Whether it’s floods or bushfires, the pandemic or today’s cost of living crisis, the only certainty in the logistics industry is uncertainty. Supply chains once involved 80% predictability and 20% unpredictability, but those numbers have now flipped. As unpredictability and volatility increases, it makes it harder for retailers to provide the predictability and transparency that, today, is non-negotiable for consumers. 

To combat increasing uncertainty and an ecommerce sector that has boomed since the pandemic, retailers need to diversify their delivery offerings for their customers. Whether it’s large items or next day delivery, international shipping or remote delivery, couriers have different specialities. And when retailers diversify their delivery options and leverage the different specialities of couriers across the network, they can boost flexibility, control the uncontrollables and provide the certainty and service that consumers demand as standard. 

Boosting flexibility 

With more consumers shopping online than ever, retailers must build agility into their business to remain competitive. Consumer expectations continue to climb, with recent research revealing 73% of customers purchase items based solely on their overall experience, behind the price and product quality. To cater to these increasing – and always evolving – expectations, retailers must be adaptable and flexible to survive uncertain times. 

By having a range of delivery options available for customers, and facilitating deliveries with a number of carriers, retailers can minimise the possibility of delivery delays, especially during peak shopping times like Black Friday and the pre-Christmas rush. Offering services like on-demand delivery boosts flexibility and ensures that retailers are optimising supply chains. The more diversified your supply chain, the more specialised and flexible your business is, and therefore the more contingency you have with which to overcome challenges and chase opportunities. 

Controlling the uncontrollables 

When working in ecommerce, there will always be events outside our control. When the pandemic first took over, many retailers realised that their supply chains weren’t ready for a digital-first future. From supermarkets temporarily shutting down online ordering while they addressed stock shortages, to ecommerce businesses warning customers about severe shipping delays, retailers were severely impacted by breakdowns in the supply chain. While we can’t ever prevent uncontrollable, freak events like these, we can take steps to control the uncontrollables. While the only certainty is uncertainty, diversification is the best antidote to minimise the impact. 

For example, during the devastating floods earlier this year, data from Shippit revealed that in March many of Australia’s major fulfilment routes had delays in excess of 10 days. Retailers who, for example, only had access to couriers who offer road and rail freight will have likely suffered more than those with a diversified network. When there are carrier-specific problems outside our control, retailers with diversified delivery options can divert deliveries through couriers who offer, for example, air freight or other unaffected routes. This allows retailers to, as far as possible, control the uncontrollables. 

Meeting consumer demands 

The online shopping boom sparked by the pandemic has meant that retailers are shipping more deliveries than ever before. Indeed, Shippit powered over 40 million deliveries in 2021, a 300% increase on pre-pandemic levels. The pandemic accelerated a surge in online consumerism and we’re now living in a culture of instant gratification. With this high demand, it’s necessary for retailers to plan how they can stay on top of their online orders to meet consumer demands. At the same time, consumer tolerance is lower than ever. We expect choice, convenience, transparency and reliability. When that doesn’t happen, we might turn our back on that business. 

Cue Clothing Co, for example, were able to increase sales by 130% within the first week of their endless aisle initiative that gave customers access to inventory from both online and store locations. By coupling this initiative with delivery options that met a range of customer needs, Cue were able to not only meet but exceed their customers’ expectations. Having diversified delivery meant that they could provide the certainty and service that consumers demand as a standard in today’s world.  

After two years in which uncertainty reigned supreme, retailers have been forced to embrace the unknown and tackle uncontrollable situations. With the cost of living continuing to rise and more competition and challenges than ever before, retailers must be adaptable, flexible and dynamic. By diversifying delivery options, retailers can boost their flexibility and not only meet, but exceed, the rapidly changing expectations of their customers. 

Rob Hango-Zada is co-CEO of Shippit.