Inspired by true events.

We live in an age where buyers are impatient, demanding, and in control. With merchants having to find new and innovative ways to compete – you can rarely compete on price these days – and buyers prioritising convenience over price, getting the order into the buyers hands as quickly as possible has become the target for many merchants.

“Argos offers same day delivery. As do Amazon, Tesco and Currys.

What this shows us is that merchants are using their delivery service as a competitive differentiator, whether it be same-day delivery, next-day delivery or free delivery. Getting the order to the customer as quickly as possible is the goal.

This however creates a problem when logistics are outsourced/sub-contracted to a third-party.  By working with a courier or other logistics company, what merchants are doing is losing control of the final, and sometimes most memorable, experience of the order – the last mile.

A merchant can have the nicest, cleanest, easiest website to use, and sell the best, most in-demand and reliable product, coupled with same day despatch. The merchant has done everything possible to offer the customer the best experience and service, and now trusts the courier to continue the high – or at least acceptable – level of service it has provided thus far.

“The last mile describes the final step of the ecommerce process, delivering the order to the customer.

But wait, buyers don’t like paying for shipping, and when they do, often the delivery price is price sensitive, so what options does a merchant have? Go for a cheap (often questionable) provider and hope for the best and that customers will accept a 3 to 5 day wait for their parcel, or do they ensure the service is (highly likely) maintained and pay the extra cost, possibly absorbing the difference if they can’t pass this cost onto the buyer?

Whilst I know that problems can inevitably happen with any courier/logistics company, reputation precedes and the issues often correlate with the cost.

Investing in a good, reputable courier ensures a merchant has done as much as is reasonably expected of them ensure continuation of a quality service. Many couriers are now keeping recipients updated on delivery slots or updates to the parcel’s whereabouts, ensuring buyers don’t need to wait in all day for the courier to arrive.

Viewing the courier as a cost rather than an investment tells you – in my opinion – that a merchant doesn’t value the last mile and is prepared to gamble customer dissatisfaction at the expense of cost-saving.

The last mile is key to customer satisfaction, and is the most memorable part of the experience. Few people remember site navigation, one-click checkout, address autocomplete, etc. but even fewer will forget a bad experience with the delivery of their order.

“Sometimes choosing the cheapest courier can result in higher costs

When a customer contacts the merchant to chase delivery, someone not only spends time answering the phone/email, but then has to contact the courier, possibly chase, and then update the customer. Calculate the time spent doing this into money, and it’s a cost which brings into question whether a £1 to £2 saving per consignment is justifiable.

Merchants love customers who don’t need to contact them – which is why websites have FAQ, delivery and shipping information pages.  Whilst a lack of customer interaction is a big no no, we can shift this element of our marketing strategy onto social media and email marketing to remain human and approachable.

“they have technically done nothing wrong, great price and fast despatch…just failed at the last mile

As mentioned at the start, this article was inspired after a problem I experienced with a recent order from a nationwide retailer.  I have had countless issues with the courier, who shares the same name as the Greek God of trade and commerce (Google it if you don’t know who it is) and unfortunately this now puts into question whether to order from retailer in the future or not – they have technically done nothing wrong, great price and fast despatch…just failed at the last mile.

Knowing this courier has always had problems with delivering to my office (most times attempting deliveries in the evening) I’ll think twice before ordering from the merchant again. And it is their fault that I am thinking this, not the courier’s.  The retailer chose to use the courier, to focus on price rather than service, and their lack of investment in the courier can only result in below-par ROI.  What will my LTV (LifeTime Value) with the retailer be? Lower than if they used a reputable courier I trust.

Investing an additional few pounds in selecting a good courier to succeed at the last mile can grow your top and bottom-line numbers, reduce customer dissatisfaction, increase the NPS (Net Promoter Score) and ensure you are working towards the highest LTV from customers as possible.

by Luigi