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EDC16: Practicality and professionalising the last mile


Last year the first ever eDelivery Conference (EDC) took place in London on 13 October. This year it returns to London’s Novotel West on 11 October, and the overarching theme of EDC16 will be practicality.
Creating options and providing robust solutions could be the mantra of the multichannel professionals responsible for SOLD – supply chain, operations, logistics and delivery.

The infrastructural aspects of multichannel retail are creating new capabilities to be turned into customer promises. Our theme for the second annual eDelivery Conference is practicality; our two tracks “Availability” and “Experience” will analyse those much needed practical approaches to fulfil the multichannel promise.

It wasn’t that long ago that offering free delivery was the default for new customer acquisition. But it’s a costly approach and some people are predicting that within the next five years free delivery won’t be on offer anywhere. Maybe you should be looking at alternatives like fast delivery – you can charge for that and add value to the customer.

Now, I’m not about to start arguing there’s no place for free delivery or that it won’t continue to attract customers but if you’re going to bet on free delivery for goodness sake make sure you’re not going to incur costs or cause yourself unnecessary difficulties. For example, the carrier system you’re using has to be completely dependable, and it absolutely must enable you to keep the promises you make to your customers.

Here’s an example of something that happened to me not long ago. I placed an order with a retailer offering free delivery for about £45 worth of food and drink. Some of it was perishable.

Later that same day I got an email telling me my order had been fulfilled but that “tracking information on carrier website is not available.” There was also a tracking number. But no indication of who the carrier was.

I found out who the carrier was the following morning (which was a Friday) when a card was pushed through my letterbox. The soonest I could get a redelivery … not until after the weekend. Or I could drive 50 miles to the depot to collect my parcel. There’d been no email, no SMS, nothing at all to hint at when the delivery would be made.

End result – the order was cancelled and returned from the carrier’s DC.

Moral of the story – don’t allow systems to let you and your customers down.

The carrier industry itself still has a long way to go, of course. Every week I hear from someone about a rubbish delivery experience they’ve had – and I use the word ‘rubbish’ deliberately. That’s right, I’m talking about couriers leaving parcels in customers’ household waste bins.

I have a lot of sympathy for the drivers. Many are self-employed, getting paid a fixed price for each parcel they deliver. Having to go back to an address a second time is costly and onerous.

But the industry simply has to sort itself out and put an end to things like parcels being chucked over walls, dropped into bins, and in one infamous case, lobbed up onto the roof of a house. People aren’t always at home when deliveries are being made. Yet delivery companies persist in attempting to deliver to people’s homes without knowing if there’ll be anyone in, without having an acceptable Plan B that doesn’t involve cost. It’s been years since it became apparent that people weren’t always in. What’s changed? Lots has changed – there are alerts and notifications, apps, alternative delivery points, lockers, and as Chris Dawson’s can attest, there are boxes.

The last mile has to become more professional. Not less. Getting the right things to the right people and places, at the right time is an increasingly complex problem. It’s not going to be solved by adhering to processes and practices that haven’t changed in the last 15 years.

For more details please visit the EDC16 website. We hope to see you there.

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