Delivery is one of the hottest topics of 2014 for retailers. For the past few years, it has steadily grown in importance – both as part of a link between online and offline, and as a way of boosting convenience for shoppers.
Getting the product to the customer in a multichannel environment is a big challenge for some retailers, and one that is likely to continue developing and changing even as retailers come up with answers.
Research behind a recent white paper from Manhattan Associates and Retail Week, quizzing over 1,000 consumers on the topic of delivery, found that the services on offer are often falling far short of what customers need and expect. There are undoubtedly challenges. In a separate retailer survey, 55% of retailers said that real time stock visibility is the biggest one – knowing exactly where products are is clearly crucial, as is being able to ship direct from store, which speeds up the process compared to shipping from a distribution centre.
What’s more, incorporating the store more into the delivery process should be a priority. In the consumer survey for the white paper, 68.5% said that bricks and mortar stores need to play more of a role in the delivery process.
Home delivery is often the service that many shoppers use most often. But this is often borne of necessity – if other more convenient services were available, many shoppers would be likely to take advantage. In separate research done by Manhattan Associates, 60% of consumers say they prefer shopping with retailers that offer 2 hour click and collect services.
Same day in-store collection, click and collect services in external locations like train stations, and nominated delivery time slots will all help improve convenience and boost shopper satisfaction with retailers. In-house innovation is crucial, as is working with a range of different suppliers who will be able to come up with different ideas and answers. Convenient and timely order fulfilment has become one of the retail industry’s most pressing challenges. Introducing new fulfilment services effectively has the potential to boost both revenues and profitability but retailers need to embrace new process and technological innovations to really capitalise on the opportunity.
Things have improved hugely over the past couple of years, but there is still much more to do. Retailers are well aware of the benefits – these services reduce the costs of the final mile of delivery as well as making it easier for consumers. But of course, lots of infrastructure work is needed. Legacy IT systems can cause all sorts of problems and most retailers are likely to need to invest in some part of their network.
Delivery is just one of many challenges that retailers must tackle at the moment, but for those who sell purely online or whose etail sales are growing, it’s one of the first things they need to get right. If shoppers are foregoing stores to shop online with you, you need to make it easy – and this means a wide range of choices, a fast service, and reliability.
Rebecca Thomson is the insight editor at Retail Week and has worked for the publication for four years. While she writes about everything associated with retail, she has a special interest in technology, regularly writing feature articles on the topic for Retail Week.