It’s increasingly evident that the customer experience is driving the retail evolution and continuing to create new challenges for businesses across the globe. With consumer expectations at an all-time high, businesses are expected to know exactly who their customers are, what they want, and how to create a competitive experience that will rise above the rest.
For instance, services like Amazon Prime, Uber and DoorDash are setting a precedent for immediate communication from merchants, and customers are growing accustomed to lightning-speed service as a result. Operating in what has now been dubbed the “Now Economy,” it’s clear that businesses, and their supply chains, must evolve from traditional practices and reach consumers in a fast and cost-effective manner.
As consumer demands have skyrocketed and purchasing behaviors have radically shifted, old business tactics are rendered inadequate. This makes it that much more important for merchants to get to know the new wants of their evolving customers and to offer a competitive purchasing experience. An in-depth understanding of customer purchasing behaviors helps businesses understand how they can meet these expectations and deliver goods closer to the moment of need.
The instant-service mindset carries forward to the delivery of goods, and retailers in particular must accommodate customers’ ever-increasing demands. Providing a favorable customer experience is no longer just a competitive advantage, but the difference between staying relevant in a changing landscape or falling behind in the industry. As customers become more empowered with a plethora of options, retailers oftentimes only have one chance to wow shoppers with a one-of-a-kind experience.
Expediting The Last Mile
When it comes to predicting what customers want, having a deep understanding of consumer purchasing behavior is key. Businesses are even starting to implement tools to stay two steps ahead of the purchasing process. Take for example the tactic of anticipatory shipping, which leverages analytics and algorithms to place an order before a consumer even adds the product to their cart.
By understanding these shifts in purchasing habits, businesses can leverage this knowledge to complete a majority of the purchasing transaction, leaving only the last mile of delivery to manage. This greatly expedites the shipping timeframe and in turn exceeds customer expectations for speedy and convenient delivery.
The Ultimate Fast Delivery
Retailers can utilize customer preferences not only to initiate the purchasing process and expedite the last mile, but also to create a competitive customer experience in other ways. A prime example is Amazon’s Treasure Truck, which loads trucks with awaited, must-have items and drives around towns in the U.S. alerting customers via text message. Having desired items just a short walk or drive away is a powerful tactic in the age of instant gratification and demonstrates the power of using technology to stay a few steps ahead. Afterall, the only thing better than one- to two-day shipping is no shipping wait at all.
Quality Remains Key
It’s clear that speedy delivery is no longer a “nice to have,” but the bare minimum for retailers to remain successful in the Now Economy. However, expedited timeframes translate into more challenges to ensure quality while meeting expectations.
Sales events such as Amazon Prime Day are a great opportunity for businesses to capitalize on a surge in demand, if and only if they are prepared to manage a sudden uptake in business. During this year’s Prime Day, some businesses reported up to a whopping 64% increase in digital sales during the event. However, a majority of retailers are struggling to reap these benefits, and it’s not uncommon for some to fall short of the quality expectations of customers. As consumers have become hyper-sensitive to these experiences, businesses typically have one chance to get this right.
In the booming Now Economy, businesses will need to carefully analyze the state of their supply chains and consider next-generation tools that will allow them to deliver on a superior customer experience. While this will inevitably be a challenge for the industry, those that master a deep understanding of their customers will rise above the rest and reap the benefits of their loyalty.
Katie Kinraid is General Manager APAC at BluJay Solutions, a leading provider of supply chain software and services powered by the world’s first Global Trade Network. BluJay’s customers are some of the world’s most progressive retailers, distributors, freight forwarders, manufacturers and logistics service providers.