Flexibility and visibility are top delivery priorities for retailers, finds iForce’s Route Genie roundtable

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The ability to offer flexible delivery options is an important reason why more retailers are turning to carrier management platforms. That was one of the key take aways from a roundtable event hosted by Route Genie, the advanced carrier routing software developed by iForce.

The discussion between leading retailers and industry executives explored the benefits of carrier management software including visibility across the supply chain, flexibility and consistent customer communications.

Geoff Taylor, managing director of Route Genie, chaired the event and started by asking the group for a general consensus on what is the most important aspect for retailers to consider when choosing to deploy carrier routing software – total cost, overall value or an increase in consumer choice? Tony Burrill, from Landmark Global, opened up the discussion by explaining that retailers have to use a multitude of carriers to get access to the many different services that are available.

“It has become difficult for any retailer to satisfy all of its customers by using one carrier, especially if you want to offer a variety of different services, including Next Day, a signed for service or a four to five-day non-signed for service. Choice is critical.”

Alex Hewes, from Scotts & Co, agreed with Burrill and added that it is important for retailers to have the ability to offer a host of standard and premium delivery solutions to fit the value of the item being purchased.

“Consumers will have different delivery requirements depending upon the value of items they purchase. For instance, if a customer purchases a high-end item they will also want a high-end delivery as a result. You need to have a basket of delivery options driven by the product. This is why a carrier management solution is so important – there needs to be a platform to support this demand.”

“That’s an excellent point. The ability to provide a delivery option that complements the value of the product is extremely valuable when it comes to achieving a positive customer experience. It’s an intelligent way of dealing with a basket rather than just offering a blanket choice,” said Taylor, before steering the conversation towards the peak season.

The 2014 peak season was the biggest to date, however during this time the media was awash with an abundance of negative headlines as the industry struggled with growing demand. Planning for the next peak season is already under way and retailers will be keen to improve the way they manage their respective carriers in order to improve their reputation and revenues in the future.

Taylor said: “When you rewind to Black Friday last November the majority of the industry was desperately trying to fulfil orders to the previous customer promise, but in reality the consumers may have had a diluted requirement and just wanted their items delivered within the next five to seven days. Does there need to be a different proposition at peak times?”

Steve Lee, from Brighthouse, claimed that the consumer’s main priority on Black Friday is to secure the best price and not immediate delivery.

“During Black Friday people just wanted to make sure they had a deal. They want to ensure that they have their items ahead of Christmas, not necessarily in their hands a day later. It is not like Valentine’s Day when they require a quick delivery.”

Hewes added that he would like to see retailers incentivise customers in favour of going with a longer lead time. “This would take the some pressure off of the carriers in the build up to peak,” he said.

Many of the attendees also stressed that visibility across the supply chain was a key benefit of an effective carrier management solution. Perry Sands, from Tesco, explained: “For me it is about track and trace functionality and having sight of the customer’s order at any given time – not just for the operations team, but also for customer engagement.”

“As a business that uses a lot of different suppliers, we also want to see which carriers they are deploying and explore whether there are any common themes at different times as well as evaluating performance,” Sands said.

Meanwhile, Hewes added: “If you haven’t got visibility and you can’t provide your customer with visibility then you have got a very painful customer experience. It helps to reduce call centre traffic and prevents dissatisfaction.”

“If we can provide clear and consistent messaging to our customer base, regardless of carrier, it becomes a lot easier for our business to manage,” Alex added.

Attendees at the roundtable were: Geoff Taylor, Route Genie (chair); Richard Tucker, Route Genie; Jet Drew, Scotts & Co; Alex Hewes, Scotts & Co; Francoise Darimont, PFSweb; Steve Lee, Brighthouse; Simon Duckels, Shop Direct; Danielle Lee, Nespresso; Andy Dowling, Esendex; Nick Redmond, Chain Reaction Cycles; David Battye, Cranfield University; Kevin Falkentoft, DirectLink; Tony Burrill, Landmark Global; Perry Sands, Tesco and Nick David, Secured Mail.