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22.12.20

Why would your customers decide NOT to choose next day delivery?

Tiny parcel held in hand

E-commerce fulfilment took an evolutionary leap in 2007, when Amazon Prime launched next day delivery and posititoned it as an every-day expectation.

It is undoubtedly an impressive achievement, though it’s caused a headache for e-commerce brands that are trying to compete for their fair share of the market.

So, let’s look at what the future might be for next day 3PL fulfilment services and why customers might be perfectly happy to accept, or even choose, a longer delivery time.

The impact of next day fulfilment

One of the jaw-dropping facts about the launch of Amazon Prime in 2007 is that it didn’t look financially viable on paper and, to test it, they were prepared to lose money on it at first.

A normal business – the majority – wouldn’t be able to do this. It’s Amazon’s wealth and power that allow it to be a trailblazer. But to brands looking to add value, nurture customers, be sustainable and be ethical – as well as be competitive and thrive – the impacts are a real challenge.

Customers accept terms like ‘free delivery’ and ‘free next day delivery’ when in fact someone or something pays for this at some point in the chain:

  • Through a subscription service like Prime
  • Hidden in elevated product price
  • In a squeezed delivery partner contract
  • By tight delivery times that add stress to delivery drivers
  • Brand reputation if a delivery partner fails
  • Disappointment in a brand for a customer who’s been let down
  • Environmental policies – products are delivered one by one, via separate journeys in separate packaging instead of being consolidated

How to position delivery as an added value service

There’s no doubt that next day delivery adds a huge amount of pressure and risk. Is it time to propose a new way of looking at it, or is the customer wedded to the convenience of it for life?

We write this as Amazon issues a plea to customers to order well in advance over the festive period, to help them alleviate pressure on their delivery resources. This means that even Prime customers (who have already been accepting longer delivery times on their purchases during lockdown) won’t be able to leave their last minute shopping to the 23rd December.

Customers aren’t exactly up in arms about this deal. We’re in the throes of a national emergency, so perhaps they are being more forgiving. But also, it might indicate customers are open to thinking about e-commerce fulfilment differently.

What do customers want from delivery? What is ‘added value’?

  • Timely despatch and reliable delivery when promised
  • Fit-for-purpose packaging that can be recycled
  • Parcel tracking, proactive status updates
  • A clear, simple and accountable returns or replacement policy
  • An accessible and helpful customer service team

Arguably, looking at this list, cheap or free delivery is a bonus rather than a standard expectation. If you can deliver these really well, next day delivery becomes secondary.

What does a longer delivery time look like?

The success of this idea lies in encouraging customers to plan ahead – just like Amazon is doing for the short term, but as a long-term habit. And longer term delivery times do have several distinct benefits.

  • The pleasure principle – highlight shopping and the receiving of purchases as a pleasurable activity to look forward to, not to be crammed inbetween other life tasks.
  • Look good and feel good about protecting the environment – evolve and promote your sustainability policies and practices to incorporate consolidated deliveries (multiple purchases in one package), maybe even incentivising this – your customers like to feel good about their own environmental awareness and doing their bit.
  • Set reasonable expectations and deliver – you will continue to delight your customers every time with your flawless reliability in the long term.
  • Educate on cost and offer choice – customers who understand the negatives around next day delivery might be happy to compromise, especially if it saves them money. On the flip side, maybe next day delivery should be priced like a premium product.

Our story

We work with a range of delivery partners, depending on what our clients require. But when we have a choice, we have a go-to partner.

They are not the cheapest. But they are reliable and they provide an excellent support structure that continues to offer solid outcomes for our clients.

During the pandemic, they’ve been under pressure to deliver huge volumes. Our account renewal is coming up and we argued that the higher volume of business we were giving them meant we should get a cheaper rate.

Not so, they argued back: the need for high standards is even more important with higher volumes. And they’re right.

If this has given you food for thought, we’re happy to talk it over in more detail with you and look at how a different approach to 3PL fulfilment could work for you.


Photo by jesse ramirez on Unsplash

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