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Report: Optimizing Last Mile CX

Publisched on
December 25, 2021

In today’s omnichannel commerce landscape, retail organizations must deliver on customer expectations for experience, convenience, and price across an increasingly hybrid marketplace. Operational efficiencies and innovations in last mile fulfillment are one of the best ways for brands and retailers to create and enjoy a competitive advantage over their peers. The rise of e-commerce, and the new realities of consumers’ post-pandemic shopping habits has elevated delivery and order fulfillment as an essential service offering. Brands need to be able to adapt quickly to changing consumer expectations, while also ensuring that they deliver on the promises they’ve made about convenience. 

The rollout of 2-and-3-day and on-demand delivery capabilities has created new consumer standards. Shoppers now expect free same-week shipping, while loyalty and membership benefits are shifting from in-store perks to better delivery and return options. The need to cater to and support a digital-first shopper within a hybrid environment is rewriting the retail and CX landscape, and even has some companies rethinking the role of their physical stores by reimagining them as micro-fulfillment centers. Finding ways to get closer to consumers is an advantage, and these mixed-use centers can fulfill local delivery and curbside pickup orders while also serving customers’ in-person needs on the retail floor. 

Keeping shoppers happy along their purchase journey is what leads to repeat orders and increased engagement, and shopper happiness is increasingly being linked to rapid fulfillment of their order. This reality is something retailers of all sizes must face, and a host of innovative delivery-as-service solutions are rising to meet it. Retailers that lack a strong operational footprint are partnering with organizations, from big box retailers to eCommerce giants and transportation companies, that can serve as partner hubs for hyper-fast fulfillment and meet the always-on needs of shoppers. Spurred by contactless-habits and on-demand expectations coming out of the pandemic, autonomous delivery technologies from self-driving fleets to delivery drones are filling gaps in delivery networks and bringing brands closer to their customers. 

With the disruptions to daily life over the past almost-two-years, retail has been forever changed. Digital behaviors not only drive ecommerce growth, but also increasingly supplement in-store journeys and underpin shopper expectations around convenience. To help our members better understand the impact of growing expectations around the last mile experience, the PSFK research team has identified five key trends and capabilities optimizing the last mile journey while reshaping the shopper experience. 

Featured Trends

Partner Fulfillment

Alongside today’s digital acceleration, rapid delivery solutions have shifted consumer expectations, with real-time availability, greater convenience and a range of delivery options all driving purchase decisions. For retailers that lack the necessary operational footprint to meet these expectations, a lagging online delivery experience has become a point of friction for shoppers, leading to cart abandonment and lost dollars. In order to connect consumers and online orders in a timely manner, small-, mid-, and even large-scale retailers are partnering with organizations, from big box retailers to eCom giants and transportation companies, to leverage their networks as part of delivery-as-a-service solutions.

Rapid Fulfillment Outposts

As retailers consider the next evolution of stores and their ability to facilitate seamless fulfillment experiences, ghost stores, new roles for associates, and autonomous services will all play a role. Instant inventory replenishment, real-time curbside pick-up, 24/7 service via autonomous modules and community destinations that double as logistics hubs (providing both warehouse space and buy-online, pick-up-anywhere capabilities) are a number of solutions retailers are currently implementing, as they look to meet a consumer that expects the ease and convenience provided by BOPIS programs across every shopping experience.

Ultra Convenience

In an omnichannel shopping landscape, finding ways to get closer to consumers is a competitive advantage. Physical stores are evolving beyond solely serving as places for people to shop, instead becoming hubs for hyper- fulfillment, mobile showrooms are providing a flexible pop- up model, autonomous delivery is meeting the increased needs of ecommerce, and service providers are embracing multi-store fulfillment models. By shrinking the physical distance to shoppers’ homes, shorter delivery times, flexible fulfillment options and other progressive delivery offerings are defining the next generation of convenience.

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