Commentary

Opinion: Convenient delivery is pivotal to success in 2018

Patrick Gallagher, chief executive of On the dot – part of the Patrick GallagherCitySprint Group, reveals why he believes convenient delivery is crucial for 2018 success. 

The curtain may only just have fallen on 2017, but it’s already clear that it was a tough year for retailers, especially those not in the food category.

The run-up to Black Friday – typically considered the starting gun for peak season and a much-welcomed flurry on the high-street – saw non-food sales drop by as much as 3.7%, according to BRC/KMPG. Coupled with a six-year record high inflation rate and falling consumer confidence, it’s easy to see why many retailers are feeling less than optimistic as we look to the coming year.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, for those who are willing to adapt and evolve, 2018 will present plentiful opportunities to grow and thrive – not least through better fulfilment. At a time when we’re seeing more new entrants in the retail space build their entire offer around ultra-convenient delivery, it’s a trend that should not be ignored.

Convenience will continue to reign supreme

If 2017 taught us anything, it’s that consumers don’t just want – but expect – to shop on their own terms. Now more than ever, time is a highly prized commodity, meaning convenience is everything. Shoppers can make a purchase from a smart device wherever they are, whenever they want to and they’re buying from the retailers who provide delivery on these same terms.

This isn’t going to change, even if they’re tightening the purse strings.

For today’s shopper, speed isn’t the be all and end all. After all, a delivery that arrives an hour after purchase, when you’re still on the bus home, is hardly convenient. Instead, it’s about finding the delivery options that cater to their individual needs and wants at any given time – whether that’s a delivery before work in the morning, late at night, at a specified hour, at home or to the office.

In 2018, we’re going to see even more retailers take this on board, from the smallest independents through to the biggest retail behemoths. Providing shoppers with a truly varied suite of delivery offerings will become the norm, especially for those in urban areas.

Customer experience will be more important than ever

With high-street footfall dwindling and online shopping continuing to thrive, a consumer’s face-to-face interaction with a brand is increasingly limited to the moment they receive a parcel on their doorstep.

Delivery has become the point of contact between consumer and retailer and it’s therefore critical to get it right to build a loyal bank of consumers who’ll return time and again. Research from MetaPack earlier this year truly brought this to light, with a staggering 96% of Brits saying they’d shop with a retailer again if they had a positive delivery experience.

Communicating with shoppers plays a key role with this. Simply promising deliveries at a certain time or place won’t cut it – retailers need to really work on practising what they preach, working with delivery services to ensure they have the required networks and infrastructure in place to meet consumer demand. And with returns high on the agenda, thinking beyond initial delivery is also important.

In the year to come, retailers of all shapes and sizes will need to embrace more strategic partnerships to hone and optimise their customer service, guaranteeing an experience from point of purchase to delivery – and beyond – that keeps customers loyal.

Technology will power convenient solutions  

It’s certainly an exciting time for innovation in delivery. Last year it felt that almost every week we saw the industry face a new revolution in technology; from automated delivery pods to drones and driverless vehicles. Whilst these developments will doubtless continue to steal the front pages, the delivery industry still has a big job to do in using technology to get the basics right.

In the fight to provide customers with the ultimate in convenience, the industry can be guilty of missing out on the things that really matter. Next year we need to go back to basics and use advances in technology to really hone delivery services, from parcel tracking, to in-flight delivery changes and specified time deliveries. We need to embrace the technology that makes a genuine difference to customers’ lives, rather than that which is simply novel.

For many, 2017 turned into something of a crawl over the finish line and 2018 is already looking to be a tough year for the economy. However, it’s also a great opportunity. By putting convenience at the core, focussing on strategic partnerships and harnessing technology to improve the delivery experience, retailers can – and will – fuel growth in the challenging months ahead.

Patrick Gallagher, chief executive of On the dot – part of the CitySprint Group

Image credit: Fotolia and On the dot

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