[Updated post from April 6, 2021]
Imagine that you’ve just ordered a dress online from a well-regarded fashion label. As an included service, the brand will deliver the garment to you via overnight delivery so you can have it the very next day.
Your order arrives at the time you nominated. Not only that; the dress comes with a complimentary garment bag and padded hanger to avoid it getting creased in transit. The delivery person also hands you a handwritten note from the brand thanking you for your purchase.
As you’ve probably figured out, this certainly isn’t your standard e-commerce delivery experience. This scenario is what is known as ‘white glove’ delivery – a curated experience that’s fast rewriting the rulebook on exceptional customer service in e-commerce.
But what exactly does white glove delivery services involve, and how do retailers benefit from using them? We’re going to explore how brands can implement white glove service in their shipping and fulfillment strategies.
White glove delivery refers to a premium service or set of services, usually during final mile delivery. White glove service goes above and beyond what consumers expect from standard home delivery, offering perks such as special handling, faster delivery speed, specialist packing materials, and more.
The term ‘white glove‘ is used to denote the high-touch, end-to-end nature of these services that are conducted with the utmost care for the product and the customer experience. It’s a cut above standard shipping and delivery methods, designed to maximize convenience as much as possible.
Personnel involved in white glove delivery will usually have special training to provide personalized experiences and meet customer expectations for this elevated standard of service.
White glove delivery is an opportunity to tell a story about how your brand looks after its customers. So, how would it look if your delivery driver arrives at the drop-off location with a dented box with items rattling around inside? Naturally, this puts also puts a dent in the overall delivery experience.
If the order contains fragile items, using protective packaging is vital for the white glove service provider to avoid damage in transit and during delivery.
Your packaging design also plays an important role in setting the stage for a memorable product unveiling – especially for premium or luxury goods. Custom packaging acts as an additional service during the post-purchase experience to heighten customer anticipation for their purchase.
Materials such as custom boxes, ribbon, or branded tissue paper create immersive brand experiences that delight customers upon delivery. In sum, it’s a tangible expression of white glove service.
In a standard delivery in e-commerce, a customer will be given an estimated delivery date in their shipment confirmation email. However, they won’t know at what point during the day the delivery will take place. But with porch piracy on the rise, this can be a massive problem if there isn’t a secure place at the chosen drop-off location to ensure safe delivery.
White glove delivery offers customers the ability to choose a specific delivery time that suits their needs, ensuring they will be around to collect the parcel or supervise inside delivery or assembly.
Until the shipment arrives, brands should expect customers to experience Delivery anxiety during the last mile, especially when orders contain fragile or high-value items. White glove shipping services frequently offer delivery tracking so that customers can follow the progress of their order in real-time and ensure they are ready to receive it. This enhances convenience for your customer, as they don’t need to continually contact service reps to ask for updates.
Delivery drivers must be given the tools to generate and plan transit routes that reduce disruption. especially if your customer has nominated a specific time for delivery, Route optimization software takes note of all outstanding delivery locations in order of priority and generates the most efficient transportation routes for your drivers, eliminating human error and minimizing additional costs for fuel and idling time.
Expedited shipping has become a must for white glove services to meet customer expectations for efficient service. However, this is easier said than done; the key to shortening delivery times is ensuring that the distance between your fulfillment center and key customer hubs is as small as possible. For this reason, a same-day delivery service can only be guaranteed to customers within a certain radius of your store or DC.
White glove service comes into play when customers are ordering products that require some form of assembly for specialized equipment to set up. Product assembly can either be charged as an additional service or as part of the product price, which is common for home appliances and expensive electronics. Trained personnel are responsible for inside delivery and special handling of the product to ensure proper installation.
In the case of high-value purchases, customers may be assigned a customer care representative. This person will touch base with them regularly throughout the order fulfillment and shipping process, arranging delivery slots and answering questions. Giving customers a consistent point of contact with a live human is the true white glove treatment, compared with just sending them a tracking link for a third-party website. It shows that you genuinely care about the post-purchase experience and making customers feel valued.
Traditionally, white glove services have been part and parcel of purchasing products that require special assembly or installation, such as furniture or washing machines. But as retail and e-commerce grow more competitive, defining white glove delivery in these narrow terms is no longer accurate.
White glove delivery services can be used to help businesses build curated brand experiences and stand out from a crowd of similar offerings. For luxury brands, in particular, white glove services enhance the customer experience and create a higher perception of value through strategies like same-day or overnight delivery, personalized service, and memorable unboxing experiences.
As the customer experience becomes one of the biggest brand differentiators in retail, more merchants are showing an interest in how white glove delivery services could present a valuable addition to their customer retention strategy.
There’s a golden rule in customer service; treat customers as though they’re the only one that matters. This is only growing more important in e-commerce as consumers pivot from defining brands by pricing and products to their end-to-end experience.
According to PwC, 73% of consumers say that customer experience is an important factor in their purchasing decisions, while 43% say they’re willing to pay more for greater convenience.
White glove delivery is a powerful customer retention mechanism because e-commerce often lacks meaningful touchpoints during the post-purchase experience. A seamless delivery experience involving a high level of communication, timely delivery, and enjoyable service demonstrates that a brand sees customers as its top priority.
Because white glove delivery is usually available either for specific SKUs or VIP customers, this segmentation typically results in lower volumes that allow for much faster delivery and direct transit. When rapid (and free) delivery has become a widespread expectation for many online shoppers, white glove services help brands to meet these expectations head-on – while also offering a major point of difference from giant online retailers.
This is particularly relevant for businesses that are frequently handling and delivering fragile goods. No matter how carefully you pack up items to avoid damage, the unthinkable can always happen – especially during transit. Using white glove delivery services allows you to retain much more overnight on the delivery process through a more attentive, considered level of service.
The cost of white glove delivery services hinges on several factors. Value-added services, such as specialized packaging, handling, and shipping, will add significantly to the Cost Per Order. Here are some things to think about when considering which white glove services to offer:
Product characteristics. Fragile and bulky items are more complex and expensive to ship. High dimensional weight results in high shipping rates, so this needs to be factored into your white glove delivery strategy.
Packaging design. The more elaborate your packaging design, the more expensive this white glove service will be. Some products may require more complex, durable packaging to stay in pristine condition during transit.
Delivery speed/distance. How far and how fast orders need to travel to reach your end customer can mean that white glove shipping costs can fluctuate wildly. In some cases, it might not be tenable to offer overnight or same-day shipping to customers in certain zones.
Who is paying? Naturally, this is a big determining factor in the cost of white glove services. Some businesses may charge customers extra fees for white glove services, such as expedited shipping or custom delivery slots, while others will absorb the cost themselves.
White glove delivery services involve a lot of moving parts – from the initial packing process to that knock on the front door. To curate the best possible delivery experience for your customers, it’s a good idea to partner with an ecommerce fulfillment provider who’s experienced in value-added services and last mile logistics. This way, you can focus on creating a memorable white glove delivery experience – without getting bogged down by the tricky details.
Ryder E-commerce by Whiplash is an experienced omnichannel fulfillment provider with an established reputation in final mile logistics. No matter what delivery experience you want to give your customers, Whiplash is the ideal partner to create a memorable, end-to-end value proposition that boosts customer loyalty:
“The Whiplash platform has been the ultimate trump card for Moda Operandi. The ability to integrate so seamlessly with our online store has given us a level of flexibility and control that we’ve never had before. By setting custom Order Rules for packing and routing, we can make sure that our most valued customers receive the service they expect – every time.” Nikhil Soares, ecommerce Supply Chain and Operations Executive for Moda Operandi.