By Becky Clark, CEO, NetDespatch
In today’s digital ‘always-on’ world, consumer expectations are evolving and retailers must respond accordingly. As e-retail sales continue to grow, the lines are blurring for the consumer between different retail channels. With most shoppers now viewing these as completely interchangeable, retailers must ensure they can deliver the same experience across all their channels, including fulfilment and despatch, to create a truly omnichannel experience for the consumer.
In whatever way the consumer engages with the retailer’s brand, whether online or offline, searching, browsing, or ordering: it must leave shoppers with the same positive impression every time. Fast and efficient order processing is now essential, with the expectation that orders will be fulfilled and despatched the same day. To satisfy this, retailers must work to streamline the processes between their omnichannel, ecommerce and warehouse management platforms, through to their carrier’s labelling and operational systems, meaning that orders can get out of the door as quickly as possible, and that consumers can be updated with the delivery progress every step of the way.
Marketing of a wealth of new delivery and returns options to the marketplace has meant that consumers are becoming more aware, and want to be given the choice of where to collect and return their parcels. Availability of ‘Click and Collect’ on the High Street is being supplemented by thousands of convenient locations, in stores and lockers, through services such as Collect+, Smiths News Pass My Parcel, Royal Mail Local Collect and Delivered by Tesco – all complementing the mainstay of home delivery.
Tracking and returning parcels easily and simply is therefore important, as is streamlining the returns process. Gone are the days when consumers would wait patiently for a month to get their money back; consumers expect fast refunds. Online shopping has meant that returns are a sharply increasing headache for retailers. Not only is there the processing overhead, which can impact heavily on profit; but with annual spike dates such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas, the associated returns are an increasingly pressing operational challenge.
Today, a retailer’s returns policy may have a considerable impact on consumer buying habits. An ineffective returns policy, particularly in cross-border purchases, may make consumers decide to shop elsewhere – a direct impact on profits. Conversely, retailers may find that consumers are more likely to order online when offered more choice in terms of collection and return options.
The good news is that retailers – at no extra cost – can reduce the headaches associated with omnichannel retailing through a carrier-recommended, seamlessly integrated web-order-to-despatch processing platform. As well as producing shipping labels and customs documentation, and alerting the consumer and the carrier, the NetDespatch platform can automatically receive order data from most popular ecommerce platforms, and warehouse and order management systems, with all the required tracking event data being passed back to the relevant party.
NetDespatch is retained by post and parcel carriers such as Royal Mail, New Zealand Post and Asendia, as well as 65% of the current UK ‘Click and Collect’ locations, to provide their web-based customer facing IT solutions, and currently processes parcel data for 100,000+ businesses in 114 countries across the globe.
As online sales see no signs of abating and as retailers look to deliver that ‘connected’ experience across all their channels, so retailers must ensure an enhanced consumer experience that delivers positive brand association. This means ease of ordering, multiple delivery options, visibility of tracking, convenient, fast and inexpensive returns – ultimately an end-to-end, seamless and reliable shopping experience.