Sharing the estimated delivery date with a customer can be tricky as the target keeps moving, but if done right, it has the potential to build customer confidence and sales.
“I think the estimated delivery date is the single most overlooked and underutilized capability in e-commerce delivery,” says Nate Skiver, founder of Level Playing Field. He was speaking at a webinar hosted by Project44, on the topic ‘the last mile matters’.
Skiver helps companies worldwide to ship smarter and reduce their expenses—his parcel transportation and delivery expertise spans over 20 years, including a retail and consulting background.
Some retailers are doing an excellent job communicating when a delivery is on its way, but plenty haven’t focused on this part of delivery yet. “But the challenge, I think, and probably some of the reason why it is overlooked, or it just hasn’t been pursued as much by some retailers, is it can be complex. So depending on retail fulfillment and carrier networks, calculating that the estimated delivery date can be complex,” warns Skiver.
For some e-commerce businesses, it’s a reliability issue. You can use static inputs from carriers, from transit time from a fulfillment center to a customer’s front door. But there is also an option to use actual data from the estimated delivery date provided by the carrier. The last mentioned can vary in accuracy across delivery companies and even when using the same carrier.
“There are a lot of the reasons why this remains an opportunity because it’s really difficult, complex, and inefficient to manage manually,” says Skiver.
State of delivery in the e-commerce industry
Customer expectations are increasing, or, as Skiver likes to put it, evolving. “The delivery has continued to play an important role in that experience. Delivery speed is important, but gaining importance is predictability. There’s just a heightened awareness and expectation from customers requiring more transparency, knowing when to expect their order. They demand and expect the ability to influence that experience, whether it’s the communication or to choose different delivery options.”
Shoppers want to control the experience, which puts extra pressure on a delivery business to keep up with their demand. Delivery is a moving target. Skiver says: “The only way for retailers to hit that target is to have the ability to dynamically respond to customers’ expectations and provide a personalized delivery experience.”
How businesses can navigate through challenging times
The current economic landscape makes things more complicated for e-commerce to navigate and operate in. “Retailers are expected to do more with less, and unfortunately, sometimes is less staff, less resources to work with,” says Skiver.
But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom. There is nothing wrong with relying on some help from technology partners. To be innovative with a limited budget will require a bit more time and creativity, but it is possible. “Retailers are having to change their thinking a bit. Not just to try to deliver fast, trying to improve the experience through spending more on it, but being more thoughtful about it,” encourages Skiver.
Shipping rates increase annually. UPS and FedEx will increase by nearly 6% in 2024 as consumer demands keep slowing down. “Despite the fact that carriers are increasing rates, the market has softened from a parcel volume standpoint. What that means is there’s an opportunity for some retailers to negotiate with their carriers and reduce expenses.”
About the author
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