Addressing Expedited Delivery Expectations
Amazon and other large retailers set customer expectations by offering expedited delivery at low or no cost. Retailers of all sizes must compete on the same turf, yet lack the negotiating power that could net meaningful discounts with commercial carriers. And private carriers often assess charges such as delivering to a residential address, penalties for failing to meet contracted volumes, and peak holiday premium surcharges.
Many retailers deploy parcel shipping systems that exacerbate these issues, says a new Forbes Insight report titled Shipping as Strategy: How Small and Midsize Retailers Can Best Meet Customers' Delivery Expectations in the Age of Amazon, developed in association with Pitney Bowes.
While most retailers use the carrier-specific shipping software commercial carriers provide to handle the bulk of their shipping, aspects of these same systems make it cumbersome for shippers to switch carriers seamlessly and access more favorable pricing. Shippers also underutilize the U.S. Postal Service, the report finds.
The report offers this advice to help retailers better meet customer expectations:
- Create a multi-carrier strategy. Review your carriers and pricing. Will you offer next-day or same-day shipping? Is the USPS part of your existing shipping mix?
- Use the USPS. The upgrades the Postal Service has made over the past several years, coupled with its scale of presence across the United States six days per week, make it well positioned for B2C deliveries. Look at how and where flat-rate packaging can help you save money.
- Plan for peak periods. Scale up available labor as needed for pickup, pack, ship, and customer service. Forge a relationship with your carriers so that you know deadlines and cut-off dates in advance. Keep communication lines open during peak periods, and have a contingency plan to use different carriers, if necessary.
- Automate the process. Where can automation help your business and support a multi-carrier strategy? Automate as much as you can from click to delivery.
- Identify the right shipping partner. Look for partners that can provide service guarantees, favorable pricing and payment terms, without limiting your ability to go global—leading to deeper savings for you.
- Know your products and options. Document your data product dimensions, weight, and more. Import that data into the system and the software can fill in the blanks.