Customer expectations for delivery price and speed are consistently unrealistic. They want faster and faster delivery of goods and they don’t want to pay what this costs the vendor. Smaller vendors just aren’t able to offer the same delivery turnaround as huge retailers such as Amazon and ASOS, leading to a fall in competitiveness. Is there an answer to be found in decoupling delivery and shipping?
Online purchasing means the definition of delivery can sometimes be negotiated. There are options to electronically ‘deliver’ a product to the customer ahead of the item they actually hold in their hand. To use one example, customers can arrange for a birthday gift to be digitally delivered to a recipient on the day they remember about the birthday.
The fact the actual gift arrives a day or two later isn’t as critical if the recipient has already received the item digitally. By decoupling the actual arrival of the product from the digital delivery, the sender essentially buys themselves some time – and the vendor gets a bit more leeway for the shipping speed.
As an additional bonus, the ‘early’ digital delivery of the gift means that the recipient has control over the physical gift – they can choose the colour, size, flavour etc. before they actually receive it. It’s an experience that works well in a world where people often receive birthday notifications from a service such as Facebook or their online calendar without getting the necessary forewarning to arrange delivery of a gift in advance.
The fact that recipients potentially have greater control over the gift they eventually receive is an added bonus. It’s a good example of how vendors can leverage digital delivery to negotiate with the buyer on less than immediate shipping speed.
Satisfying customers by offering early digital delivery demands a certain level of creativity from retailers. It’s important that the digital delivery both excites the customer about the item they have coming and satisfies them in the meantime. This requires the vendor to provide a carefully thought through digital delivery experience that’s sufficiently clear and creative to satisfy the customer at that point in time.
You also want to avoid the customer cancelling their order between purchase and arrival, and you’ll need to optimise communications to ensure that cancellations in this critical period are minimised.
This means any ‘your order is on its way’ communications need to maintain the customer’s anticipation of receiving the finished item. For custom-made items, this could mean regular updates on how their item is being prepared or some anticipatory content that keeps them hungry for the product being delivered.
Cross border eCommerce
Customers aren’t very good at tempering their delivery expectations to fit the circumstances. This tends to mean they aren’t prepared to accept the pace of delivery that’s slower by necessity when they’ve made a custom order that takes time to fulfil, or when they’re ordering from another country.
Explaining that delivery might take more time than they are used to doesn’t always manage to overcome ingrained expectations of how long it should take for your product to reach them. That’s especially true when goods are crossing borders. Where there are complex journeys to be made involving customs, deliveries often take much longer than customers anticipate.
Research in the logistics industry suggests customer expectations for speed of shipping of cross-border items are on the rise. The communications between purchase and fulfilment are vital to managing customer expectations whilst items are in transit. So there’s even greater incentive to find a smart way to fill the time gap between order and delivery.
Decoupling delivery and shipping could be even more effective when there’s a longer delay between order and fulfilment. Vendors may need to be especially creative at finding ways to deliver the product to the customer in a virtual sense in order to keep them satisfied ahead of its physical arrival.
Keeping customers abreast of delivery progress is also a useful way to try to mitigate their frustration as they wait for their package to arrive. If your brand is selling to different language markets this introduces the challenge of translating all of these communications into different languages.
Essentially what we’re talking about is changing what we understand by ‘delivery’. Of course, this approach won’t work for products that customers really do need right now – such as nappies, printer ink, and insulin.
For many purchases, it’s just not an option to offer a digital delivery to satisfy the customer in the meantime. That’s why we’re in the troubling position of seeing customer expectations for purchase arrival time plummeting. Innovation may be the only solution to the intense pressure from customer expectations and the only way for smaller players to compete against bigger vendors who can offer consistently fast shipping.
Essentially, it’s about solving the real problem – the customer’s lack of forward planning, rather than trying to satisfy unrealistic demands for shipping speed. Where there’s the possibility of doing so, trying to decouple the delivery of the product from the shipping may be one way to attempt to satisfy impatient customers.