As an ecommerce brand, the unpredictable nature of the economy and customer habits has likely made 2023 a tricky year to manage so far. You need to save money, make money, and keep customers on board and satisfied. It requires warehouse and logistics teams to be proactive, reactive, and adaptable to these trends and proactive in innovating their services to meet this demand.
Yet traditional methods often stand firm. To evolve, it requires a collective acceptance of new ways of working. The most exciting and innovative retailers — A.K.A the trailblazers and trendsetters — are constantly undergoing operational shifts and process changes to optimise delivery and meet customer expectations. These shifts can then trigger universal changes across all retailers and carriers.
From new ways of managing delivery times to adopting a flexible balance in delivery options, we’re already seeing some retailers introduce new best practice procedures in 2023, which are themselves changing and evolving.
Evolving organisational designs, evolving ways of working
The role of a carrier manager is stretched as it is, managing everything that comes with warehouse logistics, budgets, and contracts with multiple carriers. Larger organisations are seeing that managing delivery operations and overseeing the technology that powers them are jobs in their own right.
As a result, they are moving towards a product-led organisational design. Now, they have a product manager who is looking after the company’s integrations, with delivery products and services and how they fit within the business. And with more stakeholders involved than with traditional carrier management, the role is set to grow further.
The emergence of product-led management is being joined by changes to working practices. One of the most significant changes is date and time innovation. Traditionally, from warehouse ops to road freight and haulage, the industry has quantified delivery timescales in whole day units. So, for example, if you shipped an item on day one and delivered it on day two, that would make it a premium service; a day three arrival would be an economy service.
But the emergence of same day deliveries shows that, nowadays, ops never stop. Warehouses are active pretty much 24/7, so the concept of working in whole day units is vanishing. Instead, systems are adapting to managing deliveries by the hour, reducing the role of ‘midnight’ as a point of reference. Through this change, delivery platforms can mark allocation times for your packages and optimise efficiency by working off changing delivery updates.
Finding the flexible balance
The more you second guess what consumers are looking for, the higher the risk you’re going to get it wrong. If you’re just opting for a ‘cheapest is best’ strategy, for instance, you might be alienating certain demographics who prioritise different delivery requirements; for example, people who prefer flexibility with delivery time or value the eco credentials of how it is transported.
The leading retailers strike a balance between economy, flexibility, quality, and everything in between; it’s better to offer more options and spread your bets. Different brands are likely to set the equalisers differently, as they have to meet the needs of specific consumers. What it comes down to is adopting a balanced, flexible approach that keeps an eye on what your consumers are looking for.
This flexible balance is also fine-tuned to tackle another industry difficulty: ‘shipping empty air’. When it comes to carrier networks, space is everything. Each vehicle has its own cubic capacity, so if you’re shipping packages with empty air in them, you’re flushing extra pennies down the drain. On the flip side, it would also be too time-consuming and inefficient to intricately package every item and load every item with absolutely no air at all.
Automating packaging selection and using clever allocation tech can help make the process more efficient. It can remove the need for a human judgement call and ensure that parcels are loaded into the right retailers for the most efficient and optimised transportation by using clever routing and split shipment management.
Taking control to keep pace
If you are looking to implement delivery software, you need to aim for full control over systems and ways of operating. Delivery and post-purchase should be an area that is continually reviewed as a business scales and changes.
It can sometimes be the case that employees come up with new ideas of how to offer value to consumers or the retailer, but the tech they have will struggle to facilitate this change. So, it’s essential to make sure that your partners are either leading the way or at least keeping pace with the way your language or working practice is evolving.
While it can be hard to keep on top of this constant change, being open and responsive to industry shifts can not only help you keep up with the leaders but help create your own strategies to steal a share of the market.