From returns strategies to sustainability tracking, nShift’s Lars Dige Pedersen looks at how retailers can lay the groundwork for a triumphant 2024

After the rush of peak season, multichannel and ecommerce retailers are in the midst of the “groundwork quarter”, the crucial period at the beginning of every year where retailers prepare for success in the months ahead.

Following a disappointing uplift in sales at the end of 2023, this quarter’s preparations will be especially important.

How orders are shipped to customers is a crucial ingredient of ecommerce success during peak – and throughout the rest of the year.

Groundwork quarter presents a good opportunity to make sure retailers have the right capabilities in place on this front.

The delivery experience is the customer experience

Customer loyalty is essential to increasing revenue and depends on a satisfactory customer experience. But many retailers are happy to hand that experience over to their delivery carrier.

Deliveries, however, risk becoming the weak link in the ecommerce experience. A third of UK shoppers reported problems with deliveries in the run-up to Christmas as found in Citizens Advice research. And, according to a recent nShift/Retail Week survey:

  • Almost half (48%) of respondents agreed that if they had a bad delivery experience, they’d be reluctant to recommend a retailer or brand to friends and family
  • 43% agreed that a failure to find their preferred shipment option had caused them to abandon a retailer
  • However, 58% of shoppers would buy again from retailers that deliver purchases efficiently

These findings show that what happens after a customer clicks ‘buy now’ really matters. Delivery management is key to driving ecommerce success.

Retailers can’t afford to depend on just one or a few carriers. The more carrier connections they have, the more dependable their deliveries will be and the more choices they can offer to their customers.

Delivery management also streamlines internal operations.

A platform for delivery management with a large carrier library can unlock efficiencies in logistics and fulfilment.

As well as improving overall delivery reliability, it can help logistics and fulfilment teams’ productivity, shipping more items without needing to hire more people, and making it easier for retailers to expand into new overseas markets.

The right platform also makes it easy to compare carrier costs and performance, helping to secure value for money.

Solving the ‘trillion-dollar problem’ of returns

Handling returns is expensive. Each return is estimated to cost around £20, costing British retailers £7bn a year overall. It’s little wonder that market analysts Gartner have dubbed returns a “trillion-dollar problem”.

But nShift’s research found that today’s shoppers expect to return unwanted purchases free of charge. If shoppers can’t see how they could easily return something, they are less likely to buy in the first place.

Retailers need strategies to reduce the revenue hit, such as:

  • Incentivising customers to return items in-store, making it easier to get them back on sale and increasing the likelihood of customers accepting an exchange
  • Offering recommendations for exchanges on online returns portals
  • Supporting streamlined processes for getting returned items back on shelves without delay

Whichever approach retailers take, a digitised experience for requesting and tracking returns is vital.

Sustainability concerns

Measuring sustainability matters. While 81% of shoppers want to buy from brands that demonstrate sustainability, around 40% distrust brands’ environmental claims, according to a study by SmartestEnergy. At the same time, retailers must comply with EU emission reporting rules.

Closely tracking and calculating the CO2 emissions associated with each shipment will enable retailers to comply with these rules, prove their environmental credentials to consumers and identify where reductions in emissions can be made.

Going for gold

Peak season continues to represent the greatest revenue opportunity of the year for retailers. Success depends on careful planning. And feedback from customers shows how much importance they attach to deliveries.

That’s why it’s crucial at this stage of the year that warehouses and retailers ensure their delivery management capability is the best it can be.

Not only will it boost transport capacity during peak, but it can also enhance the customer experience and increase both conversions and customer loyalty.

  • Find out more about how nShift can assist retailers during groundwork quarter and beyond  
Dr Lars Dige Pedersen is the CEO of nShift, the global leader in parcel delivery management and shipment software.