In an online world that is becoming increasingly competitive, Sheehan sees a good online experience as vital to how retailers differentiate themselves, drive repeat purchases and find new customers. “A good delivery experience not only adds to positive perception of a brand, it drives customers to buy from them again and to tell their friends about it. And the opposite is also true, with a poor delivery experience eroding trust in a retailer.”
Given how critical it is, Sheehan encourages retailers to map out their customers’ full delivery experience and to work through ways to enhance it with their delivery partner. He identifies four key ‘moments’ in the journey where a great delivery experience is created.
1. At the Shopping Cart.
“Proving customer choice is one of the key pillars of eCommerce and that applies to the delivery experience as well” says Sheehan. “Ensure you have plenty of options at checkout that cater for a variety of delivery needs. From getting it delivered today, to slower but more economical options, right through to customer collect options.”
Sheehan sees this as an area where customer expectations have changed and will continue to do so, with the demand for faster delivery. “While the norm used to be three days for delivery, most customers expect national delivery within a day or two now.” In a recent study, more than half (58%) of shoppers chose to buy from one retailer over another because the offered same day delivery. “Weekends and evenings used to be excluded but customers now want things delivered at times that work best for them “ Sheehan adds.
For bigger spend items, and for certain categories like electronics, Sheehan believes customers are happy to pay more for time sensitive delivery.
Along with lots of choices, Sheehan advises retailers to promote their delivery options prominently on their website to provide a competitive advantage. He supports retailers being specific at the shopping cart about estimated delivery times so that the right expectations are set at the onset. He also encourages retailers to go the extra mile to capture addresses correctly, as incorrect information is one of the key reasons for delays. Finally, Sheehan advocates for the capture of customer email and phone data so that richer notification experiences can be created for customers along the way.
2. Parcel on its way.
In years past, parcel tracking was the domain of higher value parcels but it has become a feature that customers expect as standard now. “Visibility removes anxiety and gives the customer a sense of control over the delivery process. Tracking is therefore one of the best ways to create a better delivery experience and that’s why we’ve made it standard on most of our delivery options.” says Sheehan.
Sheehan sees that a good tracking process features:
- Notifications at key points, like when the item has been dispatched or when it’s on its way to being delivered. These can be by email or by text. Sheehan tells us “our experience shows that notifications improve first-time delivery rate by around 40% and drive higher Net Promoter Scores.”
- Letting the customer see the end to end process and where their parcel is at any given time. Live GPS tracking of a parcel is a feature that Sheehan thinks will become standard for deliveries across the industry in the near future.
- An accurate estimate (ETA) of when a parcel is likely to be delivered, allowing customers to plan around it.
Sheehan also sees the ability to interact with the delivery process as crucial to a good experience. “Through the tracking process customers need to be able to redirect a parcel or give instructions of where to leave the parcel if they are not home.” Sheehan points out that, “Missing a parcel delivery leads to customer dissatisfaction with both the courier and the retailer, so tools that make it easier to deliver first-time are good for everyone involved.” This is an area Sheehan believes we’ll see significant innovation over the next few years.
3. Upon Delivery
The key feeling NZ Post wants customers to have upon delivery is a sense that a package was delivered in a professional way, on time, as per instructions and with the utmost care. “But there’s also a very human aspect to delivery that occurs in that brief moment when the driver hands the parcel over. It’s a moment of excitement and anticipation for the receiver and we want to make sure we elevate the experience through the personal way we deliver” explains Sheehan.
Packaging is the first thing the customer sees and Sheehan identifies this as a growing trend influencing the delivery experience. Consumers have become more environmentally conscious and many are turned off by excessive packaging or packaging that isn’t recyclable or made from sustainable materials. “A growing number of shoppers are choosing retailers with an active environmental policy and an item’s packaging is one of the most tangible ways a company can demonstrate its commitment” say Sheehan.
4. Post Delivery
Once an item is delivered, a follow-up communication helps reinforce a positive experience but is also an important way to capture any issues early and to identify repeated patterns that, if addressed, will improve the overall delivery experience.
Sheehan encourages retailers to make product returns as easy as possible to differentiate themselves from the competition and meet shopper expectation. In the recent NZ Post Online Shopper Survey almost one-in-four respondents said they’d like retailers to focus on offering easy returns options. “This is a very competitive space overseas and Kiwi shoppers’ expectations will soon follow. We encourage retailers to include a return label with all their packages, giving shoppers confidence that they can return something if it’s not right.” This is another area where Sheehan sees technology enabling more consumer-friendly returns options in the future.
The best delivery partner
With delivery playing such an important role in the shopper experience, Sheehan sees the selection of a delivery partner as one of the most important decisions an online retailer makes. “They are an extension of your business.” he says. “Start with fundamentals like reach, size of network, service standards, range of delivery products and a proven track record of reliable delivery. It’s these factors that create the platform for consistently good delivery experiences.”
Sheehan encourages retailers to also look deeper at how passionate a delivery partner is about growing their business. “Choose a partner who understands what a critical role delivery plays in your customers’ shopping experience and are totally committed to delivering the best experience possible.”