When it comes to deliveries of virtually any kind, consumers and shippers fundamentally want the same thing: they want the order to arrive at the right time, for the recipient to be at the delivery site to receive the order, for the successful delivery to be effectively documented, and generally for everything to go according to plan.
And yet, the relationship between customer and delivery organization can often feel almost adversarial. Consumers are constantly worried about whether the order will arrive on time and whether they have the most up-to-date information—shippers are, frankly, worried about the same, in addition to being concerned that the customer might not be at the site to accept the delivery when it arrives. Both parties want the same thing—and both parties blame the other when something goes wrong.
According to DispatchTrack’s 2022 Big and Bulky Delivery Report, the kind of consumer frustration we alluded to above isn’t unusual. In fact, the report revealed growing frustration with deliveries—and it’s easy to see why. More than half of big and bulky deliveries wind up being rescheduled (a process that consumers usually find to be a hassle), and nearly half of consumers have been frustrated by a delivery that didn’t arrive at the right time (often, early is just as bad as late).
But it doesn’t have to be this way—retailers and other businesses can delight their customers and make themselves more competitive if they listen to consumers’ needs and work to create processes that meet them. The first order of business? Letting your customers track their delivery orders.
What Does the Data Say About Consumer Delivery Preferences?
One of the most striking things about our research was how much it demonstrated the importance of communication and transparency in last mile deliveries. 90% of respondents said that they wanted to be able to track their orders. Not everyone felt like real-time tracking was a necessity, not everyone had a clear preference for communication methods, but there was no ambiguity about the basic fact: your customers want to know what’s happening with their deliveries. If you can offer that to them, you can earn their loyalty and repeat business. If you can’t, more than 60% will consider looking for another retailer.
Here are a few other highlights from the data:
- Half of consumers blame negative delivery experiences on poor communication.
- Yet one in three consumers weren’t able to track their most recent delivery, and only 28% were able to see the delivery truck location in real time.
- The overwhelming majority of consumers (80%) want to receive delivery status updates.
- Text is generally the preferred medium for delivery information (with 70% of consumers responding favorably to receiving text messages), but many consumers also appreciate emails and phone calls.
Predicting consumer demand for particular products or services will always be a crapshoot—especially in an era of high demand and supply chain volatility. But predicting what customers will demand in their deliveries is significantly easier: they want to be able to track their orders, they want frequent status updates, and they want clear communication. If you can offer that in spite of the volatility and uncertainty that’s swirling around virtually every other part of the supply chain, you can delight your customers and achieve true right-time deliveries.
Why Are Order Tracking and Transparency So Important?
So there’s not too much mystery as to what customers want out of a delivery experience. But let’s back up a step and ask why, exactly, these things are so important to modern day consumers. After all, even a few years ago no one expected this level of transparency and predictability in their home deliveries.
This is the part where most people start talking about the Amazon Effect. Though the impact of their fulfillment approach has no doubt had a huge hand in shaping the way that consumers think about deliveries, they’re not necessarily the standard for big and bulky deliveries, for instance. But what Amazon and other businesses have done in recent years that’s so impactful is to prove that high levels of transparency are possible.
Rewind twenty years, and the average customer waiting on a new piece of exercise equipment wants exactly the same delivery experience described above—they just know they’re not going to get it, because the technology doesn’t exist. But today, they know that it’s possible to receive real-time updates on their orders. They also know that it’s possible to get real-time, self-serve order tracking on their own devices—they’ve probably experienced it with food deliveries or even some retail deliveries—with ETAs being updated in real time. All of this makes it that much more frustrating when they buy from a business that doesn’t offer order status updates or live tracking.
To be clear, none of this is simply a luxury or a nice-to-have. When your customers don’t know when to expect their orders, they’re significantly more likely to miss the delivery—creating huge headaches for both of you and significantly increasing your delivery costs. They’re also more likely to call customer service to ask for updates, which simply doesn’t scale when you’re making hundreds or thousands of deliveries each day. When your deliveries run late, this problem is only made worse—customers know that late deliveries happen (nearly half of survey respondents had experienced one for a big and bulky item), but when they’re left in the dark about delays they’re more likely to get annoyed.
How to Keep Customers in the Loop Throughout the Last Mile
Like we said at the beginning of this post, rising consumer expectations don’t have to be a stumbling block. In fact, they can help businesses that focus on transparency and communication to delight their existing customers and attract new ones. Here are a few best practices for doing just that:
- Notify customers early and often: this means sending a schedule confirmation message before you route, an ETA notification once the route has been set, a text when the driver has left the hub or warehouse (with an ETA), and a notification when the customer’s stop is next on the route.
- Offer real-time tracking: customers should be able to see the movement of the delivery truck in real-time from a branded tracking portal that shows order details, driver information, and a live ETA.
- Reach out about late deliveries: keeping customers informed means letting them know when expectations change—to make that happen, you need enough internal supply chain visibility to immediately spot delivery exceptions.
- Enable two-way communication: even when things are going exactly according to plan, it can be helpful for customers to have the option of contacting your team directly—even if that’s just to let the driver know that the doorbell is out of order.
- Automate as much as possible: you can still give customers that personal touch while sending out messages that have been automatically triggered by your last mile delivery system
- Leverage multiple means of communication: texts, emails, and phone calls can all be valuable tools in your communication toolkit.
Last mile deliveries are not an exact science—there will always be disruptions to contend with and late deliveries to remedy. But as we’ve learned from polling consumers, transparency can go a long way towards ensuring a great delivery experience.