Differentiate yourself with logistics

Cutting corners on delivery leads to disgruntled customers and tarnished reputations, so with Black Friday looming, a well-planned strategy to help your logistics partner cope with the increased volumes will pay off in the long run, says Craig Kavanagh, business development director, Panther Warehousing

An online retail tsunami is set to take place on November 27. Black Friday presents its own particular challenges when it comes to deliveries and retailers need to make sure they have a strategy in place to avoid a repeat of last year’s logistical nightmares.

One of the key things retailers can do if they want to provide a better service for Black Friday is to offer customers a delivery date of their choice, rather than the usual next-day option. This will allow delivery firms to smooth the volume over a larger number of days – and it’s all driven by customer choice.

This is particularly true of online sales that potentially run over the weekend, where staff are faced with a mountain of orders to get out the door on a Monday. By following this model, the impact on the carrier will be reduced, and so there should be fewer customer service issues and less reverse flow.

The delivery system is already running at a peak in November, thanks to the run-up to Christmas. So, if the delivery timetable is more structured, risks such as damage or delay are minimised and there is an opportunity to deliver an enviable service that few companies can match.

With competition in the electrical sector intensifying, logistics is an area where retailers can differentiate themselves by providing a hassle-free customer experience. One of the big challenges in the home-delivery sector is that retailers’ warehouses only tend to work five-and-a-half days a week. This is problematic, because carriers can only pick up the deliveries for Saturday, Sunday and Monday on a Friday – and this has an impact on the space that logistics firms use.

At Panther, we need three times as much space in our warehouses and on our collection vehicles on Friday evenings in order to segregate Saturday/Sunday/Monday deliveries and effectively start our operational processes. Our strong message to retailers is to develop a stronger logistics partnership by opening up their warehouses for product collection every day of the week.

Having that ability to collect from a retailer’s warehouse on a Saturday or Sunday gives the retailer a greater opportunity to sell on a Friday or Saturday for delivery on a Monday and sell on a Sunday to make deliveries on a Tuesday. It’s a win-win situation – customers get more choice and the delivery demands are smoothed out over a full week.

“With competition in the electrical sector intensifying, logistics is an area where retailers can differentiate themselves by providing a hassle-free customer experience.”

In this way, retailers will get a better USP and an enhanced reputation for efficient and reliable deliveries. Installation A problem area for manufacturers is that there is no one-stop-shop facility to ensure that delivery and installation are coordinated. Although manufacturers can get products to the customer, trying to coordinate the services of an engineer call for gas and electrical installations or exchanges with the delivery can be tricky.

At Panther, as part of our commitment to the electrical retail sector, we are developing a range of delivery and installation options. All vehicles are geo-tagged and so planning the delivery process is straightforward. The engineer will know 48 hours beforehand when items will be delivered, ensuring a seamless line of communication.

Understanding true delivery costs is another aspect that can be problematic. Retailers and manufacturers should factor whole-life costs into the delivery process. It is all very well using a man-and-a-van, however can that operator help with the returns process and follow up with a great after-sales service? If a product is found to be faulty, or if there is a customer complaint, this immediately imposes an administrative cost. These are all hidden costs that are often forgotten. With the right delivery partner, this is all managed as part of the package.

Retailers also need to consider product damage. If electrical goods are being delivered by a credible two-man carrier and installed in a room of choice, then there is less risk of damage and service issues, therefore less likelihood of returns. Two-man delivery, along with a fully trained engineer, means that a logistics firm can deliver the product, install it, remove the old one and dispose of it through the WEEE process.

In a bid to increase profits in a tough market, retailers and manufacturers might be tempted to ignore the importance of their delivery offering and opt for the cheapest service available. But they do so at their long-term peril – scrimping on delivery is a false economy if they want to secure their long-term reputation, growth and business success.