As ecommerce has skyrocketed, 90% of Fortune 500 retailers have turned to third-party logistics (3PL) partners to scale operations by outsourcing their warehousing, picking, packing and last mile delivery needs. This has huge implications on shopper experiences and satisfaction.
Customers don’t only judge retailers by the products and prices they offer. From the moment they place an order to when that order arrives at their door, customers expect top-notch service. So is it any wonder why consumers said previous good experiences, and the speed of delivery, are among what drives their purchasing decisions? In fact, more than 80% of consumers said they would walk away from a brand they love after three or fewer bad experiences. And that includes the shipping experience.
This begs the question: how can you tell if your 3PL partner is hindering your shoppers’ experience? Retailers need to be on the lookout for these red flags:
They aren’t transparent.
At a time when consumers have endless shopping options at their fingertips, retailers must prioritize establishing and maintaining customer trust. One way to achieve this is by simply being transparent, especially where shipping and delivery are concerned.
Consumers want to be in the know. They want ETA text messages, real-time updates, and immediate notifications when delays arise. Why is this important? If customers have a bad experience, 23% said they won’t order from a retailer again. As retailers continue to face supply chain disruptions and product delays, they need a 3PL partner to deliver on these customer expectations.
They don’t provide end-to-end logistics.
The post-purchase experience is among the most influential of the entire consumer journey.
When this process is fragmented and/or outsourced to multiple logistics vendors, retailers run the risk of losing customers because the number of touchpoints in the ecommerce experience increases. This is why a vertically integrated 3PL with end-to-end services comes in clutch.
The best 3PL for ecommerce can seamlessly support the end-to-end order lifecycle, which includes inventory management, warehousing, picking, packing, shipping, delivery, installation and returns.
With this entire process fulfilled by one partner, retailers strengthen the customer experience by providing visibility and efficiency across every supply chain function. End-to-end logistics works not only to streamline every fulfillment function, but also to make the process more cost effective. Increased affordability in the supply chain allows retailers to be more competitive with prices.
End-to-end logistics providers also have more insight on customer needs and can execute the personalized experience they expect. That’s good news as 60% of consumers say they’ll likely become a repeat buyer after a personalized shopping experience. If a 3PL doesn’t provide end-to-end logistics, it could signal a lack of customer awareness. That can undercut the personalized customer experience and push shoppers to brands prioritizing that personal touch.
They don’t use logistics technology.
The fulfillment process is the culmination of a purchase. It’s when customer excitement builds while tracking an order from the warehouse to their doorstep. It’s also an opportunity for retailers to gain customer loyalty by partnering with a 3PL who keeps their operations agile and flexible.
Retailers need a partner with technological expertise to fast-track the fulfillment process and make it more convenient for retailers and customers alike. To achieve this, retailers can partner with a 3PL using advanced technologies to smooth out the entire fulfillment process. That is, they should use machine learning, business intelligence and transportation management systems (TMS) to more effectively manage every movement of inventory.
What’s more, their technology should be able to integrate among other technologies, including existing infrastructure. Your 3PL partner should be able to seamlessly receive an order from an online store, then pull, pack, ship and deliver it out of the nearest fulfillment center in their network.
From there, 3PLs with real-time truck tracking applications allow customers to pinpoint the exact location of their orders. Leveraging text messaging, this technology can prompt customers with tips on how to prepare for their deliveries and give up-to-the-minute data on when an order will arrive. Without this last mile delivery tracking, shoppers are often tethered to long delivery windows. By investing in technology, 3PLs prove to retailers and their customers that their time matters.
They don’t practice sustainability.
Price, product quality, enhanced delivery options and easy returns are among the top factors influencing consumer buying decisions. Also topping the list: environmentally friendly practices.
For 50% of consumers today, sustainability is a top-five purchasing driver.
With 85% percent of people worldwide indicating they’ve shifted their purchase behavior toward being more sustainable, retailers have an opportunity to boost their planet-positive efforts. It can start with utilizing recycled packaging and bags, adopting renewable energy sources and digital receipts, and implementing greener delivery methods to get goods to conscious consumers.
Eco-conscious 3PLs could be powered by an all-electric fleet and alternative fuels, or offer multiple ways of carrying out last mile deliveries with different partnerships and transport modes. Circling back to technology, 3PLs using technology to minimize trips and distance covered are doing their part to reduce their carbon footprint. If your 3PL partner doesn’t share your customers’ commitment to sustainability or propel your eco-conscious initiatives forward, you could miss your chance to connect with customers on a common cause.
A final thought for the road…
In today’s ecommerce-fueled retail landscape, how a shopper’s order is fulfilled and delivered can be the defining moment of their overall shopping experience. To rise above competitors and build brand loyalty, retailers need to vet 3PLs to ensure providers will create a consistently great experience for shoppers.