The first wave of e-commerce was about price, according to Temando CEO and co-founder Carl Hartmann. E-commerce's second wave is all about the customer experience.
Hartmann was speaking at the 2015 Post-Expo held in Paris, where one of the central themes was how to make the most of the e-commerce boom.
Postal operators were the lucky beneficiaries of the first wave of e-commerce. As the established B2C carriers, typically with a network that reached almost the entire population, postal operators gorged themselves on the early fruits of the e-commerce harvest.
Before long, carriers with a strong track record in B2B deliveries saw the growing volumes of e-commerce parcels and swooped, ratcheting up competition.
At the same time, e-commerce shoppers became more sophisticated, in particular regarding their demands on delivery. Alain Ferard from Neopost put it succinctly when he said, "Customers expect convenience." Those three words carry a profound significance for the delivery sector - in particular postal operators.
The customer experience
The e-commerce customer experience begins with the vendor website (or app), where customers want trustworthiness, simple navigation and easy checkout.
The customer experience doesn’t end there – it also includes the delivery experience.
Delivery is the only personal face-to-face interaction between the e-commerce merchant and customer. Delivery is one way e-commerce merchants can differentiate.
There is a growing customer expectation to be able to choose when, where and how their consignments are delivered. Lack of delivery options leads to cart abandonment, according to Temando.
Once the carrier and delivery method has been chosen, customers then expect information on the progress of their order – packed, in transit, estimated delivery time, and so on.
How can delivery enhance the customer experience?
The obvious answer is giving the customer control over their delivery while their order is in transit. Customer intervention to change delivery time or delivery address improves first-time delivery rates and increases customer satisfaction.
The new wave of crowdsourced and peer-to-peer delivery services are providing fresh delivery options for customers. There are platforms that connect businesses and couriers for same day or ultra fast delivery at a low cost.
More and more start-ups are developing smart mailboxes, connected to the internet, with a mobile app (of course), and offering secure storage of parcels delivered during the day. Is it time for posts and parcel operators to actively integrate their parcel services with third-party smart mailboxes?
Speed and convenience of delivery result in a superior customer experience. What could be better than receiving your parcel when you want it where you want it?
Interaction with the delivery driver
If delivery is the only face-to-face interaction between the e-commerce merchant and customer, how can the customer experience be improved?
Being a delivery driver can be tough - jumping in and out of a van all day, running up and down steps, carrying small and large parcels, soldiering on through wind, rain and searing heat. The working conditions of the driver can have a direct bearing on how he interacts with the customer at the doorstep.
What is the driver wearing? Is he wearing a uniform? Does he have ID easily visible? Is he neatly presented?
Is his mobile device working properly? Has he been trained to use it properly?
Can the driver up-sell? If the driver is delivering an iPad, can his mobile device prompt him to offer the customer iPad accessories already loaded in his van?
Premium delivery to enrich the customer experience
Posts and parcel delivery companies have experimented with niche services, usually offered at a premium.
Time specific deliveries, Sunday deliveries, and same-day deliveries have all been offered to customers at a premium. With Amazon offering same-hour delivery in some areas, does that make these delivery options seem a little passé?
Perhaps we should ditch delivery addresses! Delivery to the person is much more personal – delivery companies could use a GPS-linked app on the customer’s mobile phone to track the customer’s location so that consignments can be delivered to the customer wherever they are! At the beach, watching the football, exercising at the gym... wherever the customer is the delivery driver (or drone) will find them and deliver their order.
There’s an element of novelty in many new delivery options. The higher price is generally enough to limit the take-up.
Ultimately, any new delivery option, however far-fetched, is a variation on the same theme: delivery to the customer when the customer wants it, where the customer wants it.
- Getting the delivery basics right is the first step to an improved e-commerce customer experience. Deliver the parcel to the right person (or address) at the right time. Give customers control over their deliveries.
- Offer more delivery options to the customer at check-out. Customers are increasingly sophisticated and willing to choose a delivery option based on convenience and price.
- Make sure the delivery fleet is well-maintained. Who wants their valuable deliveries carried in a beat-up old van?
- Ensure delivery drivers are trained, professional, well-presented and equipped with functioning mobile technology.
What else could postal and parcel operators do to enhance the customer experience? Leave your comments below... after you've signed up for the Postal Hub e-newsletter, of course!
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Photo credit: "Amazon España por dentro (12)" by Álvaro Ibáñez from Madrid, Spain - Amazon España por dentro. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons