Mapping Retail’s Last Mile Battleground

Retail TouchPoints – There are many reasons why the last mile has become a first-order concern for retailers. Topping the list is Amazon’s well-publicized ability to provide two-day, one day and even same-day shipping. Amazon’s ability to set a high standard for the retail industry is abetted by the fact that for more than 100 million Amazon Prime members, those shipping costs are bundled into their annual fees, making them essentially invisible and “painless.”

Another reason that last mile concerns are increasingly keeping retailers awake at night is the growing volume of digital sales and subsequent deliveries that are taking place. Results from the 2nd annual Retail TouchPoints Last Mile Benchmark Survey, which collected and analyzed responses from 138 retail executives, illustrate the last mile’s growth trajectory.

Below are pages with comments from Jeffrey Neville, SVP and Practice Lead at BRP Consulting:

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Retailers also are reshaping their internal structures and responsibilities to handle last mile challenges. “Retailers are beginning to apply the agile processes they are using on their web sites to the last mile customer experience,” said Jeffrey Neville, SVP and Practice Lead at BRP Consulting in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “They are assigning a product manager to the last mile experience, giving this person the ability to test and learn about the impact technical and non-technical changes can have on the identified last mile KPIs. These product managers are also engaging consumers in feedback of the initiatives before they roll out chainwide.”

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“Meeting and exceeding the accelerating consumer expectations for fast and free delivery has retailers scrambling to figure out the most economical and reliable options,” said BRP’s Neville. “In addition, retailers must manage the costs and inefficiencies created by rushing to implement new delivery options to avoid customer disappointments.”

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“Retailers are establishing KPIs, metrics and service level agreements (SLAs) to monitor and maintain consistent delivery quality,” said BRP’s Neville. “Establishing clear expectations of service levels with third-party delivery parties is imperative to ensuring customer satisfaction.”

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While managing the cost of returns was the top challenge for retailers in 2018, this year the list is led by the 64% that identified minimizing fraudulent returns. This is another complex problem with no single “silver bullet” answer, according to BRP’s Neville: “Preventing or limiting theft from delivery drivers, porch thieves and dishonest reports of theft from customers is a challenge,” he noted. “Retailers need to proactively identify theft as well as arm customer service representatives with a clear policy for customer appeasement for those customers that have experienced stolen packages.”

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BRP’s Neville recommends retailers provide a preprinted return label, including a prepaid shipping label, and also enable shoppers to easily print such labels from the retailer’s web site. “The prepaid label assures that a standard set of information is included with each return (invoice number, SKUs, quantities, etc.) to assist the returns team in processing it,” he said.

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