Customer experience has been always the top priority for companies selling online, and ever since the world entered in the age of eCommerce, enterprises have followed the evolution of the customer experience and learned, in some cases, through trial-and-error what it is that most guarantees repeat business. As it turns out, faster is not always better. So what is the end-all-be-all solution?
The Evolution of Customer Experience
The customer experience has evolved in such a way that it focuses on the first click all the way through the delivery, and much more. Customer experience is an area where businesses focus most in terms of improvement, especially for those businesses that sell to consumers strictly online. Most of the customer experience focus is targeted towards visual aspects.
In addition to the visual aesthetics of the customer experience, businesses have focused on removing any barriers to the purchasing process so that consumers have less time to rethink orders and are able to process entire orders much faster.
Top enterprises have started selling through digital channels and recognizing that the customer experience doesn’t end once they have paid for their order. Ideally speaking, the customer experience never ends because delivery is the final moment that can make or break the perfect unending cycle that is customer experience. Even after placement of the order occurs, customers need to receive the order in the best possible fashion before they determine whether or not to return to the shop from whence it came.
As a result, businesses are now expanding the user interface to focus on the customer experience in a new way. This focus doesn’t start with the first click and end with a final payment, but rather extends to the delivery. Larger enterprises, particularly Amazon, has focused on this in particular. Amazon fulfillment services offer businesses the opportunity to sell through the Amazon Marketplace. Of course, now people believe more than ever that the speed of delivery is what leads to satisfying customers.
Fast and Free Shipping Isn’t the End All Be All
Unfortunately, it was quickly revealed that having fast and free shipping wasn’t the final solution to the customer experience circle. Customers are complex as with their wants and needs. It is human nature for barriers to manifest no matter how ideal a solution might seem for businesses.
Every business seems to be focused on speed in recent times. Companies thought that the click to delivery was the key to the perfect customer experience. They thought that the sooner you could get a product to the customer, the more likely it was that a customer would return for repeat business. Amazon started testing the one-hour and two-hour delivery times in Manhattan to further evaluate this theory. They promised free 2-hour delivery to a specific area and offered one hour delivery for a nominal fee, similar to how Amazon currently offers free two-day shipping, with the option of one-day shipping for a nominal fee.
As it turns out, that was not what customers wanted most. It is important to get fast shipping but it isn’t everything. Customers recorded trying two hour delivery time and seeing packages arrived instantly. Yet most customers didn’t use that service repeatedly. The fastest shipping time in the world didn’t necessarily mean customers were going to continue using existing services.
Next Generation Fulfillment Strategies
As it turns out, Slice Intelligence determined there to be more required of businesses. Shipping speed and price were very important to customers, but they were not the final deciding factor. In fact, this company researched several companies in the pet supply vertical. One of which was able to increase their share of the pet food category by reducing the shipping times, while another maintained its slower in comparison shipping speed but kept a hold of its market share without any decrease. Eventually what came to light, was the fact that customers have expectations for delivery speed, fulfillment of the orders, and an added expectation for what the associated costs should be. This reflected most strongly on the Amazon two-hour and one-hour delivery attempts where customers enjoyed the faster delivery time but that also meant higher delivery costs, and customers simply weren’t having it. There was a happy middle ground between cost and speed.
In the end, customers preferred a good delivery balance between free delivery and fast delivery. It turns out, the best combination was free delivery within one or two days. This was the most attractive to customers and showed what seemed like a sustainable option for businesses long term.
How Shippers Can Stay Competitive
Fulfillment providers are now keeping pace by adapting to the complex needs of many businesses whom they serve. Industries supplying omnichannel industries are focusing on reinvigorating their strategies knowing that the businesses they rely on are choosing partners and suppliers with the ability to specialize in a core function.
Beyond that, it is important for businesses to ensure that the products they offer are consistent with the most effective fulfillment centers possible. Warehouse configurations need to match operational demands. Companies that ship larger and heavier items need to focus on shipping to the fulfillment centers with wider aisles and infrastructure to match the products that are being held. Companies also need to focus on physical warehouse locations so that they are strategically placed so that orders can reach fulfillment within a perfect time frame.
In the end, these results revealed that businesses need to provide exceptional service and focus on customer experience as well as achieve a good balance between cost and speed of shipping. Having specialist fulfillment partners who can handle click to ship options for specialty products means that those products can be out the door and into customer’s hands much quicker. The right strategy will fulfill the demands of a customer base. There is no canned solution most appropriate, but long-term success comes from finding partners that help provide your business with a strategic advantage in terms of maintaining that cost and speed balance.