Procurement 11 September 2015

Why home businesses have to think big when it comes to customer fulfilment

Founder of shipping app Weengs Greg Zontanos, with business partner Alex Christodoulou
Founder of shipping app Weengs Greg Zontanos, with business partner Alex Christodoulou

The CEO of shipping app Weengs shares how to make sure you can keep customers happy from an early stage.

Whether it’s John Lewis charging for its click-and-collect service or Amazon calling for delivery drones, there’s not a week that goes by without some large brand’s fulfilment solutions coming under public scrutiny, or conversely going the extra mile and then some for their consumers. With an incredible half of UK adults reporting problems with online orders – the vast majority of these being poor delivery experiences, according to research from retail software company, JDA – it’s easy to see why this might be the case.

However, repeat custom with a retailer is often dependent on the efficiency and reliability of their final mile or how they get a good into the hands of their customer. And if you think consumers will be more forgiving towards home or micro business just starting up from their kitchen tables, think again. A survey by consumer group Which? revealed that Amazon and eBay were the most frequently mentioned online retailers that shoppers had problems with – platforms where many small businesses first spread their wings.

It’s therefore vital that businesses, no matter how small, who are looking to scale up their operations and grow their customer base integrate fulfilment into the very fabric of their model from the outset – it cannot be a second thought bolted on further down the line.

This does of course mean, first and foremost, providing customers with choice – be that next-day, nominated day, weekend or even same-day delivery – to prove that you’re dedicated to making the experience as seamless and convenient for them as possible, as opposed to bending to the will and schedules of your delivery partners (or post office opening times).

Subsidised or free delivery options are also one of the key ways to stop shoppers from abandoning their shopping carts and to nurture loyalty. That doesn’t necessarily mean absorbing the costs every time – you can manage your spend by encouraging larger orders with minimum thresholds, sticking to certain products with higher margins or only offering reductions on specific delivery methods.

Something that is often overlooked by smaller retailers is also the value of offering free returns. Incorporating reverse logistics into your business operations and processing returned goods can prove sometimes challenging, but it also presents a huge opportunity to increase margins. In fact, our own research at Weengs recently revealed that 76 per cent of online shoppers are more likely to spend, if not exclusively, with retailers that offer free returns. What’s more, our study also found that the average spend with an online retailer that offers free returns is on par with the high street – where consumers would be able to test their purchases first – and almost double that of digital businesses that don’t.

However, above all this, it’s important to remember that there are some things that only a small and nimble business can offer, turning your size into your competitive advantage and enabling you to effectively rival the larger players. You might not be able to deliver to a locker or offer click-and-collect, but in the world of impersonal warehouses, you can offer a level of personalisation and quality that others can’t, whether that’s individual notes to thank people for their custom, carefully considered packaging or how quickly you dispatch orders.

Home and micro businesses might feel intimidated by the well-oiled fulfilment systems of high-street brands, but there’s no reason why their delivery can’t meet, if not exceed all expectations – their size could even be their greatest asset, if they act big in a way that others can’t. What’s important is that they realise that being small does not exempt them from the standards others are setting and in the age of consumer convenience, where everything is on-demand and moulded around the buyer, they need to wow at all times throughout the supply chain, from first click to final delivery.

Greg Zontanos is founder and CEO at on-demand shipping app, Weengs, which offers collection and packaging services in and around London.

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