I’m often asked what advice I’d give to anyone looking to offer a successful omni-channel shopping experience. My answer might seem counter intuitive. It would be to forget the word convenience.
Why? Because it is bandied around so liberally that it is in danger of meaning nothing at all anymore. It’s become a wrap around word. And by using a single word to group together individually critical factors in driving retail and in making or breaking the customer experience, we’re in danger of losing sight of the very ease we’re trying to instill.
Convenience = proximity right?
For a couple of years, I too was talking convenience without really thinking about what it meant. I was convinced convenience was about proximity and being local. However, if you read the dictionary definition, it is ‘the state of being able to proceed with something without difficulty’. In the logistics world, proximity is obviously a factor in collecting or returning goods ‘without difficulty’ but it is just one of many.
And with two thirds of consumers now living within one mile of five parcel points or locker locations (Citizens Advice Bureau figures 2018) making things local for your end customer isn’t the primary convenience challenge anymore.
Fitting into routines
Proximity is great but true customer convenience only comes when a short journey can be combined with other tasks. Nearly half of consumers today combine C&C with other activities, (IMRG Consumer Delivery Review 2017) so factoring in trip-chaining is a must when considering convenience.
Factoring in busy lifestyles is another must. So if you’re not able to offer extended hours – consider partnering with someone who can, because convenience can’t just be a 9 to 5pm offering. One in six of our collections is made post 6pm.
A convenient experience that allows you to ‘proceed without difficulty’ is also one that’s familiar. If you buy from a brand online you should be able to return to any of their stores – right? Well not always. But it pays if you can provide the convenience of behaving like one joined up family….
We recently teamed up with M&S to supply them with the technology that would enable M&S.com customers to return their shopping not only to core M&S stores but also to M&S Simply Food stores. Following the trial 85% of customers said that the ability to return online purchases to Simply Food locations would encourage them to order more frequently.
And of course because today’s customer spends as much time in the digital world as the physical world, digital convenience – save my collection code to wallet, one click returns booking or providing automated returns pods – is every bit as important as physical proximity or availability of parking.
Finally, convenience for partners is also critical to ensure the ultimate seamless end-to-end journey. That’s why we’ve developed parcel-processing software for our logistics partners that enables them to integrate our hub apps and driver processes into their existing flows using familiar hardware and methods.
And it’s why we offer retail partners tech that upgrades automatically, that only features absolute productivity functions (no ‘nice to have’ processes that get in the way) and that is instinctive to use, all enabling them to offer a best in class service ‘with no difficulty’.
So convenience is critical. But before you make it the single by-word by which you run your offering, make sure you break it down so that it doesn’t become white noise in your organisation. Because, understanding its multiple nuances is the only way of living up to the full potential of its promise.
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