Retail Technology
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Retail Technology

Fulfiment specialist, Axida examines the role of technology in improving the customer experience and reinforcing retail brands

Fulfiment specialist, Axida examines the role of technology in improving the customer experience and reinforcing retail brands


Twenty-first century retailing offers the consumer unlimited choice. Whether they choose to buy from a store, using the web or through a mail order catalogue, the opportunities are limitless. Online selling has been the big growth area – and like catalogue mail or phone orders – goods need delivering.


Research from the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) report, “Valuing Home Delivery 2010,” supported by anecdotal evidence from Axida’s own research, shows that this is an area that requires specialised focus. For the customer, uncertainty about when their goods will arrive spoils the experience of buying online. Faced with the prospect of having to wait at home with no reliable information available about their deliveries, customers quickly become frustrated.


Some companies take a more informed approach to home delivery. They understand the best customer experience does not stop at simply offering the best price. It also requires end-to-end service from the smiling sales staff to the equally cheerful and punctual delivery driver and installer. This is even more important for online only retailers where the delivery driver may be the only face-to-face contact the customer has with the seller.


Key component of customer satisfaction


So, any weakness in the fulfilment process is a source of frustration and inconvenience and could jeopardise repeat business for the retailer. It seems such a basic idea to offer your customers a delivery time that suits them but bringing all parts of the supply chain together to perform as one fluid operation is another. To do this requires clever technology to automate and simplify this complex process.


Could you solve this issue manually? After all, much of the information necessary for providing the requisite service could exist within the various business systems found within each link of the supply chain? However, imagine the time and effort it would take to bring it together.


Instead, the answer would be to use specialist technology that sits at the centre of all the other important supply chain processes and data sources. This would pull together every scrap of necessary information to smooth the whole process from order through the warehouse on to the truck and successful delivery to the customer at the agreed time. It would integrate seamlessly with existing systems and provide functionality where no system exists.


But, there has to be a balance between providing service excellence and the cost of providing it. To satisfy all players, the technology would have to make it possible to provide reasonably narrow delivery windows the customer could choose. These delivery options would update automatically as orders were taken. These would also be based on the best – most cost-effective - options for the delivery provider, whether it is the retailer’s own transportation department or a logistics partner.


Retailers like IKEA, Laura Ashley and Wickes already use such a solution. It is also in use with logistics companies like CEVA Logistics (which provides a dedicated service to Tesco and shared service to several retailers, including Sainsbury’s, Multiyork and Habitat) and Wincanton (which provides dedicated services to M&S and Best Buy). These companies have recognised the need for specialist software in order to support their reputations and brand building.


Tapping former retail expertise


Called Axida HDi it is the brainchild of Len Robinson and Wayne Holgate, both former senior IT executives with the international retail business, Kingfisher. This solution integrates the entire home delivery process from beginning to end with delivery success. It provides total flexibility for delivery type – from a single package delivered by a man and his van, through to complicated two-man deliveries that require expert installation.


The system captures orders, whether it is from a retailer’s in-store point-of-sale, call centre or website. Once an order is placed or purchase made, the customer can be offered a delivery slot to fit their availability. This is all transparent and at the same time provides the service enhancement the retailer needs and the customer requires.


In the background the various steps of finding the product, picking it from stock or ordering from the supplier, allocating the delivery method, date and time are managed by the system. This keeps the entire workflow in harmony. Indeed, each part of the supply chain has a role to play, from the availability of the product to the electronic Proof of Delivery at the customer’s home. Each operation and its associated data capture goes into optimising the end-to-end process to provide a smooth running cost-effective home delivery service.


But what happens if something goes wrong with the delivery? Even an Axida HDi enabled service is subject to unforeseen incidents – a problem in the warehouse, heavy traffic, accidents, customer not at home and so on.


The system has the ability to react to these changes. The day before delivery, the system can confirm a narrower time window for the delivery with an automatic text or voice message. On the day of delivery, it can send a text message to the customer to say the delivery is imminent within a predefined number of minutes. If the customer is unavailable, the driver uses the system to notify the customer service department. A representative can then call the customer to find out their whereabouts and ascertain whether it is possible to make the delivery. If not, the system will provide an alternative slot.


There are numerous examples of the software in action; two that illustrate its utility for both retailers and logistics companies are Wickes and CEVA Logistics.


System to satisfy Wickes's needs


The complexity of the Wickes operation requires a broad range of functionality to provide an efficient customer service oriented operation. The software’s built in workflow module orchestrates the complete management of home deliveries. It prompts all customer contacts using text messages or letter generation, instigates and controls order picking, manages debrief information from delivery drivers and all exceptions raised during the process.


CEVA Logistics uses the software for its Multiyork contract. Using the software CEVA Home provides the furniture manufacturer and retailer with a white glove two-person home delivery service for its high-quality upholstered and cabinet furniture.


CEVA Home has been successfully using the software to manage its operation for nearly four years. It controls the home delivery process from end to end, managing all orders through to completion. The software allows CEVA to add clients easily, increasing revenue opportunities and reducing cost. CEVA’s white glove delivery service includes placing the furniture items in the customer’s room of choice, assembly if required, and the removal and recycling of any packaging from the customer’s home.


Therefore, the perfect home delivery is achievable using the right enabling technology. For the consumer it provides a better experience that should encourage their loyalty and for the retailer it means much greater efficiencies throughout the delivery operation. With this software, the old-fashioned idea of service with a smile becomes the reality of modern retail practices and will ensure that customers will come back for more.