The pace of change experienced in the furniture retail sector over the past few years has been unprecedented, driven by shifting consumer behavior and spending patterns. This has seen rates of customer loyalty decline, with consumers more empowered, flexible, and diverse when it comes to where and how they shop. Retailers should focus of a better customer experience.
To meet customers’ changing and demanding expectations, last-mile delivery has become a critical element in ensuring the optimal customer experience. While shoppers are still buying their furniture in stores, a shift towards digital is occurring. Even if they are not shopping online, customers have become accustomed to the delivery standards offered by the likes of Amazon. If the delivery experience is poor many will simply shop elsewhere, according to McKinsey.
The Delivery Challenges Retailers Face
Despite the negative consequences of a poor delivery experience, 75% of consumers still encounter delivery problems, according to the latest research. This is not surprising given that retailers face a multitude of challenges when it comes to optimizing last-mile logistics:
- High cost of delivery — this is the most expensive part of the order-fulfillment process.
- Fulfillment inefficiencies — due to its complexity, the delivery process can waste a lot of resources and time, adding to operational costs.
- Unpredictability — delays caused by routing changes or customers not being available adds a level of unreliability in the final stages of the fulfillment process.
- Lack of transparency — customers are increasingly eager to track and check the status of their deliveries but are often left in the dark and with delivery-time windows of hours.
- Extra cost of failed deliveries — low confirmation rates, failed deliveries, and storage costs can quickly escalate operational costs and increase inefficiencies.
- Frustrated Customers — the lack of interactive communication during the delivery process leaves customers without a voice and having to rely on push notifications.
These challenges are forcing retailers to explore new technologies to turn delivery nightmares into seamless customer experiences that build loyalty rather than force customers to take their business elsewhere.
Resolving Challenges Using Artificial Intelligence and Automation
Technology is enabling retailers to solve the complex logistics puzzle by streamlining the fulfillment process. This has seen an increase in the use of artificial intelligence to automate scheduling, dispatch, and routing operations, enabling more efficient operations right up to the moment a delivery reaches the customer.
Rather than the delivery team or individual drivers deciding on which route they will take, automated solutions streamline this process by selecting optimized routes for dispatchers. This saves hours on route planning and ensures the efficient use of delivery vehicles.
The delivery automation also gives dispatchers real-time visibility into where a package is at any given moment, allowing dispatchers to spot problems or delays even before they have an opportunity to talk with a driver. Drivers are also constantly connected and can send updates of any problems encountered to ensure they are resolved with minimum disruption.
Creating Happy, Engaged Customers Using Interactive Communications
Giving customers a voice in the delivery process is essential to ensuring happy customers. Consumers get frustrated when they are not kept up-to-date on a delivery’s progress and cannot respond to ‘push’ notifications.
Personalized and interactive conversations, powered by AI & automation, allow customers to feel part of the process and be aware of their delivery status in real-time. So, if a delivery is running late, a customer can respond and choose an alternative drop-off time or pick-up location, for example. This helps to maintain an efficient delivery schedule while keeping the customer informed. Each of these interactions can be personalized for each customer and their specific order, adding to the customer experience.
This also presents a new way of engaging with the customer to build deeper relationships, uncover additional sales opportunities and turn customers into repeat buyers. For example, customers can be prompted to consider purchasing an extended warranty, updated on the arrival of new models of a product they purchased in the past, or informed of special offers, etc.
Customers who experience a seamless delivery process are more likely to respond to follow-up messages regarding their customer experience than they are to an email or phone survey. This feedback is likely to be positive and can create a flow of glowing reviews to online services, such as Yelp.
Cutting The Cost of Last Mile Logistics
The last mile of the delivery process accounts for 41% of total supply chain costs, according to Accenture’s The Sustainable Last Mile report. Companies implementing automated solutions can expect to lower their logistical planning costs (and time) and minimize failed deliveries while increasing confirmation rates. We’re seeing customers, for example, that implement Package.ai’s complete customer engagement platform experience:
- -5% failed deliveries
- +40% confirmation rates
- -40% planning costs
Using automation, costs are also easier to monitor, control, and scale when necessary. It also removes the burden on customer service as customers are continuously connected and have full visibility of the process to coordinate deliveries.
Giving Delivery, Marketing, and Sales Full Visibility of All Customer Interactions
The key problem retailers face when automating their fulfillment and customer communications is using different, unconnected solutions. When sales and marketing deploy a chatbot solution, for example, it can positively impact customer communications. However, because it is not connected to the retailer’s logistics management solution, conversations with customers are disconnected from other stages of the buyers’ journey, such as delivery.
Multiple, non-connected solutions waste many of the benefits technology and automation provide as they fail to deliver full visibility into every aspect of a customer’s experience.
Retailers need one complete solution that allows full sight of all customer engagement throughout all stages of the buyers’ journey and across all departments. The merging of all customer interactions with sales, marketing, customer service, and delivery in one central location is key to creating a true customer-centric experience.
Furniture retailers that optimize customer value while building loyalty use a single solution to automate and streamline deliveries, develop interactive communications with customers and improve their online reviews. This helps them not only cut costs and improve efficiencies but to reveal a host of new marketing and sales opportunities. The result is happy and loyal customers who quickly transition to becoming repeat buyers.