As many of the fundamental site design principles of eCommerce have become standardized through years of UX refinement, learned behaviour and user expectation online retailers are having to find other ways to differentiate and compete.
At the moment one of the most hotly contested battlegrounds is delivery. This is everything from choice of date and time, to next day or evening and weekend delivery to the “reserve online or with the call centre now and pick up in store within 90 minutes” offered by fully multichannel retailers like Argos.
Seamless multichannel is also rapidly becoming an expectation among users, not a noteworthy feature. Taking this further, some retailers are looking to engage with users across multiple platforms to provide the best customer service possible – such as sending SMS confirmation of specific delivery times within wider order slots as done by Tesco and Ikea.
However, managing this level of delivery service throughout the entire supply chain can be extremely challenging for retailers – and the bigger the promises, the bigger the cost of failure. With so many variables the need for accurate measurement and monitoring information is paramount.
In many companies in-store, telesales and online orders have traditionally been managed by different teams, often with different stock, warehouses and sales strategies. In an increasingly connected world this strategy may no longer be suitable, scalable and agile enough to provide the levels of customer service required. Inventory management can cause some very specific business prioritisation questions before technical performance is even looked at. For example:
- Are a number of products “ring-fenced” to ensure they available for different kinds of order, dispatch or collection?
- Is it more important to fulfil one kind of order than another?
- How should orders for multiple items be handled?
- How are placed orders that need delivery to multiple addresses, or some delivery and some pick up, or even download, managed through the same basket?
- How do you ensure that you have the right warehouse staff to pick orders at peak times?
- How do you ensure you deliver the same level of customer experience through all channels?
In order to make informed, strategic level decisions, you need detailed, robust metrics covering both technical performance and user experience, from the front end to the back end- whatever checklists you follow for each technology release, these metrics need to be included.
Checkouts such as these with complex options, business logic and user selections within a page cannot be adequately monitored by checking if the URL is “up or down”. All the options, in different combinations, need to be checked, to ensure that there are no little “hiccups” that affect only one particular set of variables. thinkTribe’s Dynamic User Journey monitoring can do just that, moving away from the previously artificial constraints of URL monitoring and allowing a realistic understanding of the customer experience on this key part of your site and your business.
Load testing the various checkout and delivery journeys to ensure that the system can handle the number of required transactions within busy periods is extremely important. If users are frustrated or uncertain at this point they are most likely not only to give up, but to not return.
Calculating the value of any errors, is also imperative when dealing with any part of an eCommerce system, but the delivery options are often the final hurdle to cross before placing the order, and any difficulties here are felt much more keenly by the customer, and on your bottom line. thinkTribe’s “lost sales and opportunities” helps you attach a value to errors, slowdowns and downtime, based on your own sales values by hour of the day.
Once the order has passed into the system tracking it to ensure it reaches the right destination, and that that the inventory system is talking to all the distribution and fulfilment centres and updating correctly becomes key. Not only will this help to identify bottlenecks and pinchpoints, but it will make managing, supporting and negotiating with suppliers, affiliates and partners under the terms of SLAs much more efficient and productive as everyone has access to a “single point of truth”.
When considering monitoring it is important to look not only at the costs of putting it in place, but at the operational cost savings that having it there will deliver such as:
- Less time spent tracking down errors and in meetings either internally or with suppliers
- Fewer calls made to customer service and technical support
- Fewer returns / refunds / cancellations to process
A better performing system will, of course, aid the development of valuable long term customer relationships and encourage word of mouth and social media recommendations of your services to friends. Complaints about badly performing delivery services are one of the most common reasons for low scoring reviews online.