How Customer Expectations have Caused an Essential Shift in Hyperlocal Fulfillment

The recipe to success in hyperlocal deliveries lies in the brand's ability to pivot on wafer-thin timelines and ever-evolving customer expectations.
How Customer Expectations have Caused an Essential Shift in Hyperlocal Fulfillment

The way we shop has radically changed over the past few years. Shopping for anything – groceries, medicines, apparel, or electronics – used to be an entirely different experience. It meant getting in your car or walking to the store, checking out the aisles, queuing for billing, and finally heading home. Today, all you need to do is open an app from your phone, browse through the endless options, place your order and pay.

The Shift in Consumer Expectations

Recent years have seen skyrocketing internet penetration and smartphone usage, contributing significantly to the e-commerce boom as more and more people shift to online shopping. While this was the case even before the pandemic struck, the crisis acted as a catalyst for online shopping. In 2021, India had the third-largest online shopper base, only behind China and the USA, according to Bain and Company's report.

Fast (68 percent) and free (59 percent) shipping are top factors that influence customer decision to buy online. While 65 percent are willing to pay more for faster deliveries, a Paypal study highlighted that 43 percent of shoppers abandoned their carts because shipping costs were too high. Besides, customers also demand real-time updates on delivery progress, like when their order will be delivered, who will be delivering it, what's the exact ETA and so on.

Hence, brands will now have to face the critical task of delivering on stringent customer SLAs. This is making retailers rethink their logistics and supply chain operations.

Building Consumer-Centric Logistics Operations

Here are some strategies and tools retailers can adopt to meet evolving customer expectations.

Bringing Inventory Closer to the Customer     

As the demand for faster deliveries surges, brands are bringing inventory closer to high order volume areas. Dark stores have emerged as the plausible solution here. They can help brands add 3-4 percent to their bottom line. Supported by the right technology, dark stores can deliver groceries in much less than 30 minutes cost-efficiently within a predefined geofence.

Leveraging Automation to Expedite Deliveries

Automation-powered smart logistics management solutions can expedite deliveries by reducing manual intervention. They speed up the process by assigning the right task to the right delivery partner. An intelligent auto allocation engine considers various constraints like costs, driver workload, proximity to customer location, weight and volume of the order, etc., to quickly assign tasks to the nearest delivery executive. It reduces order allocation time by 45 percent and can drive a net auto allocation rate of 99 percent.

Curating Exceptional Delivery Experiences

There are multiple ways businesses can boost the delivery experience for end customers. 

Ensuring Customer Transparency

Customers want real-time visibility into their order statuses. AI and ML-powered delivery optimizers give advanced visibility to the end customers regarding ETAs. The system also sends a tracking link to the customer via WhatsApp/email/SMS (customer-preferred modes of communication) once the order is out for delivery. Customers can use this link to track delivery progress in real-time. The solution also allows customers to change their delivery location and time as per their convenience.

Reducing Delivery Delays, Arresting Mock GPS Locations, and Verifying NDRs

Delivery delays are detrimental to the customer experience. This could happen due to a poor quality address, a driver's inexperience with the delivery location, traffic congestion, or a store's inability to view the driver's pickup ETAs leading to high order handling time.

An AI-powered logistics management platform quickly learns the accurate location of a customer by analyzing planned vs. actual delivery location by ensuring 95 percent of deliveries are marked in real-time. Also, to ensure privacy, such a platform automatically masks both a customer and a driver's phone number.

Dynamic route optimizers chart out the most efficient route to the customer location. It also helps businesses shrink empty miles, reduce the overall distance traveled by a driver, and increase on-time deliveries by 24 percent. Smart on-demand delivery management solutions provide complete visibility into delivery SLAs and delivery locations to store managers and prioritize picking and packing based on accurate driver pickup ETAs.

Another critical challenge for brands revolves around drivers using mock GPS locations to mark fake delivery attempts. This can jeopardize both customer experience and brand reputation. To eliminate such events from occurring, an intelligent route optimizer can automatically detect mock GPS locations. It checks them out to prevent process inefficiencies and reputation dents. The system also legitimizes 'undelivered' reasons by directly tracing communication with the end customers.

Providing Flexible Payment Options

Extending customer-preferred modes of payment is also critical. Allowing customers to pay online using QR codes or payment links against CoD orders in the last mile also saves customers the hassle of dealing in cash.

The recipe to success in hyperlocal deliveries lies in the brand's ability to pivot on wafer-thin timelines and ever-evolving customer expectations. Investing in the right technologies can make a significant difference in ensuring smoother deliveries and fantastic business outcomes.

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