IT’S A TRICKY balance, but one that leading retailers are achieving. It’s between giving customers the fulfilment choices they want and demand, while ensuring that service is delivered at a profit. Customers are learning fast, from the traders at the forefront of retail logistics, just how accurate and effective delivery, collection and returns can be. That’s not to say that every parcel arrives on time, or every collection is the experience it might be. But services have improved enormously in recent years and today we’re at the beginning of a process that’s opening up new possibilities and aspirations. It’s territory that’s well-mapped in this, our third IRUK 500 Performance Dimension Report, on Operations and Logistics.
When, on Black Friday 2014, delivery services were overwhelmed, consumers let the industry know exactly what they thought. It was a reminder that it’s crucial to keep the delivery promise. That’s a message echoed in our lead interview by Sean McKee, head of ecommerce and customer services at footwear retailer Schuh , which tops this Dimension. In the interview, McKee explains in detail what makes Schuh’s service work, and gives useful insights into how the underlying strategy has developed.
Black Friday is also one of the themes in our strategic overview of the sector, written for us in this report by Sean Fleming, editor of InternetRetailing’s sibling title, eDelivery.net. It goes further to investigate the other challenges facing the sector, and how retailers and logistics providers are already dealing with these. We consider practical steps that some of the UK’s leading retailers are taking to offer top-flight services through case studies on House of Fraser , John Lewis , Superdry and Amazon , and through our feature on 12 techniques retailers are using.
We interrogate our numbers through two research-led features. Analysing the numbers assesses the current state of the industry in this Dimension; while the breaking new ground feature measures the gap between customer expectations and the service customers actually receive.
Finally, we take a long hard look at the challenges of cross-channel returns in our emerging practice feature. As Dr Jonathan Gorst of Sheffield Hallam University explains, so-called ‘reverse logistics’ is a subject that’s coming more and more into focus for retailers trying to reduce waste and maximise profits.
We’d like to thank all our Knowledge Partners in this Dimension Report. In the months ahead, we’ll be turning to the remaining three performance dimensions explored in IRUK 500, 2015. If you are interested in future publications or have queries regarding existing reports. Please email: [email protected]
Jonathan Wright and Chloe Rigby