Going the last mile can forge Smarter Logistics Solutions
The last mile delivery challenge, with which we’re all so familiar, evolved even before Brexit to become as important an operational or transactional function as it is a brand challenge.
Retailers are recognising that while the customer experience starts on our keyboards, it’s the direction of travel of their brand beyond the order confirmation page - continuing right up until the doorbell sounds and a flutter of possession and excitement is felt - to the second when, finally, that parcel is physically placed in the recipient’s hands that matters.
Freight handlers need to understand the intricacies of the customer journey and be clear on the role they’re playing in creating that experience, be it positive or negative, when delivering goods. This could be at home or globally, including any future challenges due to the UK’s split from the European Union – and unexpected global threats such as the Covid-19 virus.
Unpacking this issue (excuse the pun) faced by the logistics industry at large, means building an understanding of what the demands along the journey look like, and how retail and delivery partners can work together to successfully manage these expectations whether it’s through the quickest, the cheapest or the greenest option.
Pertinent to this dilemma is recognising that customers want visibility of their purchased items. This means they are demanding real-time updates of the location of their goods within the delivery journey, from the time of despatch. Customers don’t have the patience or interest in navigating through multiple transport provider websites, which is typical when a retailer uses different companies determined by a customer’s order size, delivery time and maybe even destination.
Building in a level of customer control effectively aligns a retailer’s or supplier’s brand with high quality service delivery. The tactic of pushing real-time updates to customers’ mobile devices becomes a part of the customer’s journey that is both useful and relevant. This is a simple yet highly effective way to add value to your customer’s brand experience. Your customers believe you care – because you’ve shown them you do. Brand loyalty is born.
The challenges for the smaller operators are the prohibitive costs of implementing label scanning, hardware acquisition, and the ongoing costs of licence fees. The reality is stark, yet within reach. If the smaller players want to build their competitive position, they must part with tradition and offer their customers a real-time tracking capability.
Innovative technologies such as SmartFreight® Tracker track each shipment via a web portal or phone app, regardless of transport provider used. They allow customer service teams and customers to see the location of a shipment from creation to delivery. A company branded email is sent to the customer containing a hyperlink to a branded web portal where they can check the progress of their shipment on a computer, tablet or smartphone.
This is a system that addresses operational challenges the industry faces and is sympathetic to customer expectations. It has been designed for transport providers to capture shipment tracking events. Using an app, the real-time picture and status of a shipment can be encapsulated, and drivers use their smartphone to scan labels at every stage of the journey.
Like customers, online retailers also want more control of the last mile. Instead of abdicating the responsibility to a transport company, they want to control the customer service as best they can. Online retailers need to be able to send their customer an email notification on goods dispatch and provide updated information of its progress.
The benefits of implementing software that can empower the consumer, and introducing platforms that enable the retailer to manage the consumer whilst assisting the retailer-shipper relationship, is without question invaluable. Brand marketing is anchored in understanding the value proposition and how this trickles down through the supply chain. The businesses that can demonstrate this at scale will have a greater chance of survival.
Consumers are not shy to choose companies who offer digital and rapid response customer support options. Indeed, the initiatives of the global players are hard to compete with, but what this should prompt from the smaller operators is a motivation to research industry innovation, uncover insights, and action opportunities to forge strategic and collaborative partnerships between retail and logistics to ensure their survival.