How lockdown will change the way retailers use home delivery technology, and what this means for consumer experience

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By Ed Hodges, CEO, HelloDone

Hodges: home delivery must become as much about the customer experience as visiting a store or online retailer

If COVID-19 has taught us one thing it’s that, on the whole, we Brits love home delivery. On-demand goods delivered within hours of a click have been a lifeline for many in lockdown. Companies are working harder than ever to service their customers through delivery networks, providing a vital service in response to more and more demand. That said, we will head out of lockdown with new expectations of home delivery and that is going to require an approach that is better, easier, and smarter for both customer and supplier.

A key benefit for delivery companies is the nature of the lockdown itself. That is, the simple fact that someone will likely be at home to receive their parcel. Delivery companies report to us that this has hugely reduced costs related to customer service queries and failed deliveries. 

Of course, there have been challenges, including websites melting under the demand, unavailable delivery slots, overloaded systems and frustrated customers. That is to be expected. The extraordinary times in which we find ourselves have put immense pressure on delivery networks that could never have been anticipated. 

At present, in most cases, from the moment we place an order as a consumer, we have very little insight or influence as to what happens next. We just have to wait and hope. We may get a text message with a specific delivery window but that usually provides no opportunity to respond or influence the process. The majority of deliveries simply don’t meet our new expectations for how things should happen in these new, connected times. 

Once their job of selling has happened, retailers mostly “fire and forget” and if the delivery company gets the parcel to your door undamaged, that often seems to be all that matters. It’s striking that while large sums are spent providing the most compelling customer experience on e-commerce sites, companies are yet to invest meaningfully in engaging their customer from check out page to door step with the same attention to detail. We believe that upgrading home delivery to match the rest of the buying experience will be a key differentiator post-lockdown.

Our current enforced working-from-home has taught us how to embrace multiple new platforms to engage with colleagues, clients, even family. Common online and digital behaviours of just a few weeks ago are now receding as we move to embrace new platforms for communication. Many of us now live our digital lives in WhatsApp and Messenger, Zoom and Slack. Within these channels we don’t expect to spend our time on hold to ‘customer services’, we expect instant interactions and conversations to get stuff done. These changes will likely impact our expectations in all areas of life, including home delivery. The majority of us may be at home now, but things will change back. When they do, the home delivery experience should reflect the customer’s habits. 

So how can we make that happen? We believe home delivery must become as much about the customer experience as visiting a store or online retailer. Let the customer ask questions via messaging channels, take advice, change their mind, try something new, switch addresses, arrange a new time, add something, subtract something….in other words behave as they want to behave. And importantly, feel in control. Let’s not give the customer another version of ‘I’ll need to speak to my manager’. Instead give them a conversation that provides value. That’s the future of the experience of receiving your order at your doorstep. It is possible to integrate and serve customers effectively on these new channels of engagement, including taking payments. 

At some point we will leave our houses, start using offices again, but our expectations of engagement will have fundamentally changed. With all the challenges and the fragmented nature of all the parties involved in the chain, this is no mean feat, but home delivery needs to engage using the platforms of today. 

About Ed Hodges

Ed is the CEO at HelloDone which offers AI-powered conversational UIs that enable conversations to convert to transactions via digital assistants for Travel and Transport Operators. Find out more at www.HelloDone.ai 

About HelloDone

HelloDone is a B2B2C white label automated conversation platform that allows transport, utilities and home delivery companies to deliver better customer engagement while reducing costs and improving revenues. The HelloDone platform uses customers’ messaging channels, such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Amazon Alexa and Slack, to foster meaningful and rich engagement with businesses. These are channels that a majority of consumers have at immediate disposal, online or on their phone. 

The company was started and is run by Ed Hodges and Pete Shannon, two consumer tech entrepreneurs with significant experience in delivering tech-driven solutions for consumers. The platform recently secured £2.3m funding following seed investment from global corporates, government accelerators and individuals including Telefonica and Finance Birmingham.

(A Retail Times’ sponsored article)