By Jack Underwood, Founder and CEO of Circuit
In 2020, the emergence of COVID-19 meant a rewriting of everything we once knew. As businesses worked to curb the spread of coronavirus by shutting their doors, new ones opened in the form of greater online retail use. Naturally, this resulted in a greater reliance on delivery drivers as the rate of ecommerce increased. It is because of this, that delivery drivers became the face of varying businesses and their increased work rate even saw them labelled as essential workers. This, of course, has also meant there are new challenges and thus, new resources that will be required to mitigate this – such as technology.
Online shopping dramatically increased over the past year and the figures remain high. According to research published by Natwest and Retail Economics, online retail sales saw the equivalent of five years’ growth in just 12 months in 2020 and the ONS found that 35.2% of all retail sales this January took place online. With online sales being the chief way many consumers will now interact with a brand, the ecommerce experience has had to replace all aspects of a physical store. Social media posts are the new window displays, websites are the new bricks and mortar, and delivery drivers, the only in-person contact a customer will have, are the new front of house.
This poses an issue for retailers. The delivery stage of the customer journey is underdeveloped and ill-equipped to deal with the uncertainty that is unavoidably part and parcel of sending a package. Order delays and customer absences come with the territory but consumers quickly get frustrated if changes aren’t communicated, delivery times aren’t detailed, there’s no option to talk to the driver, or if packages are abandoned in inappropriate locations. These negative experiences sour brand perception and, as delivery is often the final point of contact between brand and consumer, they have a long-lasting effect.
If retailers want to maintain a positive brand image and protect and improve sales, they need to invest in their new front of house teams. As it stands, it’s as if ecommerce companies have hired a group of in-store assistants but have handed them a POS system from ten years ago and are wondering why it’s difficult to do a good job. They need to be finding new ways to support delivery teams and give them the tools required to properly serve customers and fulfil their role as brand ambassadors.
Innovative technology can help smooth an uneven delivery experience; by sending a customer detailed delivery information, for example, they don’t have to put their day on hold for one drop off. It means giving them a medium to directly connect with drivers for last-minute updates and to inform them of any issues. It means investing in software that optimises routes and van organisation so customers can get their parcels faster and deliveries aren’t held back by inefficiency and unnecessary delays.
But it’s not just about serving the needs of the consumer. Tools that make deliveries easier are crucial for driver satisfaction and this can’t be ignored if they are to represent your brand. The online shift is about recognising delivery drivers as an integral part of a company’s customer service team and treating them accordingly. This means supporting them with the best technology to do their job, having an oversight of their day-to-day and being able to connect with them easily and directly throughout their shift. Forward-thinking companies will be looking to reinforce this new role even further and whitelabel communications between delivery drivers and customers to firmly establish drivers as part of their front of house team.
Businesses were able to continue serving their customers but the retail landscape has been altered indefinitely. The shift has given new weight and responsibility to elements of ecommerce and more distinctively to the delivery process. For retailers to remain strong in this period, they must embrace a competitive spirit and be proactive in giving drivers and customers the support they require.