There are a number of targets to aim for when it comes to succeeding in fulfillment service —proper protection of goods, accurate delivery location, time windows and, increasingly, the cost that's ultimately passed on to the consumer. The omni-channel sales movement has done more than increase spending and reach, it's taught customers to expect variety and convenience in every aspect of their shopping experience. The fulfillment service center has shifted from a behind-the-scenes player into a vital part of that expectation, and the way shipping choices are handled and presented can now make or break a bottom line. Do you know if your shipping choices are the ones your customers are looking for?
How Fast Do They (Really) Need It?
Current in-use technology may be more wi-fi and less sci-fi, but that hasn't stopped the excitement surrounding rumors like Amazon's drone-based delivery R&D from making same-day delivery a tangible reality—with or without flying robots. Now that the cat's out of the bag, millennial consumers are stepping up their speedy shipping demands, according to a recent Bizrate survey on consumer shipping impressions. The top product genre tier for same day shipping requests? Automotive parts, a clear nod to the value-added convenience that fast delivery can add in certain niches. Knowing whether or not same-day shipping service is worth the effort depends heavily on your product's demographic. If your item isn't perishable or prone to frequent last-minute ordering, it might not be worth it to extend your fulfillment service center into an unproven, extremely time-sensitive venture.
Are You Properly Leveraging Your Nodes?
If your company operates stores, or does a great deal of business with a retailer that does, your warehouse might not have to shoulder the burden alone. Thankfully for businesses, site-to-store style delivery and pickup is proving just as popular with demanding shoppers as site-to-doorstep specialty delivery services. That expensive "last mile" can be shifted to the customer, who is typically willing to get in a car and drive a few minutes to a store as opposed to waiting impatiently for 3PL agents like UPS or FedEx to deliver. It can also be a win-win for the aforementioned store or partner. The "pick up partner" is already in place on the supply chain, and shoppers are more likely to buy additional items when they're physically in the store.
Talk to Your Customers
It may seem obvious, but a surprising amount of companies are less than responsive when it comes to chatting up their customers. If you don't already have one in place, start a log of customer shipping complaints and make a point to periodically check for trends. Is your 3PL partner especially rough on boxes or inaccurate on rural deliveries? Do your customers want more tracking and control or lower prices? You can go through trial and error periods, of course, but why waste the resources when most customers aren't just willing, but eager to talk? Starting a conversation with them about their shipping needs assures them that they are valued, and provides you with accurate, useful data that can be fed back into your workflow immediately. Additionally, incorporate periodic satisfaction surveys whenever possible—follow-up emails, customer service conversations and any other touch point you have available.
Your fulfillment service center has the power to distinguish your company's offerings every time a box leaves the loading dock. Don't waste it on elaborate guessing games rather than sound business research. You wouldn't pick a supply chain partner at random, so why take that approach when aligning agility and efficiency with customer satisfaction? Treat shipping services with the same consideration as new product lines—promotion, feedback, and adjustments as needed—and you'll have a happier customer base overall.