier retailers the ability to compete.
The advantages of using a third-party to manage a multi-carrier delivery strategy are clear. Having multiple carriers available obviously allows a merchant to offer a wider range of delivery options to customers, relying in the different carriers to handle the different delivery offerings.
But there is another advantage: working with third parties that are also managing delivery for others, means that potentially vast economies of scale can be accessed, with each item taking a place on a truck carrying many deliveries for many merchants.
This makes multi-carrier delivery ideal for offering competitive delivery options at a very efficient price.
While a merchant or retailer could well attempt to run this themselves, a third-party multi-carrier management company offers a way to hand off all that delivery management to someone else, giving you as a merchant the ability to offer competitive, proactive delivery to customers, without the headache of having to manage it yourself.
And it is proving successful. Even before the pandemic, 70% of merchants quizzed by Parcelhub said that they were already using multiple carriers to meet these exacting consumer demands. They were also turning to multiple delivery options through third-parties to help manage delivery on orders that are increasingly coming from multiple platforms.
The rise of marketplaces has clearly given consumers something they want, and it has given a new platform for many merchants to reach a wider audience. Factor in that soon it will be essential to sell on multiple marketplaces, as well as a native site, mobile and even through social media, and platform proliferation becomes a n issue.
Servicing delivery demands from an array of platforms, while maintaining the level of service and delivery options that consumers demand, adds a new layer of complexity. Again, multi-carrier delivery offers the solution as the carrier management partner that the merchant works with can manage all this too – ideal for merchants that are wanting to plug into new marketplaces.
There are other advantages to using a third-party carrier management company to handle delivery that bring benefits that are not immediately obvious differentiators as far as consumers are concerned, but which do play into how they choose a retailer.
The post-purchase user experience (UX) is steadily becoming what keeps consumers loyal to online brands. Looking after the customer once they have handed over their money is now vital to building loyalty and delivery plays a key role.
The standard ways of delivering post-purchase UX centre more around marketing – thank you messages, offers, updates and so forth – but increasingly, live information about a package’s whereabouts, its delivery time, the name of the delivery driver are all part of that process. Offering returns information – and indeed easy and free returns – is also something that customers love.
Third party carrier management companies can also help with this. Operators such as Parcelhub’s SMART Notifications Platform allows for allow for tracking and updates on deliveries, as well as a range of tracking and delivery support to help handle customer queries for the merchant.
Working in tandem, these two services can provide the kind of high-grade post-purchase UX that consumers demand – allowing for updates and tracking, as well as providing a point of contact with customer service agents that can say exactly where an item is.
Working in harmony
This is the vital piece of the proactive delivery puzzle: the ability to not only offer a wide range of delivery options, but to be able to readily and accurately answer the WISMO – where is my order? – queries as they come in.
Offering a range of delivery options is now standard for eCommerce; being able to address WISMO calls is becoming the new battleground. With merchants selling across a range of platforms and through a variety of marketplaces, this can be challenging to manage. Handing that to the same third-party that can also manage and streamline your delivery options makes good sense.
Offering a closed loop of carriers, carrier management, tracking, smart notifications and delivery support, a third-party is the key to proactive delivery for merchants selling across multiple sales channels, especially those looking to exploit the growing number of marketplaces out there.
It offers the ability to make the merchant competitive with other, often much larger, entities, as well as buying in, as service, the logistical support that today’s eCommerce boom demands.
Parcelhub is a bespoke multi-carrier delivery management and proactive tracking support solution. Flexible and scalable, its unique portfolio of services integrate seamlessly with marketplaces, eCommerce platforms and order management systems, providing hundreds of multi-channel retailers, global brands and wholesalers with one access point to 20+ carriers and 600+ delivery options.