Retail Delivery and Fulfillment: Pain Points and Opportunities Ahead
The retail world was rocked this past year with pandemic-led surges in demand for e-commerce and at-home delivery. While many retailers were successful in making the pivot or ramping up their delivery cycles to meet capacity, it certainly didn't come without its challenges.
The interesting aspect to the surge in e-commerce we experienced this past year is that it signals a longer-term trend, even post-pandemic, that will essentially become our “next” normal: everyone wants everything delivered to them, now. If not delivery, consumers want access to buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) and curbside for a convenient way to collect their purchases quickly. Taking these different challenges into account, retailers need to prepare for and work out the delivery and fulfillment bottlenecks from the year past to ensure more agile operations in the future.
We recently surveyed 1,000 U.S. enterprise retailers and brands for our latest report, 2021 Bringg Barometer: State of Retail Delivery & Fulfillment. The report findings highlight the key strengths and weaknesses in delivery and fulfillment as well as top priorities for 2021.
Respondents were asked about their sustainability efforts in delivery and fulfillment. While it's certainly top of mind for some, there's room for improvement. The survey found that, in terms of sustainability initiatives already underway for retailers, 40 percent are working to incentivize eco-friendly fulfillment options at checkout. The report also shows that 34 percent are working to reduce carbon footprint, and 20 percent are leveraging zero-emission delivery models.
While the findings are positive in the sense that retailers are actively putting forth effort to run greener delivery and fulfillment operations, there's much work to be done still on this front, especially as e-commerce continues to surge and costs continue to rise. Managing costs while “going green” is going to be a key area that retailers will need to balance. Two of the best ways to tackle this friction quickly are to find solutions that help reduce last-mile delivery carbon emissions with smart route optimization as well as ensuring better and more efficient management of resources — like when to batch orders, use green couriers, etc.
Investment in New Channels
The pandemic has forced retailers to get creative. To support increased pressure on the supply chain (a key pain point) and to keep customers happy, the reliance on newer fulfillment models is increasingly gaining traction. In the next six months to 12 months, 30 percent of retailers say they plan to add alternative pickup locations, 27 percent plan to add curbside pickup, and 24 percent plan to offer BOPIS.
The importance of expanding to new fulfillment options is that it ultimately provides a better customer experience. Customers who have more choices ultimately get more flexibility and convenience in the overall delivery and fulfillment cycle. Delivering a great customer experience is an invaluable asset for any brand. Meeting customers where they are or where they want to be is the foundation of good brand-customer relationships.
Scaling delivery and fulfillment is no easy task, but there are some key factors at work that will hinder retailers’ success in this. When asked what the biggest pain points were to scaling delivery, 36 percent of respondents said working with multiple fleets, 30 percent said scheduling delivery times with customers, and 20 percent said lack of visibility when an order is already out for delivery.
With so many different inputs and complexities involved in the delivery process, retailers that turn to technology and digital tools to support delivery efforts are able to better streamline workflows and ultimately make more informed decisions. A unified delivery and fulfillment solution that pulls real-time data can give retailers more visibility into operations and more flexibility when it comes to making quick adjustments or pivots to meet market needs.
There are many ways in which retail delivery and fulfillment is already strong, especially in the aftermath of one of the most challenging years in e-commerce; however, there's still plenty of room for growth and new opportunities if retailers invest in the right types of efforts and tools, all while keeping the customer at the top of their priority list.
Guy Bloch is the CEO of Bringg, a platform that helps companies scale up and optimize their customer experiences and logistics operations.