The Real Value of Deliveries
Interview with Mark Bastiaanssen, Co-founder and CEO of Shiptimize
1. In your opinion, what are the main factors one should take into consideration when delivering a product/service, in order for the delivery to be as optimal as possible (to satisfy the customer and to gain significant profit)?
There are a lot of aspects to take into consideration. I think that, in a general sense, the best way to optimize not only deliveries but, pretty much everything else, is through automation. So, when it comes to deliveries, that can be done in many steps of the process: when printing the shipping labels or when sending Track&Trace e-mails, for example. That saves a lot of time and prevents possible human errors that would cause a domino effect into the whole process, like a typo on the client’s address.
And, another way that deliveries can be optimized is by adjusting it to the context of each specific case or customer. That means knowing when to offer next day delivery with insurance for that expensive watch you sell and when it’s better to offer a not so fast, but also less expensive option, for a pair of socks that clients are usually not in such a hurry to receive.
At the end of the day, optimization it is not just about getting a product to the customer’s hands fast. It’s about aligning a web shop’s resources in order to achieve an optimal balance between quality of service and financial viability. At the end of the day, customers want their products to be delivered in good conditions and when it was agreed. Optimization is about making that happen with a smart use of resources.
2. Many companies strive to incorporate sustainability in their delivery services. In your view, what would be the best way to achieve a sustainable delivery of products?
As an online store, you could come up with sustainable, or even returnable, packaging. You could select your logistics partner based on their sustainability policies and even pay a little extra to ensure your deliveries are carbon free, in case your partner has that option. As a web shop, you have little influence on the actual operational logistics from your provider, but there are some things you can do yourself. If your deliveries are not so time sensitive, you could bundle your orders to be picked up only twice a week instead of every working day. Or you can give your customers the option of colleting their parcels at pickup points.
It’s never just one thing. And it’s not always possible to implement everything, or everything at once, at least. But one thing that is easily carried out is educating your customer. Specially about the environmental cost of fast delivery, for example. In that sense, you could give discounts to clients that are willing to wait a bit more for their purchases, whilst also making it clear that this is a more sustainable option.
3. As many people tend to believe, customer satisfaction is one of the most important goals to achieve when delivering a product. How do you think customer satisfaction can be best accomplished?
We hear a lot about how customers want faster deliveries. And that is true. But nothing makes a customer more unsatisfied than not keeping a promise. So, if you actually can guarantee next day, or 48 hours delivery in a way that is sustainable to your business, great.
But, if you can’t, that may not be the end of the world, as long as you are clear about your delivery times. That applies specially to products that don’t ignite such a sense of urgency on your customers. Yes, at the end of the day people want fast deliveries. But, above all, they want reliable deliveries. And that is where on-demand deliveries come in. On demand is not about delivering fast, but about delivering when the customer expects it.
So, the best way to achieve customer satisfaction with your deliveries is by having clear, achievable delivery times, by always keeping your customer in the loop about where their parcels are, by making sure that you have a shipping partner that will deliver your products in good conditions, and by doing everything within your reach if something happens to the parcel. Sometimes, deliveries will get lost or delayed, and your customer will not like that. But, at the end of the day, they are more than likely to feel as if they had a positive experience if they see that you are taking action to make things right.
4. What are the main obstacles met by world-wide online stores when it comes to deliveries? And what about online stores who conduct cross-border deliveries? (i.e.: Europe-Asia, Europe-USA, Europe-Latin America)?
Dealing with logistics and delivery is probably one of the most challenging and time-consuming parts of having an online store. But is also one of the most important. In the beginning, printing shipping labels manually or dealing personally with the carrier in case something happens seems like a feasible job. But when the business starts to grow those simple tasks are really hard to scale, unless you deploy some kind of automation to it or you add a good partner to the equation. So, I would say that the main struggle world-wide is to be able to place a quality, easily scalable, delivery management solution without spending too much time on it, so that you can use your time to actually make your business grow.
When it comes to cross-border delivery, the non-standardization of the industry adds a new layer of challenges. On top of needing to know if your product fits the market in that different culture, it’s also important to know how taxation, custom clearance and local policies will work, and what this will add to your delivery cost.
And even when those topics are settled, you will still have the tracking issue. When a parcel crosses the border, it’s possible that your logistics partner hands it over to one of their local partners. And since their tracking system is different, it becomes harder to reliably track the location of a parcel. So, we can say this is an infrastructure problem. People think the main problem is the extended delivery times or the rates, but those are also affected by the infrastructure. And that’s exactly why many governments, carriers and other stakeholders of the industry keep investing in upgrading the infrastructure.