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Mastering global delivery

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Bobby Shome, Global Business Development Director, Centiro examines how retailers can develop an infrastructure for global retail delivery success.

 

Retailers are facing continual challenges; from ever-changing technology and increasingly expectant customers, to selling to a worldwide marketplace and catering for increasingly global customers.

 

The ‘last mile’ of deliveries is becoming ever more vital for retailers which are looking to develop and maintain a positive relationship with their customers. We are seeing big brands around the world adapting to changing customer expectations; from Walmart extending its trial of next day deliveries in the US, to Tesco offering customers in London 1-hour deliveries.

 

We are also seeing changing technology impacting deliveries in different regions. DHL, for example, is offering next-day delivery services in the US to online retailers, while Amazon has been trialling deliveries by drone for the past few years. Retailers and couriers are racing to keep up with the ever-changing global retail landscape, although often by undertaking smaller regional trials in key regions.

 

This means retailers with a global customer base have a challenge on their hands: they must make sure they are meeting the needs of the customers in each specific country or region.

 

FROM DALLAS TO DERBY

 

The globalisation of retail is on the rise. UK retailers have expanded their markets and are now selling and delivering goods to Washington and Wellington, as well as Wales. Given the potential that ecommerce provides, the playing field is evening out: while the goods being sent abroad could be sold by a big corporation like Amazon, they could also come from an individual working from their spare room – with sellers on eBay and Etsy able to sell internationally at the push of a button.

 

This increases competition for retailers, who must ensure they are keeping pace with the changing landscape. To succeed in the modern retail market, regardless of company size or location, retailers increasingly need to cater to global consumers, as well as the loyal customers who live two roads over.

 

In practice, this means retailers must be able to meet the needs and expectations of foreign customers, as well as domestic ones. For example, consumers in China are unlikely to use click and collect for their purchases – with research showing less than a third used the service in the past year – so foreign retailers will need to rely on home deliveries in China. Retailers need to take into account what consumers expect from deliveries. This can mean catering for vastly different outlooks, as well as dealing with local delivery companies and couriers to ensure the last mile of the delivery runs as smoothly as the initial shipping process which the retailer itself is responsible for.

 

Customer expectations are constantly evolving. Nowhere is this more evident than when selling globally, where a range of different factors influence customer attitudes towards retailers, products and deliveries. This is where retailers need to be particularly careful, or risk damaging their reputation if there are issues with the third parties involved in delivering the goods.

 

However, global deliveries are far more nuanced than simply knowing the legalities of what can be sent to which country and in what quantity. For example, when selling goods to a consumer in the US, retailers should be aware the items are likely to travel much greater distances than a product dispatched in the UK. This means that, for retailers, it can be more difficult to get a delivery estimate, or an update on where the goods are.

 

While it is more challenging to provide a real-time location to US customers, the companies that are able to provide this granular level of detail about delivery expectations are likely to be a step ahead of their competitors. This can be a huge opportunity for retailers to differentiate themselves in the US and provide a better experience for their customers.

 

A BRAVE NEW WORLD

 

Providing accurate delivery details, however, is not the only way for retailers to attract and retain a global customer base. As customers themselves are becoming more aware of the implications of global marketplaces, sustainable delivery is likely to become a key differentiator for retailers, particularly given the vastly differing attitudes to the environment around the world.

 

In Europe, for example, the Institute for Sustainability has been undertaking initiatives including the LaMiLo and Weastflows projects to look at positively impacting the last mile of deliveries and introducing multi-modal transport solutions. For retailers selling to this region, sustainability will be a vital part of the retail process. In other locations however, the environmental aspect of deliveries is less important to shoppers. New York City, for example, has recently banned deliveries by electric bicycle, while also facing increasing levels of pollution – partially attributed to the rise in couriers.

 

While the variety in attitudes presents a challenge for retailers globally, it also hands informed retailers an opportunity to take the lead from their competitors. Retailers have the opportunity to seize the initiative and encourage their international couriers to work with them and drive sustainability in places like the US. This will put them ahead of the curve, while other retailers are racing to catch up to changing consumer attitudes.

 

Armed with the right back-end technologies, retailers will be able to ride out the storm of environmentally friendly, data-driven deliveries. The ability to integrate live data points into their delivery management systems will enable retailers to provide accurate updates to customers, no matter where in the world they, or their customers, are based. This technology also aids retailers in tracking and managing delivery times against contracts and SLAs, as well as ensuring their deliveries are, as far as possible, environmentally friendly.

 

UK retailers who already have this level of insight into their deliveries, and who can implement this on a global level, have the potential to set a ‘gold standard’ for their overseas counterparts. In leading the competition, retailers are able to increase their sales, and customer loyalty, around the globe.

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