The future of fulfilment - what to expect and how to prepare
Prepare for the future of fulfilment
Thriving and surviving: you’ll need to be more agile than ever before
The fulfilment industry is changing rapidly and will only continue to do so. After all, it doesn’t take much to raise the stakes where customer expectations are concerned. Not very long ago the term 30 days post and packing was an acceptable indicator of how long a customer would have to wait for a delivery. But now we live in a world where same-day delivery is going mainstream.
There have been plenty of smaller, niche companies offering same-day, super-fast delivery for well over a year in the UK. When eBay snapped up fast delivery company Shutl, which has added new offerings including one where it picks up click and collect orders and drops them off wherever the customer wants, it was clear this was a sector of the market increasing in importance.
Amazon, of course, has really set the pace here though, with its Prime Now service available in a growing list of Britain’s towns and cities. Following the launch of its AmazonFresh same-day grocery service, Sainsbury’s and Tesco have started to roll out their own similar service.
Once customers become accustomed to an elevated level of service, particularly from big name retailer across a wide range of products, that becomes the accepted norm for them; next-day delivery was once a specialist offering, now it is the most commonly available delivery choice presented by retailers. There’s every reason to expect same-day delivery to follow suit.
Shifting operational capabilities
Arguably, being able to offer same-day delivery requires a much greater shift in operational capability than simply moving from 3-5 days to next-day. This isn’t just about shortening your turnaround times and being more efficient; this is a quantum leap.
In the next-day world, you schedule your routes the day before and issue your drivers with their itineraries either overnight or very first thing in the morning. You’ll know what you’re dealing with, and will have mapped out everything accordingly.
But in the same-day world you greet every day with hope, expectation and a blank schedule. You won’t know what you’re delivering until it’s been ordered by someone.
For many that’s a terrifying prospect. It threatens to turn everything on its head.
Yet, customer demand is for faster delivery, shorter wait times, and the ability to have a wider array of purchased items delivered where and when they want them. 72% of UK consumers said being given a time slot of when they could expect their delivery was important, 84% said a delivery date was important, 49% use click-and-collect more now than they did a year ago and 78% of UK shoppers want same-day delivery to be on offer.
So, whether it risks turning everything on its head or not, this is the reality you are facing.
It’s highly likely that your existing processes and IT systems aren’t set up to help you take control of this kind of scenario - but control is the one thing you are absolutely going to need.
You can’t really choose to ignore ever increasing customer expectations, not when that’s the lever being used to exert pressure on retailer behaviour. But you can choose how you react. You get to choose whether you become a business that can proactively help retailers stay on top of customer expectations by offering new and better services.
If you are to thrive and survive in a world where you are expected to offer a mix of next-day, same-day, small items, drop-ship, cope with in-store click and collect, cater to networked click and collect, and lots more besides, you are going to have to be more nimble, more flexible, and more agile than an Olympic gymnast.
More importantly, so are the systems you run your fulfilment business on. You’re going to need to be able to turn features on and off quickly and easily, so you can cope with seasonal demand, special offers, or simply experiment with new services in a limited way - so you can learn from experience without getting your fingers burned.
- In the future of fulfilment control is key.
- You will need to become more agile than ever before.
- Customer expectations are going to change - your business needs to be ready.