Delivery Will Define the Shopping Experience in 2020: How Retailers Can Keep Their Promises
Order delivery is now a key component of the shopping experience. With retailers racing to match Amazon.com when it comes to speed and cost, it’s critical to manage expectations across the customer journey. By making accurate promises and investing in the tools that help keep them, merchants can win sales and earn loyalty.
A recent Convey survey of more than 2,500 consumers found that order delivery is a crucial piece of the overall shopping experience, with almost nine in 10 saying delivery is important. Not only are consumers focused on order delivery, but their expectations are rapidly rising, thanks primarily to Amazon. The e-commerce giant was forecast to capture 47 percent of all online purchases last year, and according to Convey’s survey, 25 percent of consumers planned on exclusively using Amazon to do their online holiday shopping (including a full 7.9 percent of survey respondents who will buy all of their holiday gifts through Amazon, online and offline!).
More than 100 million subscribers in Amazon’s Prime membership program receive free one- and two-day shipping, setting a standard for fast, free delivery that even big-box mass merchants struggle to match. And consumers trust Amazon’s reliability when the stakes are high. For example, its share of sales spikes in the final days leading up to Christmas, when gifts purchased online must make it under the tree in time.
Given these pressures, it’s no wonder that 94 percent of brands say omnichannel fulfillment is a top investment priority. The risk of failure is costly: seven in 10 shoppers are unlikely to place another order with a brand following a poor delivery experience. To ensure that initiatives are aligned with consumer expectations, brands should focus on three last-mile initiatives throughout 2020.
Transparent Delivery Promises
The shopper survey indicated that consumers want to know exactly when and how their deliveries will arrive. Displaying the EDD (estimated delivery date) in the shopping cart is just one way retailers can highlight delivery promises, fuel conversion, and meet high expectations for transparency at every step of the fulfillment journey. Three out of five shoppers in Convey’s survey said they would be more likely to purchase items if they saw faster delivery dates in-cart.
During the post-purchase experience, two-thirds of shoppers (66.5 percent) say the ability to track packages is important. And when issues such as delays occur, consumers almost universally expect retailers to be proactive: More than 98 percent of survey respondents said they want a notification via email or text message if their delivery is late, up more than 10 percent from last year.
To meet these expectations for communication, retailers should invest in both automated messaging capabilities for proactive engagement with customers, and in tools that allow them to predict, identify and act on issues that would otherwise cause them to break their delivery promises.
Fast and Flexible Shipping
While cost remains the most important factor when it comes to shipping, speedy arrival — even for free shipments — is becoming the norm. In Convey’s survey, nearly 19 percent of respondents chose “speed” as the most important delivery criteria, a 93 percent increase year-over-year. And a Deloitte study found that four in 10 consumers expect free shipments to arrive within four days, with eight in 10 expecting delivery within the week.
Ship-from-store capabilities that can route items to nearby customers swiftly and cost efficiently should be high on retailers’ priority lists, as should expanding carrier networks to give brands maximum flexibility on timing and costs. Store pickup is less attractive to shoppers, with just 30 percent saying the option is important to offer.
Secure, Reliable Delivery
Whatever the speed and cost of delivery, setting realistic expectations as early as the product page is crucial. Last year, late and missed deliveries topped the list of shoppers’ concerns about buying holiday gifts online. Shoppers said that when there is an issue, they prefer to work with retailers, not the carrier, to fix it. These indicators signal that retailers need to both avoid the temptation of making promises they can’t keep, and if issues come up, they need a way to quickly understand them and put a plan of action in place to solve them.
The availability of flexible delivery options can also reassure shoppers concerned about post-delivery package theft, a concern for one out of five consumers. Instant notification of delivery can alert customers that they have packages waiting outside their door and ensure they’re retrieved quickly and safely.
Technology that accurately pinpoints arrival dates and allows retailers to collaborate with carriers should be a priority, while offering services such as delivery appointment scheduling and the ability to switch shipping destinations once packages are en route gives shoppers the flexibility they need to receive orders on time.
As fulfillment becomes a differentiator, brands should prioritize investments to focus on transparency, speed and reliability. Armed with the capabilities to deliver orders nimbly and accurately, retailers that can make and keep bold fulfillment promises will be well-positioned to earn customer loyalty in 2020 and beyond.
Kirsten Newbold-Knipp is vice president and chief marketing officer at Convey, Inc., a supply chain management solution.
Kirsten Newbold-Knipp is the CMO of FullStory, a powerful digital experience intelligence platform that helps e-commerce, SaaS and digitally-powered brands create better online experiences for their customers.
Newbold-Knipp previously served as Convey’s Chief Marketing Officer/VP. Passionate about building successful teams from the ground-up, she has worked at companies ranging from the Ritz Carlton and Intel to Hubspot and Gartner. Kirsten is an animal lover, a wine enthusiast, and a polyglot. In her spare time, she volunteers as a Marketing Advisor to Austin Pets Alive, mentors students at MIT Sloan, and co-owns two companies.