Collaboration was one of the takeaway messages from the recent MetaPack-run Delivery Conference. Talking to a room full of retailers and carriers, Patrick Wall, CEO, MetaPack called on retailers, carriers and 3PLs to move from closed to open systems, to share infrastructure and work together in order to provide the fulfilment services expected by millennials.
THERE IS a history of collaboration amongst retailers when it comes to order fulfilment. eBay customers can collect their parcel from an Argos store and, along with Asos and Boots, has shown how pureplay and brick and mortar retailers can work together to enhance the delivery choice for customers of online-only retailers.
Morrisons [IRDX RMOR] is one of many retailers acting as a pick up and drop off point (PUDO) for parcels going through the Doddle network and the launch, in January, of Powered by Doddle [IRDX VDOD] will see other retailers using Doddle’s systems to run their own click and collect service. Halfords was a launch partner for the DPD PickUp Parcel shop network. CollectPlus, which is a joint venture between PayPoint and Yodel launched as the UK’s first independent PUDO network in 2011. The stores within the PayPoint network are now free to accept parcels from other carriers too.
“As an industry, we’ve conditioned consumers to next-day delivery but with PUDO they can be comfortable that their order has arrived and they can relax and pick it up at their convience.”
One retailer which is embracing transparency and sharing of infrastructure is Asda. In 2015, it launched its toyou service enabling Asda’s George.com business and other retailers to not only use its store estate as PUDO points but to also utilise the full Asda logistics infrastructure to move parcels from retail DCs to Asda stores and back again for return parcels. The system is completely transparent with an air traffic control type centre monitoring every parcel, cage and vehicle through the network.
“We sit across the table with other retailers as a retailer and we understand the painpoints that exist in our world and for our retail clients too – it gives us a unique perspective,” says Paul Anastasiou, Senior Director – Business Development, Asda Logistics and Supply Chain.
“The industry has scaled from a convenience store model,” he says, when InternetRetailing caught up with him at the conference. “We thought it would be the smaller format stores which would be the busiest but it’s the bigger stores,” he explains. Initial findings from customer research hasn’t disclosed whether that’s due to the larger catchment area around the bigger stores or another reason such as people daisy-chaining dropping off or picking up a parcel with other activities. “People are trying to do more with less time,” says Anastasiou. He has also discovered that people don’t like making a special trip to return a parcel.
He does say that shoppers like the certainty of knowing that their parcel has arrived. Some 40% of parcels are collected on the day on which they arrive in store. Anastasiou explains that there is a clear collection profile of people coming into a store within a couple of hours of being notified that their order has arrived and been put away and thus is ready for collection.
A further 40% of orders are collected the following day with shoppers choosing a time to go to the pickup store that’s convenient to them. The remainder of parcels are collected over the ten days during which the parcel remains in store before being returned to the retailer. “As an industry we’ve conditioned consumers to next-day delivery but with PUDO they can be comfortable that their order has arrived and they can relax and pick it up at their convenience,” says Anastasiou.
Asda hopes that many of the shoppers collecting or returning parcels via it’s in-store kiosks will also buy something while they are in store. At launch, Asda said that toyou would drive 40 million extra store visits per year, but as Anastasiou points out the aim is for toyou customers to have a good experience with their parcel collection. If they choose to buy something from the supermarket while they are in the store that’s a by-product of that experience.
One of the ways in which toyou tries to give shoppers a better experience is with returns. “Returns are complicated,” says Anastasiou, not only because of the burden of having to wait for a courier to collect the parcel or the trip to drop it off somewhere but also through the administrative burden of printing a returns label if one isn’t included with the order. Printing labels at home is complicated if you don’t have a printer, and then there’s the issue of making sure that you have both paper and ink. Shoppers also don’t like to queue when returning something and see it as lots of effort for no reward. “Customers will not order again if the returns process is not a good one,” he says.
The toyou service allows shoppers to print the returns label in store at the kiosk or to ask a member of staff to print it for them. As of this year, a QR code can be generated on George.com or by using widget technology on the retailer’s returns page which when scanned will initiate the label printing process. The QR code can be stored on Apple Passbook and on the lock screen of an Android smartphone. This means that the customer doesn’t have to scroll through emails to find the right message when they go into store. The parcel, with its label, can then be put into the dropbox in store. Anastasiou is keen to point out that the returns process is not set up just for digital natives, but provides an easy process which any consumer can carry out via their smartphone, laptop or tablet.
As with the delivery experience, the parcel is tracked right the way back through the network with the retailer notified that it is on its way as soon as it’s received by Asda and the consumer communicated with every step of the way. The consumer could be refunded at the point that the parcel is received by toyou, comments Anastasiou.
2016 was a good year for the toyou service with 15 partners signed up and the focus being on getting the service up and running. This figure is expected to double in 2017 as a balance is made between partners using the service for collection and returns.
This year, toyou will also investigate how to keep customers engaged and make improvements to the post-checkout experience with communications, which can now carry the look and feel of the retail brand, as well as looking at how services in store – such as the convenience of changing rooms – effect the experience. Retail partners are now able to personalise the landing page of the toyou service so that it carries the same look and feel as the brand as well as space for product carousel and promotions. Partners can also take over content and improve the creative inside emails.
Anastasiou believes that we will continue to see a rise in the number of PUDO points in the UK as well as further collaboration. Consumers are looking to do more with less time so will choose the PUDO points that are convenient to them and what else they are doing that day. “Innovation will have to save them time,” he says.