eCommerce Management

How to create an exceptional "last mile" experience

While fostering a positive and lasting impression starts on your website’s homepage, an exceptional ‘last mile’ experience is undoubtedly where this relationship is cemented. After all, it’s only when the product arrives in the customer’s hands that the sale is complete.

We believe it is crucial that a great experience is provided across the entire customer journey and by focusing on the last mile, the potential is for happy customers to become repeat customers and advocates for the brand. 

With all this in mind, we put customer convenience at the forefront of our service strategy and to deliver fulfilment, we work with fulfilmentcrowd, a world-leading provider of fulfilment services and technology for multi-channel retailers.

We caught up with Lee Thompson, Sales & Marketing Director at fulfilmentcrowd to ask him about sustainability, customer services,  the plight of the delivery drivers and what’s next in the world of eCommerce fulfilment.

JMc: The first time we sourced fulfillment and customer services for a client, it felt like a big task - stepping into unknown territory and trying to evaluate different service providers against each other. What stood out with fulfilmentcrowd was that you offered fulfilment AND customer services. For us it made perfect sense that both of these responsibilities should sit with one provider, ensuring the best possible outcome for the customer. 

However, I guess some brands could have questions around how that works? As companies are striving to put their customer first, how does an outsourced provider successfully offer customer service on behalf of brands who rely on connecting with their customers as well as keeping the brand voice consistent?

LT: We have a compact and experienced customer care team who are very proud to represent an exclusive family of brands. Size and structure is important as our scale enables us to manage the professional development of individuals and provide a consistently high standard of service. We encourage clients to regularly disseminate product information directly to advisors and run a mystery shopper programme to identify training, system or procedural improvements.

fulfillmentcrowd recycled packaging

JMc: At Retrofuzz, working in a responsible and sustainable way is really important to us. However on the recent Bear Grylls project, it became a top priority to ensure our fulfilment partner had the right eco-credentials. Sustainability, use of renewable energy, biodegradable packaging and low emission shipping were key concerns and definitely deciding factors when it came to choosing a fulfillment partner.  It was apparent that sustainable eCommerce is front and centre of your minds at fulfillmentcrowd. Can you give us some insight to what are you doing at fulfillmentcrowd to help profitability and sustainability to co-exist in the world of eCommerce?

LT: eCommerce enables our clients to operate on a world scale, but we accept that comes at a cost to the environment. In April 2019 we launched our Lorax Project with the ultimate objective to be the UK’s first fully sustainable fulfilment services provider. This multi-faceted initiative focuses on energy consumption, renewables, waste management, low or zero emission delivery and the development of biodegradable packaging alternatives to plastic. Very importantly, sustainability and profitability are not mutually exclusive and we see the Lorax Project as a vehicle to enhance efficiency and service levels across our business. 

JMc:  From a personal perspective - as someone who now shops more online than I do offline - receiving items on time and undamaged is perhaps the most important part of the process.  It also seems to be the most troubled and irritating part of the process for online shoppers. As more and more pressure is put on delivery drivers, it’s made me wonder what goes on behind the scenes?  What is put in place to minimise the risk of a bad experience for the customer and to protect the workforce in this increasingly busy world of package delivery?

From our perspective, the keys to excellent customer experience are applied technology and robust quality management systems. The former enables us to automate virtually every fulfilment task whilst the latter ensures that we act on errors and ensuring our business processes are constantly being improved. Whilst cost is important, we select our carrier partners based on innovation, performance and commitment to sustainability. Over the past 18 months, this approach has enabled us to increase first time delivery rate above 90% for the first time; additionally, customers can set preferences and change options whilst parcels are ‘in flight’ using an app.

fulfillmentcrowd ecommerce shipment

JMc:  One final question - what’s next? What innovations can we expect next from fulfilmentcrowd?  Anything exciting in the pipeline that you can share?

LT: Plenty! 2019 will see the expansion of our UK capacity and opening of fulfilmentcrowd centres in the USA, Germany, Australia and the Netherlands. The creation of a worldwide distribution network will enable our clients to trade ‘in-country’ accessing a combined ecommerce market worth in excess of $750bn with competitive shipping rates and service. Like most things we do, our award-winning technology will be the beating heart of this network and for the last two years we have been developing Artificial Intelligence to manage the location of stock and routing of orders to the centre closest to the customer. Reducing ‘delivery miles’ is a key objective of the Lorax Project and this promises to be a game-changer.  

Closer to home, our market research has identified an emerging demand for faster delivery; with the completion of our UK centre network, we can locate stock within 50 miles radius of 80% of the population. Building shipping intelligence into the checkout process and tapping the ‘gig economy’ will soon enable us to launch a viable same day delivery service for online retailers. This is something that we believe will put fulfilmentcrowd and our clients at an advantage in a very competitive market. 

JMc:  Thanks for time with this Lee!  It’s been such a pleasure working with you guys at fulfilmentcrowd.  Thinking back to the day that the Bear Grylls eCommerce store launched - a Friday morning - we very quickly had an order from a customer who needed his Bear Grylls trekking poles to arrive the next morning - a Saturday morning - before his flight on holiday later that day.  You guys helped us to make that happen without hesitation and that first customer interaction really spoke volumes to us about how much importance you guys put on creating an exceptional last mile! So thank you!

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