How the Final Mile Will Define Your Brand

Delivery wherever and whenever is virtually upon us. Don't let your business get left behind.

For years, consumers were loyal. They picked a brand, a store and a variety and stuck with it. Times have changed. Loyalty no longer exists in the way that it did for our parents.

As consumers, we are less tolerant and less patient. The world around us has become immediate, and consumers will jump for speed and choice.

Nowhere is this more acute than in the final mile of delivery: Variety is key.

The demand of delivery alternatives

The seventh annual UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study found that consumers prefer alternate delivery locations, especially those who live in urban areas.

And this is a global trend: 71 percent of online shoppers in Asia are interested in shipping packages to alternate delivery locations with extended hours for reduced fees. Separately, the study found that more than half (57 percent) of online shoppers in Canada are also interested in this type of service.

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Final mile fulfillment is becoming the component that defines your brand.

So not only are we becoming more and more demanding of delivery times, we are rapidly preferring brands that can deliver to an alternate location of our choice.

For brands, the implications are immense. To deliver against this consumer expectation, retailers need a number of fundamentals in place, including effective product information, purchase order management and global visibility of their inventory.

In his excellent blog, Watson Marketing and Commerce Sales Leader for IBM Europe, David Hogg, discusses this challenge and how artificial intelligence can help mitigate it:

“[Use AI to] help dynamic adjustments in safety stock and order optimization to maximize margin and reduce markdowns. AI is being used to consume the vast amounts of data regarding customer buying behavior, seek patterns and insights and then provide recommendations to adjust stock position, price or availability.”

While online and in-store product, price, quality and availability is always critical, final mile fulfillment is shaping up as the new battleground. This will come to define your brand, not just whether you have the keenest prices or the best online experience around.

Consider the following scenario:

You’re booked for a game of tennis at the local club but halfway there you realize the balls in your bag are old – and you need new ones for this match.

No matter, from your car you contact your favorite online sports stockist, using voice control and order a dozen tennis balls to be delivered to your tennis club when you arrive.

All that’s needed is confirmation of your credit card security code – as they already have your personal details logged – and the purchase is confirmed. On arrival at the club, the balls are waiting for you.

Easy, straightforward, no fuss. Perfect. And, far from being a utopian vision of the future, such a scenario is just around the corner.

In a McKinsey report titled Parcel Delivery – The Future of Last Mile, it was predicted that “same-day and instant delivery will likely reach a combined share of 15 percent of the market by 2020 … and [they] are likely to significantly grow further beyond this date.”

Delivery within the hour, wherever, whenever is virtually upon us. Don’t get left behind. Make sure your delivery capability is yet another amazing customer engagement experience.

Andrew Busby is Founder and CEO of Retail Reflections and an IBM Futurist.

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