The last few years in the e-commerce space have been interesting, to say the least. Over the course of just 34 months, we went from a sudden boom in online orders (thanks to the worldwide pandemic) to a shift where consumers are ready to shop in person again – while still reaping the benefits of a largely digital world.
Along with this rollercoaster of changing demand, consumer behavior has continued to evolve. While many customers are still searching for instant gratification, there’s a new shipping and delivery trend on the horizon: specific day delivery.
Specific day delivery (or scheduled delivery) is a shipping method that enables customers to select a specific delivery date within a fixed window.
This can appear quite similar to an estimated delivery date, which is given to customers by the shipping carrier when an online order has been processed. The difference? Specific day delivery is chosen directly by the customer, rather than being dictated by the shipping method.
Depending on the brand’s capabilities, there could be an opportunity for customers to choose the exact time a product will arrive, something that’s typically only seen with larger items like appliances or furniture. This is because products like refrigerators, washers, or even sofas require having at least one household member available to let last-mile deliverers into a home for set-up or installation.
In 2023, it’s expected that this approach will spread to the e-commerce sector where every day online consumers can control exactly when they want their order to arrive.
While speed has been a large player in the e-commerce space, it doesn’t always guarantee error-free delivery. Plenty of packages have gone through the wringer with carriers focusing so much on the delivery time that the security of the package is neglected.
With a recent Bringg report revealing 35% of surveyed retailers found customers abandoning carts due to a lack of delivery options, it only makes sense for online retailers to turn towards alternative shipping choices in addition to typical expedited options.
For many consumers, it may be more important to have a guaranteed arrival date rather than the fastest shipping possible. Knowing this date may give them more confidence in a seamless delivery. Plus, for high-value items that require a signature for hand-off, choosing a set date to deliver will allow customers and carriers alike to plan in advance, eliminating the odds of a failed delivery.
First, there was two-day delivery. Then it was next-day delivery. Now, there are even expectations for same-day delivery. For customers, this brings forth a plethora of shipping options. For brands, this presents a logistical nightmare.
If a company doesn’t have a plan in place to not only foot the cost of speedy delivery, but to optimize operations to get orders out the door quickly, they’ll find it difficult to maintain healthy profit margins in the long run.
Offering specific dates for delivery can relieve some of the financial burdens of same-day or next-day delivery expectations, opening a new, more cost-effective option for customers.
No matter how you swing it, allowing customers to have their packages delivered on a specific date adds value to your brand. Why? Because it gives shoppers more control over their post-purchase experience. And in e-commerce, the post-purchase experience is everything!
A sale is not complete until an order has arrived. This means the post-purchase journey is a time when customers are truly invested and tuned in to your brand – their service level senses are tingling. When brands provide flexible, personal shipping options, their service is immediately elevated to the next level, creating a more premium experience for their customers.
So, your customer has purchased their product – hooray! But, the delivery date selected is five weeks out. Uh oh. This product shouldn’t be shipped for at least a few weeks. For your brand, this means you’ll have to sit on sold merchandise and rack up storage costs. Not to worry, there is a solution!
To deter a crowded warehouse and extra costs for storage, brands can set a delivery window, giving their customers the option to schedule a delivery on their own time – yet still within parameters that optimize the fulfillment process for the brand. This ensures that you can fulfill orders effectively without having to keep any sold products for too long after the sale.
While many customers still opt for the speediest delivery possible, brands can redirect them with incentives to have orders delivered in a reasonable amount of time. For example, if a customer wants their delivery the next business day, they will need to front the costs for priority shipping, versus a customer who is happy to receive their order in 4 days’ time.
Amazon offers free delivery, plus fewer boxes and trips to your house, for customers who choose a date that’s further out.
Over-promising on a guaranteed date and not delivering may leave your customers with a negative experience, influencing their decision to steer clear of your brand. This rings especially true during the holiday season, when carriers are overstretched and less able to guarantee specific dates for delivering packages. To avoid any missed customer expectations, retailers turning to specific day delivery may want to consider taking a pause over the busiest time of the year.
To evade an overwhelming number of specific delivery time requests, brands may want to limit this shipping option to a subset of their most loyal customers. As a white glove service, making specific home delivery available only to the ‘best’ customers will encourage all customers to shop more or join a loyalty program for the perk. The results? Personalized delivery that’s a bit easier for your business to manage.
Last but certainly not least, it’s always a good idea to consider bringing in experts when tackling a new shipping demand. Not only do 3PLs have strong relationships with national carriers, but they also have the operational expertise to coordinate seamless fulfillment. This allows brands to focus on other essential aspects of a successful business, like product development or marketing initiatives.
Depending on the type of product, some 3PLs offer last-mile delivery services with unique tools for self-scheduling, notifications, real-time order tracking, and haul-away services. No matter the 3PL, access to advanced technology with order and inventory tracking capabilities is essential when it comes to scheduled delivery.
Ultimately, like many things in e-commerce, success comes down to the customer experience. Online shoppers have always enjoyed autonomy over their purchasing journey, but specific day delivery in e-commerce opens the door to even more control for the buyer. Brands that are still hyper-focused on the need for speed may be missing out on an opportunity to meet even more customer expectations.
Giving your customers more shipping options and control over the experience will play a large role in building a loyal community of repeat purchasers. And in 2023, having a stable brand community will be a key indicator of success for online retailers in what may be a volatile e-commerce space.
But, how can brands know if this is the right path forward for their unique business? If you’re struggling to know whether your brand should offer specific day delivery, there are a number of questions to consider:
While convenience is imperative when it comes to delivering the ideal customer experience, brands will need to make sure all of their ducks are in a row before taking on a new method of shipping.