Mark Greaves eStar / Viare Chief Fulfilment Officer talks about the importance of aligning promises with delivery
In 2022, Ipsos research revealed that 85% of online shoppers say a poor delivery experience would prevent them from purchasing from that retailer again. This research confirmed what has been a long-known fact among consumers.
There are many examples of retailer's failures to deliver on what they promised being called out in the press and/or being reported to the ACCC/Commerce Commission (NZ). When this happens the damage it can do to a brand is beyond belief.
There are some key examples like a famous big box retailer gaining press for many complaints to the Commerce Commission due to selling items online that were out of stock. An online florist was accused of false advertising for photos not matching the reality of what was delivered. Retailers are being accused of pressuring customers to remove negative reviews. A large fashion retailer in the press with headlines of “…. In hot water over undelivered goods and refunds”. There are so many examples, that we all know the impact of not delivering what is promised to customers is going to be large.
There is no argument that the aligning of promises and what a retailer can do is essential, or to put it simply it is better to under promise and over-deliver. As a retailer lifts their performance, they can then lift what they promise. Customers respect retailers for doing what they say they are going to do. While it can be tempting to push the team by rolling out a new service or an improved service offering before they are ready, if the team are overwhelmed or demotivated, the result will be that promises aren’t delivered, and customers are put off as the service level did not meet expectations. Retailers must ensure that claims about product availability and delivery services and times are real and achievable.
So what makes retailers continue to make claims that they regularly can’t adhere to? This is more complex, and probably the list is endless. But some themes come through; often it can be during their quiet periods they are meeting the claims but then during high-volume periods can’t they meet them. It can be that they don’t have good reporting in place to know what their performance is how many items are being oversold, or thinking they are hitting targets even when customers are telling them they are not. They are coming under pressure internally or externally to advertise promises in line or ahead of the competition. However, none of this stops the damage from customers' experiences being different to what they were told.
We also can’t discuss this topic without acknowledging that retailers are coming under increased expectations from consumers. This can easily create even more pressure on the retailer to push their promises or offer more services that they are not ready to offer.
This is why it is so important that retailers are setting their three to five stretch goals for future customer experience. These then provide the guidance to build out the strategic plan to achieve them. These goals would likely include faster delivery, greater inventory accuracy, and more delivery options. As it is so important to deliver on what is promised, a solid foundation is needed to give the team the tools they need to deliver for their customers. In the online space, a modern Order Management Tool (OMS) will be critical to building towards a retailer’s stretch goals, it will create the foundation to ensure inventory accuracy and give retailers the tools to scale and roll out additional delivery options. No longer are the old legacy Warehouse Management Systems or Point of Sale systems, Website platforms are able to offer a fulfilment tool that will continue to support the needs now and into the future, modern OMS are becoming a must. At the same time, retailers should consider how they include shipping from stores to balance the increased online orders across their network to maintain a consistent service level no matter the volume of orders.
While the above is the long-term approach, this peak season retailers should update their delivery promise to match what they know they can deliver, if for some reason something goes wrong then be ready to email customers to let them know. Good honest communication is key and customers will reward the retailers for this.