Guest blog: The importance of customer-centric delivery for retailers by Chris Greenwood, CIO of Mamas & Papas

Online shopping creates a wealth of opportunity for retailers, but it also raises challenges for the delivery process, a key part of the customer experience (CX). The delivery options a retailer is able to offer may even be the difference between winning and losing a customer purchase.

So, what should retailers consider when they’re deciding what delivery services to provide? That’s exactly what we discussed when I hosted a recent roundtable on Customer Centric Delivery at the Internet Retailing Conference. The key takeaways were as follows…

Keeping up with the ‘Joneses’

One of the big topics discussed at the roundtable was the pressure on retailers to keep up with the competition. Should all retailers strive to keep up with eCommerce giants? Whatever your thoughts on Amazon are, there’s no denying they’ve set the bar high when it comes to breadth of delivery options. As a result, many retailers are feeling the pressure to provide a similar level of service just to be on a level playing field, despite not having the staff or facilities to do so.

In such an increasingly volatile retail landscape, retailers cannot afford to ignore the importance of giving customers maximum choice and convenience when it comes to delivery.

It’s crucial for retailers to offer options at point of sale beyond just fast and free – it can be a competitive differentiator as well as a lever for increasing basket conversion and have customers wanting to come back and buy more. To enable this, retailers must be able to bring together the combination of technology and breadth of delivery services at a price which makes commercial sense in order to address consumer expectations and demands for convenience and choice.

Working with delivery partners that can streamline carrier management and broaden delivery options allows businesses to spend more of their time doing what they do best, instead of being pre-occupied elsewhere. Retailers should explore what options are out there in terms of delivery partners, to work out which one can help best serve their customers.

Setting expectations and offering choice

Another key takeaway from the roundtable was, where possible, don’t second guess what your customer wants. Instead, offer a breadth of choice. Then, customers can decide for themselves what aspect of delivery is most important, whether that’s speed, cost, convenience or security.

Also: be honest! Most customers would rather have a realistic idea of what their delivery options are, as opposed to being promised something that later fails to materialise. On that note, retailers should present this information along with the product page. Make delivery options clear early-on in the buying process – that way, customers can make informed decisions before getting too invested, minimising the risk of abandoned carts.

Above all, practicality is key to customer-centric delivery

The roundtable concluded that the most important thing is to stay practical. As we all know, the customer is king, so always strive to meet their expectations – but if a particular delivery method doesn’t make commercial sense for the business, you’ll only be hurting yourself in the long run. Dealing directly with carriers can be inconvenient and time-consuming, and having to manage multiple suppliers and invoices in particular can be more pain than it’s worth. Endeavour to partner with a company, like GFS, that is an expert in delivery and can help support practical, customer-centric delivery.

Finally, bear in mind that consumer expectations are constantly changing, so fresh challenges are likely to emerge. When trying to meet as many of these as possible, investing in flexible IT to help you add/change carriers and services quickly is a wise move. Combine this with industry expertise, and your business will be primed to manage the delivery process effectively – and keep customer satisfaction high – whatever options you’re offering.

You can view the original article here.