A package waiting on someone's doorstep
A package waiting on someone’s doorstep

It is no secret that Amazon has forever changed the landscape of e-commerce. While their business model has given many small and medium-size businesses a digital storefront window with global exposure, it has also transformed customer expectations with regard to communication, delivery time, and product availability – making e-commerce perhaps more about the customer experience than even the brick and mortar expression of retail.

When a consumer opens the site of an e-commerce business and begins to click through, they expect a seamless – maybe even fun – experience. They’re not just checking to see if their item is in stock and then purchasing it. Consumers want alternative item suggestions, real-world reviews, the ability to compare multiple items, and lots of pictures. The very best e-commerce retailers are providing real-time communication on transit data for each consumer, and they’re making it exciting! Consumers want updates when the order is picked, packed, and out the door. They want live tracking information and an email on the day the item is being delivered. The ability to deliver such an incredible ecommerce customer experience largely hinges on a company’s logistics practices. By leveraging ecommerce delivery solutions, you can work to deliver a vastly improved customer experience – one that can improve customer satisfaction and retention.

“Customer experience has got to be on the forefront of our minds going forward.” said Brad Hollister, CEO and founder of logistics management software provider SwanLeap. “When you start to look back at the birth of e-commerce, the goal was to simply attach a label to a package and get the package out the door. The idea that we’re going to be giving real-time transit updates, or tracking updates, and delay notifications was not even in the thought process years ago.”

Without a high level of visibility into your supply-chain, it becomes difficult to retain existing customers and prevent new customers from choosing a different retailer – which is crucial as the competitive landscape of e-commerce intensifies. A key to ensuring repeat business lies in creating a best-in-class final-mile delivery experience. Again, as Hollister stressed, online retailers have to start thinking about how leveraging logistics data to provide the expected experiences for consumers.

And this applies to the return process as well. Ease of returns can be amplified with an arranged pickup by the e-commerce retailer. There’s also an opportunity to create an exchange program or give the consumer store credit so as not to lose the sale. A logistics platform that doesn’t handle inbound logistics can create a real void in the company’s shipping data, leaving it vulnerable to backlog.

Another Amazon innovation being adopted by many e-commerce companies is a new approach to final-mile mobility. 2-day shipping is no longer considered fast, it’s expected. With urban centers becoming more and more congested – not to mention the necessity for contactless delivery due to the COVID-19 pandemic – it’s only a matter of time before drone delivery is normalized. But that isn’t the technology that can be leveraged to expedite the final-mile.

Hollister suggests that the two trends being leveraged for a much improved final mile experience are improving the retailer’s carrier network through the use of freight negotiation services, and bringing the inventory closer to the customer. SwanLeap’s first customer, Milwaukee-based Rogan’s Shoes, presented a unique supply chain challenge affecting both in-store and e-commerce customers. If a customer at one of their stores wants to purchase a product in a size or style unavailable at that location, like many retailers, Rogan’s will ship the desired item to the customer’s home just as they do for online shoppers. However, knowing what store to ship from based on inventory and cost isn’t always obvious. “By integrating with a company’s WMS or other inventory and order management systems while leveraging the power of a robust multi-carrier selection tool like SwanLeap, businesses can automate and optimize these complex decisions. Now that you are collecting shipment level data, analytics can be used to determine the best ship-from locations as well as the ideal location for current and future distribution centers” shared Hollister.

From left to right: SwanLeap Co-Founders Brad Hollister, CEO, Jason Swanson, CTO with Jim Rogan of Rogan's Shoes at the 2018 Inc. 5000 conference where SwanLeap was honored as the #1 fastest-growing company in America.
From left to right: SwanLeap Co-Founders Brad Hollister, CEO, Jason Swanson, CTO with Jim Rogan of Rogan’s Shoes at the 2018 Inc. 5000 conference where SwanLeap was honored as the #1 fastest-growing company in America.

But do such high expectations come with a greater shipping cost? For most online-retailers, they can. People may be willing to spend more on expedited shipping if an item is important, but not if the cost of shipping the item is higher than the cost of the item itself. While the traditional approach says to build shipping costs into a product’s cost of goods there is another way. A cloud based TMS is capable of rate shopping thousands of carriers in less than a second while also providing the data visibility online retailers need to anticipate customer needs.