Lea is already imagining sunbathing on her new sunbed in the garden. Her sense of anticipation has grown since she ordered the item from an e-commerce retailer – but she is also becoming impatient. Lea’s experience is one that is shared by many online shoppers. It is therefore important to make the waiting period until the product arrives as transparent as possible. After all, time is the crucial element for the retailer once an order has been placed. The sunbed, sofa or cupboard needs to arrive at the customer’s home as quickly as possible and in top condition.
Turnover in the B2C e-commerce sector amounted to EUR 72.8 billion in Germany alone in 2020 and therefore increased by almost one quarter in comparison with the previous year.1 The large equipment and furniture market profited from the growth spurt as well. While eight out of ten online shoppers already buy their electronic home appliances online, 71 per cent of shoppers also source their furniture and home furnishing items from the Internet. This is the result of a representative survey conducted by Bitkom Research on behalf of the Bitkom Digital Association.2
However, one big question remains. How can e-commerce retailers guarantee an excellent last mile delivery process that will make their customers happy? Several days normally elapse between the online purchase and the time when the goods arrive. Customers naturally look forward to receiving their products and want to receive updates on its delivery status. Annoyance is understandably great when there are gaps in the communication regarding the delivery. This may lead to poor ratings on the Internet and on social media platforms and can ruin the retailer’s reputation.
In order to prevent difficulties, it is important to inform the customer quickly and transparently as soon as the consignment is available for shipment. Katharina Galster, the Head of Sales at Rhenus Home Delivery, knows full well that ‘as soon as the goods are ready to be delivered, we contact the customer very quickly. The time factor is incredibly important in the e-commerce retail sector’. The customer should receive information by email or text message at the latest when the goods arrive at the logistics specialist’s centre and be asked to arrange a delivery date online. Experience has shown that the satisfaction of customers who arrange their individual delivery date online is higher than with those who were just notified about a set delivery date.
Depending on the retailer’s wishes, customer communications can also be individualised. One of the advantages here is the inclusion of the retailer’s logo and brand name in the emails, for example. This helps create customer loyalty with regard to your shop. However, not everybody is constantly checking their e-mail account. If the customer does not respond, a reminder mail or a text message can help. Several reminders increase the chances of reaching the customer and of the delivery being successfully carried out.
The process of arranging the delivery date should be integrated in a well-structured customer portal. Not only is Lea able to arrange the delivery date for her sunbed, she also receives status updates. In addition, the customer portal should provide the logistics specialist’s contact information so that the customer can call if an appointment needs to be made in case of complex assembly work or there are changes regarding the delivery date.
Adhering to delivery times is an important criterion for a positive shopping experience for your customer. A probable time slot for the delivery is particularly practical for many end customers. The delivery vehicles are also equipped with GPS. As a result, Lea can track her consignment on a live map on the day of delivery via the customer portal. Algorithms are also used to precisely calculate when the sunbed is likely to arrive at her home.
Professional logistics companies, specialising in 2-man handling, quantify delivery precision. Not only is it possible to guarantee that the delivery actually took place on the date that was chosen by the customer, it is also possible to determine whether the company was able to deliver within the promised time slot.
Customers often face considerable pressure because they have to be ready to accept a consignment at any minute of the day of delivery. But Lea can relax: the driver team will phone her again about 30 or 60 minutes before they arrive. This kind of service pays off. Customers rate any notification by phone as particularly positive in surveys. A little later, her dream finally comes true: the delivery team rings the bell and delivers her new sunbed.
Since the delivery can be made to the point of use, Lea decides that the package should be taken directly to her patio. The service provided by many e-commerce retailers includes unpacking the goods and removing and disposing the packaging material professionally. It is possible to book these services with some logistics specialists, too. The delivery teams often handle fairly minor assembly work such as setting up a sunbed or connecting a washing machine. ‘We have our own assembly teams for setting up or installing more complex items, e.g. kitchens or wall units – and they’re specially trained to handle these tasks’, Katharina Galster adds.
If a product is faulty or if the goods are damaged, the customer will contact the retailer. This is another job for your logistics partner, who can also be commissioned to handle returns. As in the case with an online order, the issue here is to communicate with the customer to arrange a date for the pick-up of the goods that are to be returned as quickly as possible and without any complications. The notification process for returns takes place in a manner similar to the delivery once the e-commerce retailer has placed the order.
Once Lea has accepted the delivery of her sunbed, she receives an electronic proof of delivery. She tries out her new garden furniture on the same day. To ensure that the delivery company and the retailer discover whether a customer is satisfied or not, it is worthwhile inviting customers to provide electronic feedback. As a result, Lea not only receives her proof of delivery, but also the question, ‘How likely are you to recommend your logistics specialist to other people?’ The result of these surveys, the so-called net promoter score, provides information about how good a delivery company and their service are.
A transparent delivery process forms the basis for a positive customer experience. By providing proactive communications, the customer is supported until the consignment arrives. This creates trust and triggers positive ratings and recommendations to others. It also lays the foundation for loyal customers, who will purchase more goods from your shop in the future.
|Cf. Statista Research Department, ‘Umsatz durch E-Commerce (B2C) in Deutschland in den Jahren 1999 bis 2020’, at: de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/3979/umfrage/e-commerce-umsatz-in-deutschland-seit-1999/ (accessed 19 November 2021)
|Cf. Bitkom e.V., ‘9 von 10 Online-Shoppern kaufen Kleidung, Schuhe und Accessoires im Netz’, at: www.bitkom.org/Presse/Presseinformation/9-von-10-Online-Shoppern-kaufen-Kleidung-Schuhe-und-Accessoires-im-Netz (accessed 19 November 2021)
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