Digitally connected consumers are always looking for a bargain, convenience and a seamless experience when buying online. However, while the website may be the doorman for a happy customer experience, the service is only complete once the customer has the goods in hand. Online shopping portals have had to up their game in terms of creating user-friendly sites and secure payments but delivery remains pivotal to completing the cyber shopping experience.
Considering eCommerce has grown exponentially over the past few years and is forecast to be worth R53 billion this year, it is no surprise that logistics regarding getting goods safely to their destination has become all important. No retailer is as dependent on timeous and secure delivery as those online. This has, in turn, seen a growth in courier companies.
According to RunwaySale, one of SA’s top online retailers, meticulous planning, tailor-made solutions and attention to detail is pivotal. CEO, Karl Hammerschmidt says that finding the right courier partner is crucial. ‘We had some hiccups in the early days when we used a mix of traditional delivery methods and courier services and soon realised we needed a partner with a similar ethos. Someone who would be part of the team and grow with us. Now with our own warehouse and strategic partners in place we are receiving positive feedback from customers regarding the streamlined process and decreased delivery times.
‘The consumer experience must be fuss-free, from the first click on the website through to the purchase, payment, tracking of the product and final delivery. Our philosophy from the outset has been ‘service above all else’ and this has remained the basis for the relationship with our 1 million+ members as well as our suppliers.’
The cost of delivery
Hammerschmidt says that charging for delivery is a challenge for the industry. ‘Offering free delivery would enhance the growth of eCommerce and we understand consumers’ expectations around this. However, we operate within a heavily discounted and small margin space – up to 70% off designer brands.’
From the warehouse to the customer’s door
‘Data collection is also becoming more intelligent so we are able to be more accurate about delivery times,’ explains Hammerschmidt. ‘Recently we introduced an online delivery estimate for our customers. It factors the time it takes for stock to arrive at the warehouse, the quality control process, inventory, picking, packing and delivery. This means customers can manage their delivery by adding or removing different items in their basket that may have various delivery times.
‘However, our business model means we are dependent on supplier delivery which can add to the turnaround time. On average, once all the items for an order are available to be picked, it takes our warehouse less than 4 hours dispatch the order. The delivery, depending on the area, averages from same day to 3 days.
Picking and packing
eCommerce is a dynamic industry where customers shop online 24/7. This means orders have to be processed accurately and consistently and the dedicated warehouse facility has to run flawlessly. ‘Our warehouse operation has become one of our USPs,’ he says. ‘We have developed a management system that is completely customised and is technology driven.’
From the moment a unit of stock enters the warehouse doors it is tracked until it reaches the customer. The electronic system allows the team to see immediately if the unit is in the Cape Town or Johannesburg warehouse and how quickly it can be dispatched.
‘We have sophisticated business intelligence in place in terms of reporting, internal business processes and even integrations with our partners and suppliers,’ he says. ‘As an example, we have written special algorithms and business rules around which order to pick first, managing where the pickers pick from in the warehouse to ensure optimal efficiency and client satisfaction.
‘As a result, every morning the picking team receive a tablet that has been loaded with a pre-determined and optimised picking path. This guides them through the warehouse to pick items efficiently from the bins for packing.’
Retaining brand identity and equity is as important as getting deliveries to customers – all orders are beautifully packed in a RunwaySale box. ‘In addition to the generic branding, we also like to add an element of surprise so often pop in some seasonal gifts. This could be an Easter Egg, a personalised magnet, scratch cards or water bottles – especially for our Cape Town-based clients.’
Feeding into the ‘service above all else’ mantra customers are able to track their order online. This includes monitoring the entire process: From when items are assigned from the warehouse, ready for picking, packing and shipping. They are also alerted via SMS when the parcel is on its way.
’There is always room for improvement and we constantly make adjustments to the technology to keep things efficient,’ says Hammerschmidt. ‘But we are pleased we are getting things right, our average customer satisfaction rating has been 97% over the past six months. We really take customer feedback on board and are continuously working on improving processes in every aspect of the customer experience.’
So next time you order online give a thought to the complicated, yet efficient, processes that allow your purchase to be delivered to your door.