Australia Post’s temporary cease on deliveries is a reminder to all e-commerce retailers, large and small, that the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the delivery sector and how we shop online.
Retailers who are fully reliant on large-scale delivery providers alone, such as Australia Post, should act fast and smart if they want to stay ahead of the game, because there is nothing temporary about their recent pause on parcel deliveries.
While the government offers a glimmer of hope to Australians around eased restrictions and a timeline to getting back to normal, the reality is that consumers have had a taste of delivery convenience in lockdown, and while many will be looking forward to visiting their favourite bricks-and-mortar stores, e-commerce will continue to boom.
Retailers need to recognise that delivery is no longer a nice to have, and that an outstanding delivery experience is now expected. They’ll need to prioritise a robust, logistics structure if they want to avoid taking a reputation hit for poor delivery services that are out of their control.
It is time to seek new, innovative ways to deliver without being fully dependent on large-scale delivery partners to carry the load, because this isn’t a one off.
Make door-to-door a reality, not a luxury
Australia Post’s decision to cease deliveries last week was an opportunity for them to take a load off, manage an overflow of orders during a particularly busy time, and with limited staff. But this is by no means a permanent fix.
While they’re getting their ducks in a row to continue service, consumers are not doing the same when it comes to online shopping. There will be new online orders backpiling that are likely to result in more delivery pauses all the way up until Christmas, and consumers should expect Australia Post’s Christmas delivery cut-off dates to come much earlier this year.
The problem isn’t necessarily the higher-than-usual volume of online orders, nor the reduced numbers of staff at the hands of the COVID-19 pandemic — although this doesn’t help. Online shopping and accurate door-to-door delivery is no longer a luxury, it is expected, and it is not enough to simply get the product to the right person within a reasonable time-frame.
Most customers expect and want a distilled version of this, and retailers should be prioritising the quality of their logistics to meet these needs. Customers like to know when their purchase has left the warehouse, when their package will arrive and where the driver is at any given moment, and even the time that they will reach their front door — to the minute.
In a recent Zoom2u nationwide survey, 83% of customers said they’d like to be able to track their deliveries in real time, and 71% said that they would make more online purchases if it was guaranteed it would arrive on time.
It is time to micro-warehouse
Bricks-and-mortar stores have been taken away from the general public for the time being. Customers no longer have control over the time between purchase and having that product in their hands. This not only creates hesitancy at the online purchase point, but also frustration when their items don’t arrive on time.
Many retailers have existing bricks-and-mortar stores that may be gathering dust and burning a rental hole in the pocket. Setting these up as micro-warehouses to act as smaller distribution centres in this environment could prove to be very useful in the weeks running up to Christmas.
Retailers really need to be thinking about how their logistics setup is structured and not be reliant on a single point of failure, because the problem with having all of your online order eggs in the one Australia Post basket is that if one guy goes down, they all go down — and you are left without a backup.
Having multiple locations and an additional delivery partner to ferry orders to and from your independent distribution centre is becoming increasingly popular and has been successful for brands such as Pet Barn and Nespresso who offer this in metro areas across the country.
In addition to using Australia Post for their standard delivery, they use multiple standalone stores across metro areas as micro-warehouses to deliver in as little as one hour.
Your reputation is on the line, not theirs
Last month Australia Post reported that they delivered more packages than Christmas 2021 which, if reports of their 52 million parcel Christmas and recent COVID-19 benchmarks are anything to go by, could mean millions of delayed parcels currently sitting in their distribution centres as a result of the recent pause.
While it is all well and good for Australia Post to take a breather on their workload, businesses and retailers who are solely reliant on them as a delivery partner are left with the job of handling complaints and questions from customers who are missing their purchases.
Australia Post’s executive general manager Gary Starr says that they are “not looking at compensating” businesses given that they will continue to process parcels and deliver them, only at a later time.
During this time, thousands of retailers are likely to be ramping up their customer service efforts at an additional cost, and maybe even looking to refund customers their original delivery fees as a goodwill gesture, to ensure they retain them as customers.
86% of the online shoppers we surveyed said that a bad delivery experience would influence their decision to buy from that retailer again. Ultimately, it is the retailers who will take the reputation hit from this pause, not Australia Post.
Nothing changes if nothing changes
The sector has changed and consumer expectations have changed, which means archaic delivery processes also need to change.
Australia Post was left with no choice but to put its deliveries on hold, and opt for a time out. But this will happen again this side of Christmas, and the onus is now on retailers to protect themselves from future glitches by making some changes.
There will be serious delays from this point on, but that doesn’t mean retailers should suffer the same fate. If e-commerce businesses are looking at Christmas as an opportunity to regain any revenue lost from the last year, they should look at alternative and additional ways to deliver the goods.
Bonus points will be awarded for getting it there on time, but giving the consumer visibility on the packages movements from the shopping-cart-click to the front-door-drop is going above and beyond. These are intricate details that simply can’t be met with large-scale delivery partners, for the volumes of online Christmas orders that are heading our way.