Could Accurate Delivery Times Soon Become a Reality?
Today’s Mobile Population Needs Defined and Accurate Delivery Windows
Cost-effectiveness, flexibility and privacy are just some of the reasons more travelers are seeking vacation rentals (Airbnb/VRBO) and campsites over traditional hotel accommodations. Spurred by the pandemic, non-traditional lodging is becoming more commonplace and experts predict this trend will only continue to dominate the hospitality industry for years to come.
This shift in traveler preference elevates new challenges for e-commerce businesses.
Consider the needs of a family staying at an off-grid campsite or a private beach condominium. While they might bring the necessities with them, some essentials may have been forgotten, or perhaps they plan to buy a handful of extra items that wouldn’t fit in the suitcase to be delivered to their temporary locations with limited time windows.
The undeniable trend to shop online as opposed to in-store will change the way these vacationing families will fulfill these needs. Because their residence is temporary, they’ll choose a retailer that is able to provide the most accurate and honorable delivery time—to guarantee as much as possible that their order will arrive at their specified location within the specified timeframe. In other words, if they need an item to arrive the same day that they do, they’ll choose a retailer that is able to deliver—quite literally—on that promise.
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Location, Location, Location
This travel trend is presenting never-before-seen challenges to direct-to-consumer retailers. While retailers who may have had their digital fulfillment strategy firmly in place at the beginning of the pandemic are reaping the benefits of selling to a captive audience, they must quickly adapt to migrant customers’ habits. They must think about the “where,” not just the “when,” regarding order fulfillment.
Some brands, like Amazon, have invested a lot in perfecting rapid delivery—even offering generous deals if deliveries are late. Their two-day shipping for Prime members allows shoppers to know when to place their orders in hopes of lining up delivery with their vacation stay. However, this process isn’t foolproof quite yet. Shoppers still can’t order packages ahead of time to their predetermined vacation site, not even offering a delivery window selection at this point.
Fulfilling Delivery Promises
In the face of an ongoing pandemic, the retailers that embrace these changes in shopper preferences and can understand what it takes to excel under these circumstances will stand victorious on the e-commerce battlefield. They must understand how to better manage their inventory, their fulfillment processes and their delivery options, first and foremost.
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Arguably the most important step in keeping up with delivery commitments is to make sure inventory is in order. An order management system (OMS) should be able to provide global inventory visibility that can notify a retailer if a product is available (or not), where it’s located and when it will be available for fulfillment. Retailers must also consider building inventory buffers in times of constant change. Managing the amount of inventory that is available to sell is one of the key benefits of a purpose-built OMS. This helps retailers define their business logic so that top-selling items are never out-of-stock. One last recommendation is to reveal in-store availability to customers. This can be done using a cloud-based OMS that operates via APIs to show customers how many of a certain product is available at each store on the e-commerce site. Providing this information can let customers that might be traveling to a specific area see that the items they want are available at a local store, allowing them to rest easy upon their arrival.
Once a retailer has its inventory organized and manageable, it can turn its eye to fulfillment strategy. The most important element is making sure the business knows how long it takes to fulfill different types of orders. They should begin by working with their carriers to understand on-time delivery rates.
An API-enabled OMS will be able to ingest this data and incorporate it into the e-commerce fulfillment process so that keeping up with inevitable fluctuations in carrier speeds and bandwidth is effortless. Another creative solution to fulfillment that is gaining traction is drop-ship vendors (DSVs). Even if a retailer doesn’t have multiple distribution centers—which can make regional delivery cheaper and easier—it can most likely work with DSVs to elevate its fulfillment capabilities and expand on products offered to customers.
Giving the customer more options in terms of delivery and shipping can also help improve the flexibility and agility of a retailer’s order management strategy. For example, providing shoppers the ability to store multiple “ship to” addresses can make it easier for retailers to adjust quickly to their traveling customers’ needs. Using business rules, an OMS will be able to flag any addresses outside of the normal delivery framework. Another option is to allow customers to utilize click and collect (aka “BOPIS” – buy online, pickup in-store). These types of offerings let the customer determine the day and time they want to retrieve the item. As long as the retailer has sufficient storage, this should be business-as-usual from a fulfillment perspective. If customers were given the ability to schedule a pickup a week or two in advance, it could help brands truly make customer convenience a top priority, significantly enhancing loyalty.
There is no denying that traveling during a pandemic has led to all sorts of unconventional and creative solutions—with some vacationers choosing to go off the grid with a trailer and a private campsite, to others that forgo the popular beach resorts for a more private rental property. So, being able to maintain the convenience of e-commerce remains a priority. Retailers that meet customers where they are (literally) can help maintain a competitive edge, foster customer-brand loyalty, and build out solutions that will provide long-term growth and stability for their evolving business.
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