Unsurprisingly, online retail has had a hugely positive impact on the courier industry. When email threatened its very existence, online retail kicked into gear and drove significant volume and revenue.
Now, we may be about to see the favour repaid. Non-deliveries are a frustration for businesses and consumers alike and with several big companies making a play for more convenient options, it’s worth looking ahead and future-proofing your business to take advantage of the opportunities. Here are my predictions for the next five years.
1. Predict time slots become more precise
The eight to 12 time slot is destined to be a thing of the past. It’s not enough to give customers a four hour window to wait in for an item. Our courier service offers customers a one hour predict service that has halved our non-deliveries since we brought it in, but one hour will seem too long in five years.
Expect ten-minute windows, advanced warning if the product is behind schedule, and text alerts when the delivery is within five miles of your house. The technology is already there, it’s just a matter of time.
There’s an obvious benefit to consumers, but businesses stand to reap the rewards too. I’ve already mentioned the impact it has had on our non-deliveries, but this also had ramifications for customer service. If the customer is able to find out online exactly where the product is with a tracking service, they’ll be less anxious or angry about delays and consequently less inclined to complain, freeing up your staff to work on other business.
2. Predict time slots become more convenient
Consumers expect convenience and as companies continue to push down on prices, the delivery convenience will become a deciding factor. Along with more precise delivery times, couriers will also be expected to deliver in the evenings, before weekends and before long, the same day.
Logistically this won’t be easy to roll out nationally, but major cities will soon have access to commonly-bought items delivered on the day. This could also usher in the near-death of the high-street.
Online retailers will be subject to the same squeeze the grocery industry is currently under. At the moment courier vans up and down the country are shipping a huge amount of air. This is a no-brainer for all parties concerned, of course; reduced packaging costs less, generates less carbon from production and delivery, and allows for more products to be shipped at any one time.
Forward-thinking courier companies will also need to offer a recycling service whereby they can drop off a new item and at the same time recycle the waste materials from the customer. We’ve had a long-standing recycling scheme where we provide freepost boxes that allow customers to return goods to us that we then re-use or recycle.
4. Product packaging
Another battleground for companies will be making their products stand out. On-shelf and in-store you can understand the need for companies to have a real branded presence, but until now there hasn’t been any real incentive for online retailers brands to invest in making their products look great.
Now, as all shipping and deliveries become stronger there’ll be pressure to improve the quality of materials and labels and make opening the product an experience in itself. Anything from bespoke letters and personalised thank yous to well-written marketing material will be the next step to ensure customer loyalty when everyone else is able to match you on price and delivery times.
Our philosophy has always been to make it as easy as possible for our customers, whether that’s the initial purchase or the return process. But no matter what you provide collectplus makes it a whole lot easier, allowing customer to drop off a package to be returned to an online retailer at their local corner shop is very obviously appealing.
While, naturally, our priority would be to eliminate returns entirely, this is a great option that will make consumers’ lives much easier. My guess is that before long the service is a boast that will be proudly displayed on the homepages of the internet’s biggest retailers.
Ian Cowley is the managing director of www.cartridgesave.co.uk, the UK’s largest dedicated printer cartridge company.
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