I waited the entire day for a delivery from an online retailer. I ‘waited’ because with the housing arrangements that I have, it isn’t possible for a delivery agent to simply leave a package to the elements and I don’t know my neighbours particularly well and know even less about their schedules and whether they could take receipt of something on my behalf. Someone has to be at home to take delivery – there are many potential failure areas for a successful delivery.
It’s a pervasive problem in high density metropolitan areas, or at least it must be given the explosion of electronic locker facilities that I have seen spring up in my area like InPost and Amazon Locker and also judging by the number of times my colleagues take deliveries in the office.
Eventually I called the retailer only to determine that they had sent it to the wrong address and it was in some sort of delivery limbo and has been for two days. All rather frustrating given the fact that the order was placed online, they have my phone number and address verified. They perhaps have a data probably manifest in the failure of the address to properly transfer to the distribution centre.
I wish this was an unusual tale, but unfortunately it isn’t.
The retailer I am referring to, has its own logistics division,their own vans, their own people. Presumably they did this because economies of scale kick in when they distribute from the warehouse and route to either private individuals or their various retail outlets – or at least that is their belief. Of course it is not the kind of problem that the Big Jungle River online retailer seems to suffer from; and the issue begs the question, why? Is it because they seem to use independent delivery agents?
Somewhere in the grand orchestration of making the Big Jungle River what it is today, someone worked out that having your own fleet probably doesn’t make sense unless you have a highly predictable and consistent flow of goods. So the Big Jungle River may, for example have delivery vehicles for cross warehouse transfers, I know that in Seattle they have a fleet of Fresh vehicles, but the rationale of that may have more to do with guaranteeing quality of product than anything else.
In the UK at least, home deliveries are a challenge, particularly during the festive season but with this Island as small as it is and with it jam packed with so many people. You would think things could be smoother.
Closer to home
My son had a brief foray in the logistics delivery space when he worked for the Helmet with Wings Courier as an independent delivery agent, he eventually gave it up for a better job with better benefits and less wear and tear on his own vehicle but look around and you find that this logistics challenge is everywhere.
Is this whole delivery thing a massive opportunity?
Well, some will tell you that it is, so much so, that there are sophisticated technologies that have been developed and are on offer that allow you to track and trace your delivery with near pinpoint accuracy. Accurately estimate delivery times and guarantee correct delivery to the right person at the right time at the right place, all for a flat fee. A bunch of people seem to also make a living out of doing personal deliveries too. Some businesses have even been spawned by it
The frustration with deliveries is one of the reasons why I have this near addiction to always buying from certain online retailers over others. Paying extra for a delivery charge is somewhat irksome, it feels like a bit of a gouge, margin padding or something with an inestimable value. Yet, if it is bungled it can have positively horrible knock on effects. More importantly, this particular retailer can guarantee next day delivery for the items that come from their warehouse. This means I can plan and be successful with my plan.
Coming back to my Thursday issue, I cancelled the order.
Ok, so I wasn’t ordering any major items but the window of time within which I needed it, has passed – they claimed next day delivery. I have had to make alternative arrangements now and the perception I have of that service (though I have used it before) has now degraded – I always viewed it as a low cost and dodgy quality business but now I also think of it as crappy and unreliable service.
My point is this, you can manage data quality to the point where you have the best insight into your customers, you can manage inventory to the point where you understand the ordering cadence and how many you need to have minimally in stock to meet demand but if you cannot manage the way you get the product to the customer, then all these preceding efforts have been pointless and relatively academic.
OK so I am only one data-point for this type of insight but I know from past experience that unless you have something unique to offer and customers are prepared to deal with unpredictable and unreliable service then your business is on a slippery slope with descent that leads only to ruin.