Retail Week and MetaPack explore how ecommerce and supply chain teams can work together to create a winning fulfilment strategy.

Delivery is today’s necessary obsession. A slick proposition is critical to that all-important customer experience. With mounting pressure to offer increasingly diverse fulfilment options, the demands on organisations’ infrastructures are huge.

While some retailers have successfully aligned website and order-focused ecommerce teams with fulfilment and operations-driven supply chain leaders and their approaches to delivery, others confess that there is still some discord.

Exclusive, anonymous, in-depth interviews with the ecommerce and supply chain directors of leading retailers, carried out as part of Retail Week and MetaPack’s new Bridging the Delivery Gap report, reveal some eye-opening contrasts when it comes to the different functions’ attitudes and priorities around fulfilment.

Metapack web

Metapack web

For instance, speed is viewed as more important to consumers by ecommerce executives, with 83% of those surveyed ranking it as a top three customer priority compared with just a third of supply chain personnel.

And, although the rise in super-quick delivery offers, such as Amazon’s Prime Now one-hour delivery service, may suggest speed matters above all else, precision is, in fact, viewed as the biggest driver of satisfaction around delivery.

Some 42% of retail executives interviewed say precision of delivery time has had the biggest impact on brand sentiment.

There’s a race in the industry to offer the quickest and cheapest delivery, but our customer is more concerned about reliability

Supply chain director of a toy retailer

This was given equal footing by both ecommerce and supply chain directors in terms of being their number-one driver for boosting customer satisfaction, and is set to be a key area of investment over the next couple of years.

“There’s a race in the industry to offer the quickest and cheapest delivery, but our customer is more concerned about reliability,” says the supply chain director of a toy retailer.

Should consumers pay?

Meanwhile, the issue of whether customers are willing to – or should have to – pay to have their high expectations met continues to rouse debate across business functions.  

“Delivery shouldn’t be free,” says the ecommerce director of one value fashion retailer. “There’s a cost associated with it for us. It impacts our margins. The problem is that the UK public have been spoilt and it’s difficult to introduce a charge when your rivals are giving it away for free.”

The UK public have been spoilt and it’s difficult to introduce a charge when your rivals are giving it away for free

Ecommerce director of a value fashion retailer

However, Retail Week’s survey found that retailers do not think cost is the be-all-and-end-all for consumers. Only 8% of ecommerce and supply chain directors say value for money was the main lever for consumer satisfaction around delivery.

Collaboration is king

Black Friday preparation and success is keeping retailers on their toes and demands cross-function cohesion. Many retailers now adopt a 12-month planning cycle to get into gear for the big day.

As the event approaches and extreme volumes have to be managed, ad hoc decisions need to be made, and the relationship between back-end operations and the front end of a website must to be stronger than ever to communicate to customers what is happening to orders and delivery times.

Almost two thirds of retailers interviewed claim the relationship between the back-end operations and front-end, customer-facing website was either strong or very strong.

However, ecommerce executives were slightly less positive about the relationship. Delivery is a key differentiator in retail, and facilitating necessarily agile and flexible supply chains requires more collaborative working than ever before.

For further findings, download the full report here.

Watch a short video here.