This year more people than ever will order Christmas gifts online. In an ideal world most people would be organised and have each and every gift ordered weeks in advance of Christmas. Most of the time, however, the great mantle of responsibility that is delivering the perfect Christmas depends, not on a man in a red suit, but on a well-oiled delivery machine that can take the weight of the frenzy that is last minute Christmas shopping.
All of this leads to a perfect storm and the possibility for disasters such as the numerous retailers who’s customers were left empty handed and red faced at Christmas in 2013 due to errors made by handlers. Nothing as widespread has occurred across the industry since then but every year many brands leave budding customers disgruntled often receiving backlash across social media
All year round, failed deliveries are a retailer’s worst nightmare costing an eye-watering £1.6bn. This figure alone demonstrates the obvious importance for retailers to get their delivery processes right and provide their customers with a contextual and seamless delivery experience. The cost to brands at Christmas however, is much greater. At this point of the year, the expectation bar is all the higher and the fall therefore much more impactful in terms of brand loyalty. This is particularly true when we remember that consumers are also counting on online ordering to provide them with one less thing to worry about, which when well executed is a gift in itself to busy customers.
A great shopping experience is now everything for the digitally empowered customer and the future of delivery relies upon successful customer experiences. Breaking down barriers and providing a frictionless delivery experience plays a vital part of the customer experience. So what exactly do consumers consider to be a good delivery experience?
The first thing that should be understood is that a good delivery experience is contextual. What you or I see as ideal may not suit for somebody else according to Scurri. To achieve this, clear communication from the outset is absolutely key. For example, the volume of deliveries at this time of year will have every retailer under pressure to process and deliver every order. Clearly communicating Christmas order deadlines is an extremely important starting point in terms of setting expectation management, but it is also imperative that retailers deliver on their promises to make those deliveries prior to Christmas as well.
Overpromising is your enemy
Special offers are all well and good, but if you get the delivery wrong, the customer experience is ruined. Your capacity for order fulfilment needs to be ramped up to meet the delivery demands of Christmas.
You need to be 100% confident that your delivery management platform, as well as your warehouse operations, partners and carriers are as reliable and efficient as possible. You need to ensure you have the staffing and inventory to support heavy demands. If everything isn’t in place to meet the increase in demand, it can put fulfilment in jeopardy.
Shoppers prefer for their orders to arrive when they expect rather than be promised Next Day Delivery only for the package to not materialise. It is important not to offer it if you can’t fulfil it.
Speed is not everything
At this time of year, speedy delivery is all the more anticipated by consumers. Amazon Prime Day sets the annual pace for speedy delivery, but this is reinforced with the Black Friday/Cyber Monday end of year period. To add to this, Amazon has raised the bar even higher, with the announcement of One-Day delivery for Prime members this holiday season.
Not every retailer can match this kind of speed, but it is most important for brands to be clear on this and to deliver on what can be achieved rather than false promise.
Retailers should also aim to create direct and meaningful connections with customers offering consistent and trustworthy communication and importantly, a solid tracking system.
With this level of orders in such a short space of time it will be those who, automate and use AI and chatbots to deliver more speed efficiency and productivity that will cope best with the pressures of Christmas orders and ensure deliveries.
Lastly, empowering the consumer by providing them with as many delivery options as possible, can make a huge difference to the delivery experience. The convenience of being able to select a new address post-order, or to pick up from a designated drop-off point of collection can be just as beneficial for the busy – out and about holiday shopper – if not more so than a next day delivery that arrives to an empty house.
Another such option that should be prioritised all the more at Christmas is in-store pick-up. At the last minute it may not be possible to guarantee that a home delivery will make it in time. Buy online, Click and Collect has been gaining traction in the eCommerce world but it is also something that should be utilised more at peak times such as Christmas.
A buy online pick up in-store strategy potentially allows retailers to potentially eliminate the cost of last-mile shipping. This also allows retailers to offer customers the speed that they want or even need and will go far in terms of keeping customers happy, satisfied and loyal to your brand and a great alternative to next day delivery (if they can collect in store the day after purchase). This will accelerate the delivery process and lessen worries that orders will not arrive on time, encouraging them to order with you. For both parties, this is a win-win solution.
Another bonus to this strategy is the likelihood of fewer returns. For eCommerce companies processing returns is not just a headache but an expensive one too, with UK shoppers returning £7 billion of purchases every year. Customers who place their orders and pick them up from a store, though, have the chance to inspect their product at the store. This allows them to make swaps for other product if necessary, which decreases the return rate and can save retailers a substantial amount of money.
Of course, for some customers this will not be an appealing option or they are simply not willing to go to a store and want the ease and convenience that online shopping brings. For those customers however it is imperative that you do in fact make that experience easy and convenient or you may lose them forever.
This is the real danger and potential cost of failed deliveries at Christmas. The cost of failed deliveries can be directly measured but what cannot be measured is the reputational damage that can be done to your brand off the back of letting your customers down. Often it may not even be your fault that the order did not arrive but you don’t want your brand to be seen as the reason why your customers have to explain to their loved one’s that there are no presents for them. On the other hand if you can deliver on your promise you will gain a trusting and loyal customer base both for Christmas and all year round.
Being clear on Christmas deadlines and flexible on delivery and pick-up options are the two most important takeaways for online retailers this holiday season. Those that have already have a solid approach to both will have a significant advantage among their competitors.