The age of 'stay-at-home' retail is here and we're failing at it

 

The age of 'stay-at-home' retail is here and we're failing at it

July 12, 2018

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By Paul Yewman

British retail, while worth celebrating all that it gets right in driving ever better customer experience, is neglecting to fix the one part of the customer journey that really counts for shoppers.

As ecommerce grows as a percentage of UK retail — up from 14% in 2015 to 18% in 2018 according to Statista, demand for faster and slicker home delivery is sharpening.

E-commerce association IMRG says orders for next-day-delivery increased by more than half between 2013 and 2016. Meanwhile, retailers fight a losing battle in the face of our evolving preferences as shoppers.

UK home-delivery ‘failure’ rates more than doubled in the 12 months to March, according to IMRG, whose head of logistics Andrew Starkey says UK delivery failures totalled 5.8 million or 6% of deliveries in March 2017. That figure rose to 14.2 million or 13% of deliveries by March 2018.

‘The Last Mile’, as retailers refer to the act of getting our purchased goods to our doors how and when we’ve requested them, is the point of the ‘retail brand’ spear when it comes to customer experience.

However many millions of pounds retailers spend on ensuring a seamless and relevant customer journey from the moment we see an advert to the clicking of the ‘buy’ button on the advertiser’s website, if a grumpy driver turns up late to our front door (or indeed fails to arrive altogether), you’ve probably lost us as a customer.

Drivers are a retailer’s shop window. The vast majority of them are not employed by the retailer but by third-party courier companies. Either that or they are doing deliveries part-time as part of a lifestyle career. They have no emotional investment in the retailer for whom they carry the burden of an entire brand experience.

Drivers are a retailer’s shop window… They have no emotional investment in the retailer for whom they carry the burden of an entire brand experience.

Under immense time pressure, they also care less about the recipient than they do making up their targeted number of daily deliveries. The achievement of that target comes under threat from hard-to-find-addresses, recipients not being in when they call to deliver a parcel and simply the fall of darkness every night.

Most drivers know more about the problem of the Last Mile than any chairman in any boardroom but they work for what is often, not much more than the minimum wage. What is certain is that on accepting a job, no delivery driver willingly signs up to carry on his or her shoulders the retailer’s reputation for customer experience.

This is the age of ‘Stay-At-Home’ retail and the Last Mile is a complex — and expensive — problem. Retailers were hit with a bill of £770m in the UK last year due to lost deliveries.

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The problem with the Last Mile is that there is no obvious solution. Nobody fully owns the entire Last Mile. Part of it is IT and part of it is Ecommerce; elsewhere supply chain and operations teams clearly have roles to play. The finance director should surely take some interest in fixing such a costly and growing conundrum and as a customer experience issue, one imagines the marketing and brand teams have a view. Finally, for those large retailers with their own fleets, motivating and retaining demoralised drivers comes with a cost. There is investment required in training and equipping these guys who are, after all, arguably the backbone of the modern retail landscape.

To stop getting this crucial Last Mile of the customer journey so wrong the entire Last Mile Economy needs to come together to be part of the discussion.

We’ve started this process. The Last Mile Consortium had its inaugural meeting earlier this month. Chairmen, CEOS, retailers, technology vendors, logistics operators and courier companies came together to start figuring out how we can better equip Retail UK to solve the final problem.

We’re now looking to extend this conversation. We want to gather as many professionals from across the Last Mile Economy as we can to contribute.

Stay-At-Home retail isn’t going away. The Last Mile is littered with potential customer experience sinkholes. Let’s start working together to solve this perennial problem.

If you’d like to join the conversation, please join The Last Mile Consortium Group on LinkedIn.

 
Nicole Lyons