Watch out for pesky customer expectations

Expectations around online shopping has made lions of us all. We want to know where our packages are, when they’ll be delivered – right down to the hour, and holding a ready phone number to talk to someone if there’s a problem. Our purchases are crucial to us, so why don’t retailers care the same way?

Every corner is talking about the data behind the growth of online shopping in Australia and what people are buying – from industry publications to research agencies.

Some have nodded towards acknowledging customer needs: Australia Post – who has emblazoned on their trucks ‘Powering online shopping’ – wrote:

Shoppers demand a frictionless end-to-end shopping experience,
with easy access across all devices, simple payment options and
convenience across all touch points. They also expect flexibility in
delivery timeframes and collection locations.

As a result, retailers need to have a consistent offering on one
integrated ecosystem across online and in-store in order to
effectively compete and grow.

Inside Australian Online Shopping, Australia Post, 2018

Unfortunately, the report failed to examine what this ‘frictionless end-to-end shopping experience’ meant for consumers or outline the research available – or required – to find out.

Therein lies the rub

No one’s discussing consumer expectations of the entire online shopping journey.

Only this week, a retailers’ industry publication posted an article outlining ‘retail basics for a great customer experience’, but this falls too far short. A great customer experience does not end with the retailer and its’ variety of goods. Australia Post is right in this; customer experience begins from the moment the customer searches for a product to the moment they receive the product.

Whilst Australia Post outlined the dilemma, it didn’t examine consumer’s expectations of the end-to-end fulfilment journey – the act of receiving their purchases. For instance, a surprising practice witnessed in Victoria, is the part packaging of an order. An order of 3 items from Kmart or BigW may or may not arrive on the same day. So the receiver needs to be at the delivery address, an inconveniencing- and frustratingly-extra day to receive the orphaned delivery. Why isn’t it one delivery?

Furthermore, the retailer’s chosen delivery vendor has to pick up the slack. Their tracking system needs to provide ample notice to the receiver (and options for redelivery – for the orphan as well) in a timely and empathetic fashion. In this case, it didn’t.

Sure, it’s not easy

At the tail end of this shopping journey, a delivery vendor needs to breathe the same – if not better – value proposition as the retailer. This is the reason customers choose one retailer over another in the first place – whether it be their unsurpassed product knowledge, helpful staff, vast product range or great price. Retailers and logistics need to be inextricably joined at the hip – or give the appearance of such.

Recent experiences with London delivery vendors showed a wide gap in the customer experience between hemispheres. Communications from the likes of Hermes and DPD went like this:

  • date/time it’s received at their depot
  • email / SMS notification of the actual delivery day – typically a bigger window than 24 hours’ notice
    options available to the receiver to change the day of the delivery beforehand
  • on the day of delivery, a further email / SMS that the package will be delivered and if it will be morning or afternoon. In some cases, a 2 hour window is provided
  • online tracking enables down-to-the-minute driver tracking via map
  • in the case of DPD, drivers call the receiver when they have made the previous drop and are on the way, also with an approximate time of arrival
  • if you happen to miss the driver, a card will be left with an opportunity to make a second attempt at the delivery

Now tell me, who wouldn’t want this? This high level of confidence equals return business over and over.

We can do better

Whilst this might be the creme de la creme of transport logistics, this is already happening, and it provides lessons to be learnt to enhance existing processes.

Perhaps with the opening of Amazon in Australia, the customer experience stakes might be raised. In the northern hemisphere, Amazon has been trialling delivery via drone; its now promising that Amazon Prime Air could officially take flight as early as this year. Who knows what the behemoth has in its sights for us? Exciting, no?

Online shopping is still considered in its infancy here. Customers over time will see for themselves the differences between one vendor and the next, and start expecting the same from everyone. Retailers and supply vendors who have integrated some customer smarts upfront, will come out smiling in the profit stakes down the track.

Please let me know your thoughts.