The rapid growth in online shopping has exposed gaps between when the buyer makes a purchase and when they receive the goods, posing one of the biggest challenges in eCommerce logistics. If delivery is not swift, the sale may be lost; and should the delivery not meet expectations, repeat loyalty and future sales can be affected.
Communication is vital. Rather than a customer waiting for the delivery with a vague estimation of arrival time, there are now technological opportunities to convey each step of the process, as the product travels from online order to the customer’s door:
• Order confirmation emails and SMS progress updates;
• Despatch advice with tracking ID;
• Notification of delivery.
Most customer enquiries relate to delivery, so being notified in advance and provided with a clear perception of when the delivery will be made will minimise these types of enquiries/complaints, further enhancing customer satisfaction.
The 3 keys to timely delivery are:
1. Product availability
Inventory must be managed accurately in real time, helping to ensure that stock holdings meet projected sales. Contingencies must be considered to fulfil unexpected spikes (safety stock), and it helps if you can utilise supply chain forecasts to optimise purchasing volumes while reducing any costly excess.
2. Timely order processing
Smaller start-up operations will generally have no difficulty fulfilling their own orders on a daily basis. But as the business grows, time spent on processing orders will present your business with a significant overhead cost and, more importantly, robs you of the time needed for the critical growth activities of sourcing suppliers, expanding your sales, and business/product diversification and optimisation. It might be time to engage a professional 3PL provider to ensure orders are processed and despatched on time, every time.
3. Delivery expectations
Distribution choice and cost present the greatest complexities how do you provide a premium (next day?) service yet minimise the cost amid increasing, diverse and intricate service options and prices being offered by Australia Post and other carriers? 3PL providers can help, giving exposure to carrier choice and access to systems that automate the process.
Ask yourself the questions – What are the real per item costs of holding 10% more stock, having a 3PL provider manage the order fulfilment for you, and using an overnight or express delivery service rather than “snail mail”? And are these costs offset by the potential for improved customer service and increased sales? If the numbers add up, the right decision will usually become obvious.