Analysis

Avoiding mistakes and protecting your hard-earned reputation

Courier firms know only too well how avoidable mistakes can easily lead to reputation damage and loss of business for brands shipping products to customers; problems have a strong impact on a retailer’s brand, not just that of their carrier. Eliminating mistakes might never be possible, but reducing your exposure to the risk of mistakes ought to be part of your business strategy.

Rob Mead, marketing manager at logistics firm Parcel2go, says: “As couriers, we understand how crucial a reliable and convenient delivery service is. We have measures in place to ensure any issues are seamlessly rectified, ensuring the reputation of the brands we work with are protected.”

As we live in an “always on” world, multichannel retailers need to maximise consumer convenience to remain competitive, says Patrick Gallagher, CEO of delivery firm CitySprint. “A reliable service is no longer enough – retailers need to offer a suite of delivery options including ultra-fast, same-day, locker drop-off and timed delivery; larger retailers achieve this through the scale of their deliveries, but smaller retailers can still compete by working with partners to build scalable, efficient solutions,” he said, adding that the firm’s ‘On the dot’ offering takes convenience to the next level by allowing customers to specify the hour of their delivery for any day of the week. In multichannel retail, “customers vote with their clicks”, and retail delivery will become even more important when loyalty is lower than ever, added Gallagher.

The delivery industry is constantly developing – both strategically and technically – to meet the shifting demands of the consumer. “DPD is responding to changing consumer demands by launching a network of parcel shops this year,” says David Grimes, managing director at My Parcel Delivery. These UK-based shops represent a flexible delivery option for customers, and the convenience factor will hopefully encourage the consumer to keep spending online. The parcel comparison website works with leading couriers such as Hermes, DPD, DX, Collect+ and Parcelforce to offer customers a convenient way to access discounted prices on a range of parcel delivery. Regarding innovation that has impressed him in recent times, Grimes says: “DPD’s one-hour delivery is a great solution as it sets a clear and acceptable expectation, with the bonus of being able to redirect to an alternative address/day or safe location whilst the parcel is in flight.” Other carriers releasing equivalent solutions are not yet on a par with this, he adds. “Technology used at InPost’s locker locations is also impressive because of how intuitive the solution is for the customer. InPost has mastered a simple, assured customer journey to collecting or dropping off a parcel at an unattended location.”

Getting it right

Correct labelling is a key component for order-delivery success. “Labelling is critical to a delivery company – as is a consistent and accurate data flow from the retailer to the carrier,” says Grimes. Without these two things, the carrier’s ability to deliver to the customer on the day expected is significantly reduced, and it is typically the carrier who suffers the customer service backlash for a poor delivery experience. That’s why it’s a great time for carriers to collaborate and implement an industry standard of data they expect from retailers.” New initiatives in labelling are emerging such as double-sided thermal label – allowing a retailer to significantly reduce its shipping costs by producing one single label, which incorporates a delivery note, returns note and pick list. “Whilst all these developments are great for the consumer, things can go wrong occasionally, so it’s important to have a back-up plan to avoid losing custom,” Grimes concludes.

James Summers, commercial director of multichannel and global retail expert firm IVIS Group says: “Basic, easy-to-understand labelling information for purchases is essential to the success of delivery for both retailer and customer. Reporting when they will receive their purchase, where it is in the delivery process at the warehouse, and tracking options are now expected. Extra information – such as DPD offering customers the opportunity to see where their delivery van is – is a plus for customers that may be on a tight time schedule.” Having a courier link is also a valued option as it empowers the consumer to change their delivery on the day if necessary, he added. “If there’s an ability to make changes in the delivery chain, it should be offered to the customer.” Delivery is all about fitting in with the customer – “they hold the power and must be at the centre of every process”, he says. “The customer must be satisfied they’re experiencing exactly what they opted in for.”

Delivery management systems

On the topic of cloud-based ecommerce delivery platforms, Ruth Harrison, director of retail strategy at ThoughtWorks, says that innovation in the delivery sector will continue with smaller independent providers offering faster and more convenient services that leverage the cloud for real-time integration. “As start-ups, artisans and local enterprises continue to grow, and more items are hosted on Etsy and Ebay, larger carriers and their services will need to determine how they remain relevant in the retail space.” The key factors they will need to examine are cost, service effectiveness and client reputation, she said. For an amazing delivery company transformation story, one only has to look to SF Express, China’s largest delivery company turned retailer – “a great example of using the cloud at scale” with it being the biggest delivery company in China, she says.

Read the label

Following the realisation that medium-sized etailers were desperately searching for an affordable delivery platform in the market, Scurri, the universal ecommerce delivery solution, was developed to reduce the complexity of delivery for retailers. With online giants such as Amazon leading the way in solving the intricacies of successful delivery systems, customers now demand a similar level of service from all the web merchants they are buying from. To avoid losing vital sales to their rivals, other operators know they need to keep up with what’s being offered by the leaders – and innovation is key to growing sales and retaining customers.

“Our success stems from our original ecommerce delivery technology,” says Rory O’Connor, founder and CEO of Scurri. “We created an innovative, easy-to-use integrated solution to solve the problems that retailers face.” Scurri now helps thousands of etailers to ship millions of deliveries each year. “Our cloud-based solution allows us to handle the back-end complexities of automated delivery, while leaving the front-end technology easy and simple for our customers to use.”

With delivery being such an important issue for retailers and shoppers alike, especially with the huge increases in online shopping in recent times, customers now demand an Amazon-style service on all their orders,” he says. The award-winning, cloud-based fulfilment platform easily integrates parcel carriers and merchants, quickly and cost effectively. The Scurri delivery solution processes millions of transactions for multichannel retailers and pure-player online sellers such as Vision Express, ASOS, MissGuided, BooHoo and Zara, and integrates with delivery partners such as UPS, Royal Mail, DHL, TNT, DPD, Yodel and dozens more.

Successful online retailers – such as Zara and Oxendales – have chosen Scurri, not only for their speed of deployment, but also to allow them to grow international sales, scale the business, increase customer satisfaction, and make the most of their working capital, explained O’Connor. In addition he explained that the technology firm is now looking to assist more online merchants around the UK, and right across Europe, in the successful delivery of orders in the categories of fashion, beauty, FMCG, consumer tech, white goods, household/home and more with its powerful, yet simple solution.

“We have found a better way to serve this market as we have reduced the operational costs and resource-heavy management of the existing on-premise solutions,” explains O’Connor. Such automated web-based technology offers operators an easy-to-manage cost-effective tool to offer world-class delivery solutions; it also helps to remove many of the complex issues they have to deal with in their day-to-day delivery operations.

Scurri offers a shipping label API to allow customers to retrieve shipping labels and integrate expansive carrier choice into existing pick and pack workflows. “This is one of the most effective ways for a merchant to implement the production of shipping labels and integrating shipping innovation into their tech stack.

The Scurri solution now has approved integrations with such respected carriers including Royal Mail, Hermes, DPD, DHL, Fastway, Yodel, Post NL, and Deutsche Post.

“We invested a lot in developing a system that allows us to quickly integrate carriers and we are now integrating carriers on a weekly basis, we welcome all new queries on potential future integrations” says O’Connor. By clicking on the ‘Try It’ button on the Shipping Label API page on scurri.co.uk, interested parties have the tools to make actual WEB API calls from the website. “In order to use this feature you will need to register for a free Scurri Shipping Label API developer account, says O’Connor. “Just fill in your details, and one of our team will set you up with an account, and guide you through using the Scurri Shipping Label API – it’s that simple.”

Protecting brand and reputation

Tobias Hartmann, vice president and general manager of enterprise services at eBay Enterprise believes a brand’s reputation must be protected by getting delivery right. “Loyalty is more transient than ever in the digital age, and a reliable delivery system can positively affect a retailer’s reputation by ensuring that the customer’s parting impression of a brand lasting contact is a good one,” he said. Higher ecommerce volumes, particularly during peak periods, increase the strain on delivery networks, and small improvements to order picking and delivery completion rates can have a big impact on the bottom line. “A robust system allows retailers to confidently and efficiently handle changing volumes and even to be strategic about fulfilment, for example, by using in-store stock to fulfil online orders and clear space for seasonal stock.”

Shapewear ships thousands of orders to its customers each year. “Reliable deliveries for online businesses success are imperative,” says Geraldine Robinson, director of Shapewear. With the increase in online sales year-on-year, an escalation in customer expectations goes hand-in-hand. “Customers are no longer willing to, nor expect to wait for items that they have purchased online for more than a couple of days.” This has been brought on by an increasing improvement in delivery times across the board for sellers on various selling platforms, she believes.

“Point scoring, awarded by the marketplace owners, for increasingly good service and rapid delivery times by the sellers converts to higher sales for the seller – a great incentive,” she explained. Ultimately, customers have come to expect next-day delivery and tracking numbers, so that they can be around for their anticipated parcel when it arrives. “The technology needs to be robust, in order that we can rely on tracking information to keep customers up-to-date with their deliveries.”

Shoppers are increasingly turning to the internet to buy the products they need, drawn in by the convenience of browsing and pricing a wide selection of products across competing retail web stores, placing orders with the preferred ecommerce operator, choosing from a number of delivery times, delivery points and returns options; and offering customer protection under consumer rights as an online shopper. Offering the most up-to-date technology is key to staying ahead – from basic vehicle tracking to online synchronised solutions – and suiting specific customers’ needs.

“As a consumer tech brand, we sell sophisticated user-friendly technology, so our customers expect an equally user-friendly delivery service,” says Alex Lainé, director of sales at consumer electronics manufacturer Pure. “After purchasing a product, the first brand experience for the customer – from either a consumer or trade perspective – is often the receipt of their product. This experience can be pivotal in the reflection of the brand as a whole.” The company ensures it offers narrow, accurate delivery windows, the ability to reschedule, easy tracking of parcels and a variety of delivery options – all of which relies on the accurate labelling of packages for couriers.

“Our business relies mainly on Royal Mail,” says Damian Krzyzanowski, founder & CEO of Nanshy Make-up Brushes. “More than 99% of our orders get to our UK customers the very next day, and European customers can expect delivery as quick as three days.” The larger trade orders are delivered by courier service such as UPS, he reveals. “The delivery is fast, traceable and guaranteed. It is important to get the deliveries on the first attempt to avoid customer disappointment.” Happy customers are more likely to return to the web store, and recommend the brand to others, he added.

Technology service providers that work with the customer, and their merchants, to ensure satisfaction before products are shipped, will avoid unnecessary hassles upon delivery of orders. With delivery such a hot topic in ecommerce success stories, offering customers and merchants the required robust technology to meet the demand for efficiency is key to future success in online retailing.