Commentary

OPINION Yodel CEO: How to successfully scale the three-peak challenge in retail

Mike Hancox, CEO at Yodel, discusses learnings from peak and how retailers and logistics companies can apply them throughout the year.

For those of us in logistics, the four months stretching from December to the end of March have long presented the most challenges. A sequence of pinch points – Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day – puts the resilience of network capacities across the country to the test. This year, the unique challenges of COVID-19 add to this.

According to the British Retail Consortium, online retail accounted for 19% of December’s retail spend, whilst February online sales saw a rise of 3.6%. What’s more, in recent years, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day have become steeper ascents – owing to a rise in flower deliveries, which, due to their delicate nature, require specialist handling and first-time delivery. Meeting these growing demands requires optimal performance from logistics companies.

As we lead up to Mother’s Day 2020 – the final climb in peak season – it is timely moment for reflection. Here we consider some of the learnings the logistics industry can take away in preparation for the rest of the year.

Investment in technology for a more visible, greener network

Strong but targeted investment in technology is key to ensure a network is prepared – throughout the year – for spikes in demand.

Transparency and visibility over the delivery process is of paramount importance for customers and superfast smart-phone scanning is a tech that has come to the fore of the sector in the last year to support this. It takes powerful barcode scanning software and integrates it into mobile apps for a smoother final mile. This gives more flexibility to the growing numbers of self-employed couriers out on the road and the feedback has been very positive. Couriers and carriers have noted the usability, and the way it allows for a quick bar code scan – maintaining a slick confirmation of proof of delivery in real-time.

With climate-conscious consumerism gathering pace, logistics players have an important role to play in giving customers more choice to have a ‘greener’ experience. While this does mean greener vehicles on the road, from electric power through to bicycles, tech solutions such as route optimisation and inflight control are also key. A lot of customers aren’t aware of the environmental impact a simple inflight shift can have, or how selecting CollectPlus as a delivery method means more consolidation and less miles on the road. We need to pull together as a sector to help customers make greener choices for themselves.

When to say no…

In addition to a ‘greener network’ a primary objective of ours has been to create a ‘cleaner’ network – this often means taking bold decisions and, at times, turning away volume. ‘Cleansing’ the network – ensuring that it only accepts the right type of traffic for an operation, in terms of parcel size and dimension – can result in much stronger customer service. It’s easy for logistics businesses to chase volume and show growth in the number of parcels traveling through the network. But to really deliver the best service, we need to make sure we’re moving the right traffic.

Going the extra mile to meet customer expectation

The rise in volume across peak provides exposure to new customers and clients. The delivery driver is often the only physical interaction that the customer will have with an ecommerce business, so the doorstep experience is a real focus. It’s imperative that we are cognisant of these first impression moments, and the impact this can have on our client’s brand perception. Long-term loyalty is determined by experience and all logistics businesses should be investing heavily in driver training. This has become even more important due to the nature growing ‘Three Peak’ period with perishable flowers requiring first time delivery.

As can happen in any line of work, the reality is that there are times when things don’t go quite as planned – through strong company culture we’re seeing growing numbers of drivers going the extra mile. Last year on Mother’s Day, our driver from Leamington Spa travelled an extra 150 miles to deliver flowers that had been sent to the wrong address. The driver recognised the importance for first time delivery for perishable goods like flowers and went well above the call of duty to get them to the recipient.

Maintaining momentum

Carrier performance across the three peaks will determine long-tern customer loyalty throughout the rest of the year and beyond. This underlines the importance of preparedness in the build-up to peak season – investing in the network, cleansing operations and taking a customer-led approach. By doing this, logistics companies can meet their fulfilment promises, ensure increased volume is delivered safely, strengthen retention and build a pipeline for acquisition.

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