Changing patterns of consumer behavior and a move towards digital technology has seen unprecedented change in the retail industry over the past few years. These changes are forcing companies to rethink their approach to customer loyalty and retention as customers focus on value and service rather than loyalty to a specific brand when deciding where they shop.
Consumers have also been conditioned to expect higher levels of customer experience, particularly when it comes to last-mile delivery. They have quickly become accustomed to the standards and speed offered by the likes of Amazon and other online retailers.
The Key Delivery Problems Retailers Face
Despite the fact that two-thirds of consumers are less inclined to shop with a retailer after hearing of a negative delivery experience, 75% still encounter delivery problems, according to Descartes and SAPIO Research. The underlying causes of this poor performance lies in the fact that retailers, and in particular high-value retailers, face multiple challenges when trying to provide a seamless last-mile delivery experience. These can be classified as —
Delivery is the most expensive part of the fulfillment process and can quickly escalate with poor confirmation rates and failed deliveries.
Resource and time intensive
The planning and coordination of the delivery process of high-value goods is complex and requires not only logistical resources but time-sensitive engagement with customers.
Impact of unforeseen events
Unpredictable occurrences, such as traffic jams, last-minute route changes and customer unavailability, can result in failed deliveries despite the best planning efforts.
Poor levels of transparency
The level of delivery tracking customers can avail of is limited at best, leaving them to rely on push notifications and large delivery-windows during which they need to be available.
A poor delivery experience can spoil what was previously a positive customer journey. This diminishes customer satisfaction and loyalty, while increasing the burden on customer services. It also leads to poor customer reviews online.
To solve these challenges retailers are increasingly reassessing their use of manual processes and exploring technologies that can help streamline their fulfillment operations.
The Power of Artificial Intelligence and Automation
Technology is transforming the retail sector, with a growing number of businesses waking up to the power of technology to ensure a seamless customer experience. Artificial intelligence is increasingly being used to automate scheduling, dispatch and routing operations, optimizing the fulfillment process up to the moment the customer receives the delivery.
Automation not only saves staff spending hours on logistical planning but also ensures optimized routes for dispatchers are selected rather than leaving the decision to individual drivers.
The Automation of the fulfillment process gives real-time visibility into where a package is at any given moment. The result is a highly transparent delivery process where staff, drivers and customers are constantly connected and can interact in real time.
Giving Customers a Voice
Interactive and personalized conversations, powered by artificial intelligence, bring customers into the center of the fulfillment process, ensuring they are kept up-to-date and engaged through each step of the journey. This not only allows for an efficient delivery schedule to be maintained, as delays can be communicated and any necessary rescheduling can be confirmed in an instant, but also presents a new way of engaging with customers to build deeper relationships. Once a delivery has been made, additional sales opportunities, such as warranties and upgrades, can be uncovered using automated interactions that can turn customers into repeat buyers. Customers involved in such a seamless, engaged fulfillment process are also far more likely to engage with follow-up marketing messages. This in turn can result in a flow of positive online reviews.
Delivering Cost Savings to Last Mile Fulfillment
The amount of time spent manually planning delivery schedules and routes not only takes up large amounts of staffing hours. Automating fulfillment planning frees up staff to focus on other key areas, while increasing confirmation rates and positively impacting on the rate of failed deliveries. Customers of Package.ai, for example, can expect to achieve at least three significant improvements:
-5% failed deliveries
+40% confirmation rates
-40% planning costs
The automation of fulfillment also removes a significant burden from customer services, as customers are continuously connected and have full visibility of the process. Importantly, automation provides the ability to quickly scale to manage seasonal variations and business growth.
Full Visibility of Customer Interactions Across Departments
However, not all AI and automation solutions are created equally. Retailers who implement separate, unconnected solutions from different vendors will fail to create a seamless fulfillment process. This is because interactions between various departments and customers will be disconnected from various stages of the buyers’ journey. So, while the use of a chatbot may improve direct engagement with customers, and an automated fulfillment solution may improve the planning and scheduling of delivery trucks, the fact they are disconnected means they will fail to deliver full visibility into every aspect of a customer’s experience.
To truly benefit from AI and automation, retailers need to implement one, complete solution that allows visibility of all customer engagement across all departments. The ability to view the complete range of customer interactions with sales, marketing, customer service and delivery, that occur throughout the lifecycle of a customer is key in creating a seamless customer-centric experience.
Retailers that implement such solutions will not only improve efficiencies and reduce costs, but will be far better placed to build customer loyalty through the development and maintenance of deeper engagement with their clients. The ultimate benefits will be highly engaged customers that will transition to being brand advocates and repeat buyers. And in today’s highly competitive marketplace, that should be the goal of every high-value retailer throughout the furniture and appliance sector and beyond.
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