Think Like a Logistics Company: How to Optimize Delivery Visibility

By Tim Kane, Retail Industry Principal, Zebra Technologies

Most people have experienced the letdown of a delayed or missing package at some point. Maybe a shopper was counting on the package arriving in time for a friend’s birthday or for a loved one on a holiday, which just doesn’t have the same effect if gifted after the big day. Or maybe they paid extra for faster delivery which didn’t pull through. Retailers know when shoppers have a less-than-satisfactory experience with delivery, they hold the retailers accountable. Considering the uptick in e-commerce will not be slowing down anytime soon, retailers must figure out how they’re going to deliver this holiday season – literally.

Retailers may not be able to control everything that happens during last-mile transit, but steps can be taken to increase the chances of on-time arrival and ensure a transparent customer experience along the way. One key step: think like a logistics company.

Maximize Connectivity
Leveraging mobile devices that keep the store or warehouse fulfillment team connected with delivery drivers can go a long way to bridge the gap in operational visibility. It’s also the key to giving customers insights into the status of their orders. The moment a package is sealed, labeled and handed off to the carrier, the customer should receive a mobile notification and link to track it. This way, if a package is delayed for whatever reason, the customer can be informed immediately and told exactly when they can expect to receive it. They will also know how to get in touch with the seller and/or delivery company with questions. Ideally, anyone who handles the package from that point forth will also have a way to scan the label when they receive it and pass it off. Retailers that manage last-mile delivery, perhaps from a local store or micro fulfillment center, should ensure every driver dispatched has a reliable way to connect with the store, customers and the customer service call team in case a question or special request comes in. Mobile devices with wireless push-to-talk (PTT) capabilities come in handy here, as they keep drivers’ hands free and eyes on the road.

Track Down Reliable Locationing Solutions
Retailers that tap into real-time location tracking tools such as GPS will help consumers feel at ease with each product’s delivery journey and keep delivery partners accountable. Customers can pinpoint the current location and delivery time for orders in route, so they can ensure someone is there to collect packages as soon as they arrive. And retailers can send text messages, emails or push notifications to alert customers to changes based on drivers’ progress throughout the day. This is especially important when delivering perishables, valuables or time-sensitive items.

Locationing solutions also enable retailers to better address customer inquiries. If a barcode scan reported a package delivered at 12:05 p.m. but GPS data shows the driver was actually two streets away from the customer’s address at the time, the customer knows where to go to retrieve the package. If a customer wasn’t home when the package was delivered and the locationing data confirms the driver was at the right address, it’s possible the package was later stolen. Either way, the transparency provided by these real-time locationing solutions shows customers that retailers care about their experience, which helps secure trust and loyalty.

Loop Customers into the Logistics Process Sooner
Customers want to know they will receive exactly what they want when they want it. The best way retailers can prove they want the same thing is to show customers they are in control. Give them visibility into the fulfillment process – don’t wait until their order is being loaded onto the truck in the last mile. Store and warehouse teams must keep supervisors and delivery partners apprised of when items have been picked and packed, anyway. A few back-end updates to business systems should allow customers to be added to those notifications.

Let customers specify exactly where and how they would like to obtain their packages, even if items haven’t been pulled from the shelf yet. Later, ask couriers to send pictures of specific drop-off locations so customers know exactly where to find their orders. And have them leave contact info behind in case of mistakes so customers can contact them directly versus working through someone in a call center.

Selling Goods but Also a Service
Consumers rate retailers on the quality of their service and the overall shopping experience as much as the quality of their goods. Delivery leaves the last impression – and often the most lasting one, especially if the same products are offered elsewhere. By thinking more like a logistics company, retailers can ensure customers’ hard-earned loyalty isn’t lost over a single miscommunication or misdelivered package.  

To learn more about how technology can be used to improve last-mile delivery experiences, click here.