Ecommerce has evolved significantly in the past few years. From a last mile perspective, it is fair to say that we are firmly entrenched in ecommerce 2.0. Gone are the days when consumers looked to the internet only for items like apparel, electronics and books—today’s shoppers expect to have anything and everything delivered to their doorsteps with the click of a mouse. This includes refrigerators, furniture, ride-on lawnmowers, and other merchandise that can not be reasonably shipped via UPS or FedEx.
Retailers that sell products exceeding what parcel carriers can handle have many options when it comes to carriers. Diversity in geographies served and merchandise sold is typically proportional to the most appropriate portfolio size of carriers necessary to ensure adequate service levels on every order. For large retailers with national reach, this means managing a sizable network of carrier partners.
But procuring last mile delivery for this type of merchandise is very different from parcel shipping because these partners have much more interaction with customers, especially when white glove services are involved. Ensuring that they have the capabilities and equipment to handle transportation and delivery is important, but consider their service capabilities as well.
Service that represents your company
When a carrier delivers an appliance to a customer’s home, that customer sees the carrier as a de facto extension of the brand she purchased from. If a driver is rude or clumsy, she doesn’t blame the carrier—whose name she probably doesn’t even know—she blames the retailer. Not only are these partners the last people customers interact with on a transaction, they often spend more time with them than sales or customer service employees did. They are also invited into the customer’s home, where service takes on an enhanced role.
Everything about the person that makes the delivery, from personal appearance to demeanor and courtesy, are reflections on the retailer that sold the merchandise. This puts an onus on retailers to vet every carrier that they work with, ensuring that they are appropriate ambassadors of their brands. Licensure and bonding are musts for any carrier, but it is also important to know what type of training and background checks frontline delivery workers go through.
Managing multi-step complexity
Certain products that require on-site assembly or installation will pass through extra steps to reach their final destinations. For example, if a customer has ordered a new toilet that must be installed at her home, it will most likely have to be delivered to an installation professional who will then bring it with him on the home delivery. That introduces an extra step to the supply chain that must be managed appropriately.
In these cases, service at the home takes on an expanded role. The installer may be in a home for hours and must be adept at managing unknown situations that come up. What if the last toilet was installed improperly and extra work is required? If a complex machine like a riding lawn mower is being delivered and assembled on-site, the carrier partner will have to know how to verify that the job was performed correctly and be prepared to answer customer questions about using the product. Once again, how these situations are handled all come back to the original retailer.
Feeding the feedback loop
The interaction last mile delivery partners have with customers is also an excellent barometer of satisfaction. Questions, concerns, and praise will often be heard by delivery personnel that is never relayed to retailers directly by customers. Setting up a feedback loop where carriers report back to retailers on customer sentiment provides opportunity to respond appropriately to any concerns. It also provides useful intelligence that can be used in future marketing activities.
Today’s customers expect retailers to be one-stop shops that sell, deliver, and assemble or install any merchandise they want. Every step of the process is pinned to retailers, with supply chain partners invisible to customers. Managing the process wisely keeps valuable retailer brand equity high.
A senior manager in the Chainalytics’ Transportation competency, Bryan Wyatt has over 20 years of experience and expertise in transportation operations, strategic sourcing, data analysis and logistics planning, as well as logistics/supply chain change management.