Customer Deliveries and Returns | Descartes Routing UK

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Customer Deliveries and Returns


The rapid growth of ecommerce over the past year shows no signs of slowing with online sales now accounting for 36% of retail sales in the UK. [ONS data Jan 2021] and set to grow to over 50% of retail sales within the next decade. More than 50% of UK consumers are now choosing to shop online over the high street. 

customer deliveries and returns

With this accelerated rise in online shopping over the last year also comes increased demand from consumers that need their goods, where they want them, and at a time convenient to them. This adds significant pressure on retailers to offer a seamless and cost-effective delivery service with the added option of a returns process so they can meet consumer demand. Transparency, collaboration, and end-to-end visibility of all supply chain components are critical in order to achieve these frictionless processes.

When it comes to seasonal goods that are perishable, such as food and flowers that also need to be delivered on a specific day the bar is set even higher. If this also coincides with peak demand for national days or holidays, such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter, then achieving a seamless delivery process may seem like an even harder challenge.

Customer’s purchasing experiences have improved over the years, as retailers have invested in solutions to achieve high-quality customer interaction. Yet, the delivery horror stories continue. From the parcels that are supposedly left in ‘safe places’, to deliveries that arrive late or on the wrong day, with no notification, or the ’signed for’ items left on the doorstep without a signature to items delivered to the wrong address or which seem to “go missing”.

Many retailers use a third-party logistics (3PL) provider and will ignore their delivery responsibility, blaming it on the provider instead. However, every aspect of the entire purchase and delivery experience is important for the customer, be that positive or negative, it is a reflection on the retailer. A company that is not effectively managing its delivery processes, whether that is internally or through 3PLs, but is investing in a ‘frictionless’ website customer experience is essentially misunderstanding the overall concept of seamless and frictionless retail. To be a success, retailers must take ownership for every part of the customer’s buying experience; this means not just their first interaction on the website, but also right through to delivery and, if necessary, even the returns process.

home delivery door knockWith so many distinct components in the supply chain, it has historically been a challenge to bring together this sort of optimisation, from the initial collection at the manufacturer right through to delivery hubs and warehouses and then on to the last mile of the home delivery process. But technology – such as intelligent routing and scheduling solutions and mobile applications for tracking deliveries, can now enable a real time oversight of the whole supply chain, allowing organisations to capitalise on up-to-the-minute data – maximising sales, driving efficiencies, and improving the whole experience for their customers.

Route planning software with continuous background optimisation that constantly check real-time delivery capacity and proposed route information enables retailers to transform the delivery options they can offer customers at the point of sale. Instead of the standard ‘same day’, ‘next day’ or ’three day’ delivery options often associated with fixed price points, retailers can offer delivery options and prices that reflect the actual delivery capacity that is available – and incentivise certain delivery slots with price to smooth peaks and troughs in demand.

Not only can this help satisfy the customer demand, but also encourage customer behaviour to support your specific goals – such as reducing emissions. With real time information, 3PLS can share deliveries to improve the experience further, using routing to avoid congestion, reduce inefficiencies and lower emissions. Those retailers that can connect all parts of their end-to-end supply chain, through effective utilisation of virtual real-time data, will win over new customers, keep existing ones loyal and maximise profits.

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