The current situation has forced many companies to rush into the e-commerce world, sometimes months or years ahead of their expansion plans. In fact, it is impossible to ignore the opportunities brought on by this historic moment: a 387% growth in e-commerce penetration in Latin America, a more significant channel growth in the last 6 months than in the previous 10 years, and very promising forecasts that indicate that new consumer trends are here to stay.

However, launching an online demand generation channel is only the first step in the challenging path to success. The road is full of obstacles, from generating enough demand to recover the investment, to ensuring a user experience as good as the one offered in the physical stores.

It is precisely on this last point where retailers’ most relevant operational concerns are centered as their operation begins to increase in volume. Bearing in mind that to counteract a single negative experience you need 12 positive ones – it is essential to prioritise a fully synchronised, efficient and scalable delivery operation, which not only guarantees operational efficiency and profitability, but also memorable experiences that your customers will want to repeat.

The delivery experience is fundamentally connected to customer satisfaction, and this is in turn connected to the very elusive retention. No matter how many customers you acquire each month, if your product/service does not meet expectations, it will be very difficult to keep them connected or get them to repurchase. Thus, retention is the difference between a company that stops growing and one that grows quickly and steadily into the future.

So, if retention is key for growth, what are the key pieces to achieve retention? And how can you grow, without compromising the customer service standards that guarantee it?

Growth curve of two different companies, both acquiring 100 clients per month, but with different retention rates.

Below, we share 5 must-have tips on how to create superior delivery processes, based on our experience handling millions of orders through Instaleap’s logistics software, in one of the most difficult categories in the industry: supermarkets.

1. Proactively plan capacity and manages delivery expectations from the get-go.

How many times have you heard a customer complain about their order being delayed? This is one of the most common problems in logistic operations, and surprisingly the road to conquering it begins long before the customer places his order. On-time deliveries depend on smart capacity planning, linked to accurate forecasting and proactive resource management.

Think of each resource in your operation (pickers, drivers, trucks) as a lego piece whose size is determined by the time interval that resource is available to perform a specific task. These pieces must be able to overlap to create time grids, which in turn must be aligned with the respective demand forecast. Then, the challenge is to balance the availability of delivery times (lego of a specific order) against the utilization of logistic resources (lego of the available operational capacity), which is represented in a dynamic checkout that shows delivery slots adjusted to the capacity in real time.

Balance between supply and demand: slot availability

Similarly, as the e-commerce operation begins to scale, a certain seasonality in the days, hours, etc. of the orders becomes evident, allowing for more accurate analysis, resource planning, and forecasting.

2. Provide customers with real-time visibility.

There is nothing more frustrating for a client than uncertainty, especially after making a payment. This is why livecommerce experiences have become a basic requirement in the online shopping experience. Customers are becoming more demanding, which makes giving them full control and traceability over their orders critical in keeping them happy. Retailers must prioritize at least the most standard features: live order status updates, and email or SMS notifications. However, with tools like Instaleap’s live status widget, it’s possible to exceed these expectations, including information on all resources associated with the order, real time tracking of the picking process (products added, pending and/or replaced), a live updated map, open communication channels, and more features designed to delight customers.

3. Offer simple, human, and immediate communication channels.

The topic of communication goes beyond a successful follow-up process, offering clients the security and confidence they need to dabble in the digital world. It is common to hear comments in the industy like “I contacted support by email, but no one responded” or “I don’t know who to talk to about an issue with my order”, which represents a sensitive point of frustration that in many cases is vital when deciding against the digital channel. In a world that seeks to emulate the traditional experience in modern channels, email customer service exemplifies the anti experience: slow, automated and distant. It is time to rethink the whole experience, starting with easy to use immediate communication channels that are 100% humanized to offer the best solutions to any incident, thus fostering closeness and loyalty to the brand.

4. Be prepared to handle exceptions properly.

Particularly in the groceries category, but present in most industries, exceptions or “special cases” are inevitable in any operation, so having an efficient system to manage them can be the difference between a great shopping experience and a disastrous one. These exceptions such as returns, replacements, stock breakages, or order delays are especially sensitive for customers who expect perfection. One of the most critical issues we tackle with Instaleap’s software is replacement handling, using our chats to offer similar products based on smart suggestions, and automating order totals based on the changes made.

So how should stock problems be handled?

Based on our experience, there are two angles to deal with this situation:

Prevention before purchase: work proactively on the catalogue, ensuring that the products available in the e-commerce platform are as close to reality as possible.

Optimized logistics tools and trained resources: involve the customer in the entire process by providing open communication with pickers that are highly trained for problem solving. Ideally, they should be provided with robust technological tools able to suggest similar products, send multimedia to facilitate customer’s decisions, among others.

5. Handle all operational processes in an orchestrated and centralized manner.

A large part of the success behind a logistic operation involves an integrated back office, which articulates all the processes in a centralized manner. Having a 360-degree view of all orders, from beginning to end, from picking, storage and dispatching, to customer support, allows operators to react immediately and proactively to order setbacks. This ensures a lower error rate and generates a superior user experience.

Although unexpected for some retailers, after considerable investment in the digital channel, in most cases it all comes down to the delivery experience. Most customers will stop shopping at an e-commerce store after a bad experience, and many will tell their friends, impacting the brand image and the ability to acquire new users. Therefore, mastering the digital channel means not only achieving rapid growth, but doing so intelligently towards sustained growth, through a delivery experience that wins over customers and boosts retention.