Same-day Delivery Expectations are Growing. How Can Online Retailers Compete? 

A man delivers groceries to a woman at her home.

Same-day delivery has been around for a while – think flowers, Dominos, and auto parts. UberEATS, DoorDash, and your local grocery store dramatically expanded the same-day food delivery sector during the pandemic. And, thanks to Amazon, Target, and Walmart, people are receiving more than food every day to their front door. 100 million Prime members in the USA are spoiled with same-day options on virtually anything. Forgot a birthday? No problem, let’s see what we can get today.  

These heightened consumer expectations make it difficult for online brands and retailers to compete. Most eRetailers have a “same day shipping” option with a cut off time for purchases to be packaged and shipped using an overnight ship method (FedEx, UPS, DHL) to arrive the next day. Expensive, but effective and a cost that the consumer can choose.

It is worth noting that a customer may incorrectly view same-day shipping and same-day delivery as one and the same. These mistakes are easy to make, particularly with orders placed on mobile devices (+50% these days). It is important to make the delivery promise distinction clear at checkout so there is no confusion. Transparency is a best practice to help build customer loyalty. 

Same-day delivery options are less common for most online retailers and can be expensive. Amazon Prime is $139 per year – not free, but it feels like it when the option for same-day delivery pops up. In major metro areas in the USA, a handful of same-day couriers are available (check Google in your area). In most cases, these services cater to high-value items with a limited delivery area.    

Here are a few of the best practices for online retailers to consider to meet the rising consumer expectations. 

Offer Fast Shipping or Free Shipping – Not Both

eCommerce retailers can offer fast shipping options on every order as long as fulfillment operations are capable of shipping on the day the order is placed. Retailers generally offer Free Shipping at a price point that makes sense for the order value. Consumers understand these choices and are more tolerant of slower delivery when they get a “deal.” Setting expectations for the delivery date is important, and providing an expedited shipping method for a premium is a common practice. 

Prompt Delivery Updates and Tracking Information

Retailers are motivated to provide consistent and reliable updates to order status and delivery updates. Mobile purchases are the routine and naturally demand a steady flow of tracking messages. When presented effectively, order updates and tracking information are positive experiences that enhance your brand. For example, getting your company’s order tracking information via UPS or FedEx does not promote your brand as much as the carrier’s brand. There are methods for presenting tracking information in a window with your branding and messaging.  

Retailers that are not providing enough updates can be disappointing customers and opening the door to negative reviews.  

Optimized Warehouse Operations

Managing a productive warehouse operation or having a top-tier 3PL is necessary for meeting the expectations of today’s e-commerce shoppers. Warehouse operators must have their buildings optimized for workflow to minimize order processing time and get orders fulfilled accurately. There are dozens of opportunities for leveraging automation in fulfillment operations to streamline repetitious processes for material handling, packaging, and shipping. Same-day order processing has become the industry standard, which means people, processes, and technologies have to work flawlessly every day.  

Leverage Technology Wherever Possible

Today’s consumers have high expectations for quick answers and clean websites and apps. Having your technology platforms and partners effectively integrated is important to providing real-time updates and positive user experiences. Brands need to be thoughtful about what technologies (e.g., OMS, barcoding, AI, WMS, TMS) are integrated into fulfillment and transportation processes to enhance accuracy and speed.  

For instance, have you considered implementing route optimization software for delivery efficiency? There are several sophisticated Transportation Management Systems available to help manage the complexity and costs of shipping methods.  

Regional Distribution Centers Reduce Delivery Time and Expense

Having your products closer to your customers naturally cuts down on shipping time and expense. For most customers, 3-to-5-day delivery times are acceptable. Distribution Centers positioned for East Coast and West Coast order fulfillment can leverage less expensive transportation services and make the delivery promise.  

There are several important techniques for managing inventory to optimize your distribution network. Brands with low numbers of SKUs can manage split inventory with fewer complications than brands with high SKU counts. The goal is to make sure the majority of your products are fulfilled completely from the “local” warehouse and avoid any split shipments (one item from one warehouse and one item from another warehouse).  

Continuous Improvement

What mechanisms are in place for regular evaluation and improvement of fulfillment processes? How do you gather feedback from customers to enhance the overall delivery experience? Are your operations positioned to scale with the business? Having a continuous improvement mindset is a necessity to keep meeting customer expectations while controlling costs.  

Addressing these questions, businesses can develop strategies to not only meet but exceed customer expectations in this world of same-day delivery and information at your fingertips. 

Boxzooka is a quality-focused 3PL with great technology, lean operating processes, happy clients, and a vibrant culture.  

By Tom Behnke

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