The following is part of a series of posts about DispatchTrack’s point of view on the trends that will drive last mile delivery in 2023 and beyond. This week, we’ll be discussing the evolution of B2B deliveries that we see on the horizon for the next year. Check out DispatchTrack's full list of 2023 predictions to learn more.
We talk a lot about the ways that the stakes have been raised for B2C deliveries in the past several years—but what are we actually talking about when we describe the modern delivery experience? Sure, consumers like faster turnarounds and they want as much information at their fingertips as possible. But these things are bells and whistles compared to what a great delivery experience actually provides: certainty and transparency.
The stereotypical image we have of a consumer receiving is of someone delighted to receive the next big thing, but that doesn’t really account for the many circumstances in which, much like a business buyer, the consumer is really depending on whatever they’ve ordered to show up in the right place, at the right time, in the right condition. Consumers want to feel confident that their retailer of choice has them covered and is going to keep their promise.
If that’s what’s at the heart of a great delivery experience, it should come as no surprise that more and more B2B buyers are demanding a B2C-like delivery experience. That level of certainty and confidence is great when you have a new mattress coming your way, but it can be absolutely critical when it’s a case of enhanced water that’s standing between you and empty shelves. Making customers happy while keeping costs down isn’t getting any easier, and a delivery experience that you can rely on can go a long way. The question is: what does that look like in practice, and how do food distributors, wholesalers, and other businesses make it happen?
How B2B Deliveries Are Evolving
Before we get into the ways that B2B delivery is evolving, let’s talk a little bit about what makes up a great B2C experience:
- Accurate ETAs: First and foremost, keeping customers happy depends on delivering on time, which is why generating and sharing ETAs that are precise and accurate is so crucial.
- Real-time delivery tracking: Given the chance, the average consumer will check a live tracking portal 2.5 times to see how their order is progressing on the day of delivery.
- Constant communication: Not only do customers want frequent updates, they want to feel that communication lines are open—i.e. that they can reach out with any problems or issues.
- User-friendliness: Simply put, everything from placing an order to confirming a delivery address to rescheduling a delivery date should be easy and low-stress.
All of these factors come together to give consumers the impression that they’re being taken care of, that their needs are going to be met, and that they can feel confident that they’ll get their order at the right time.
As B2B buying evolves, these elements will become increasingly important. The exact details of the delivery experience will probably continue to differ a fair bit between your average B2B and your average B2C delivery (and even from one B2B delivery to the next), but the basic gist will be the same: B2B buyers will want this level of confidence, connectivity, and flexibility in the way they work with vendors.
For example, a large grocery store grappling with inflation, labor shortages, and volatile demand is likely to increasingly expect their suppliers to stay flexible and adaptable throughout the fulfillment process. They might be making changes to their order mixes at the last minute or requesting off-day deliveries. When these requests come up, they don’t just want flexibility—they want to feel confident, which is precisely why they expect a more elevated, B2C-like customer delivery experience.
Challenges in Elevating B2B Delivery Experience
Your typical B2B buyer might not want as many notifications throughout the delivery process as a typical consumer. They might not check the live ETA of the truck on their own device multiple times. But they certainly want that data to be available to them, and they want to feel connected to the delivery driver and the back-office team.
It’s no secret that this is easier said than done. Organizations that rely on legacy technology tend to have limited flexibility in their routes, and making changes to customer orders at the last minute can create chaos. At the same time, it can be difficult to predict delivery ETAs accurately. This can result in late deliveries, of course, but more often than not it results in delivery schedules that have so much padding between stops that real cost-efficiency is almost impossible. At the same time, accurately predicting and measuring delivery costs on a per-stop level requires a level of visibility that many businesses have found to be difficult to achieve.
In order to provide a great experience to customers, you first need to be executing on these fundamentals. That’s why we expect to see a lot of distributors, wholesalers, and other B2B businesses closely reexamining their tech stacks in 2023—with a particular eye toward optimization and building flexibility into inflexible processes. As delivery planning and execution become more seamless and more efficient, you can start to build a more B2C-like delivery experience on top of a fundamentally sound baseline.
How Technology Impacts Customer Experience in B2B Distribution
2023 is likely to be a year in which businesses turn towards final mile delivery software to effect a digital transformation of their existing processes. But how exactly do B2B delivery organizations do that in order to create a more elevated business delivery experience?
- Real-time visibility: The ability to track your deliveries as they unfold and easily spot exceptions is obviously valuable for your own operations, but turning around and providing that visibility to your customers via a real-time delivery tracking portal is also a crucial way to elevate the delivery experience and build trust.
- AI-powered ETAs: If you don’t have the ability to say at a precise level when the truck is going to arrive at the delivery site, it’s impossible to make promises that you can keep (at least if you want to stay efficient). That’s why leveraging AI during the routing phase to accurately predict arrival times can make such a difference to your customer experience.
- Live delivery notifications: Like we said above, your typical B2B buyer might not want as many notifications as a consumer, but they still need to be kept up to date, e.g. when the truck leaves the warehouse in the morning or when their stop is next. The trick is finding the right cadence and configuring your messages accordingly.
- Two-way communication: Not only does customer experience depend on building confidence, it also depends on building connectivity. You want your clients to feel that they can reach out to you easily with any issues they have, even once the delivery is already underway.
As businesses across the board become more price-conscious, it’s easy to discount things like delivery experience that might be viewed as “intangibles.” But in competitive B2B marketplaces, crafting a delivery experience that really meets client needs as a lot more than a nice-to-have—it can be the difference between winning and losing business. That’s why we expect this to be a major theme in delivery management for 2023.