The importance of fulfilling customer expectations

From search, to click, to dispatch and delivery, having a successful e-commerce strategy is vital in order to keep up with the continual availability which modern society is fast adapting to.

With increasing multichannel availability and no imposition of trading hours, consumer expectations are immense. And as a result of fully 24/7 services, it has never been easier to purchase online. However in line with this, consumers expect an equally easy experience regarding dispatch and delivery – meaning businesses must ensure fulfilment strategies not only match, but exceed customer expectations in order to be successful.

So what exactly are consumers expecting, and how can businesses polish their e-commerce strategies to ensure these expectations are met and fulfilled?

What do customers expect? The components a successful strategy should deliver

Though comprised of multiple components and stages from initial transactions to fulfilment completion, a successful and cohesive e-commerce strategy must appear fast, transparent and entirely seamless – at least in the eyes of the consumer. E-commerce popularity is due to the simplicity it should offer after all.

However, with an increasing number of purchasing channels to adapt to – from tablets to mobiles and laptops – this 24/7 online market (for retailers at least) is not only expanding but becoming increasingly complex.

Perfecting just a few simple e-commerce components however, can ensure businesses benefit from this complex multichannel market, and any considered and well-managed strategy should:

  • Provide information & communication – Consumers should be kept informed of their order at every stage.
  • Show competency – Faultlessly carry out services from product dispatch to delivery.
  • Build reliability – Consistently provide high quality, seamless services. This builds trust, company reputation and consumer loyalty.
  • Show capability – Retailers must maintain the ability to adapt and perform fulfilment processes. This includes aspects such as market insight and expectation; such as fine tuning stock adjustment to cope with demand.

Though all must combine to form a fully comprehensive strategy, the component arguably most integral to success (as it directly addresses issues regarding fulfilment of customer expectations) is communication. Providing the visible evidence, or transparency of a seamlessly efficient and cohesive e-commerce strategy is also
a retailers most direct impression on the customer.

Differing to in-store purchasing and even to a certain extent click and collect, because of the extended nature of online purchasing (time between transactions and fulfilment may be a number of days) consumers should be continually notified and reassured of the progress of their order, requiring enhanced and efficient customer service.

Equally considering delivery times, once the above components are working efficiently, improving back office and warehousing solutions to accelerate dispatch and delivery processes would enhance any e-commerce solution, and fulfil customer expectations of speedy delivery.

The communication component: What information should successful strategies provide consumers?

Though communications are integral, just what information should consumers be given during the e-fulfilment process and why?

Supporting the basic attractions of e-commerce such as wide stock availability, ease of purchase, and timesaving, a successful strategy’s communications, from click to delivery should:

  • Successfully provide accurate real-time stock information and availability, informing customers (via email or text) when in-demand or sold out stock returns.
  • Display despatch and delivery times accurately, and adhere to them. When shopping online consumers want specific dates and exact details. Delivery is the most inconvenient part of e-commerce to the consumer. If a definite arrival time is promised before purchase, retailers must maintain this and successfully communicate delays to preserve reputations and integrity after purchase.
  • Quickly and accurately communicate transactions. Communications informing customers of receipt of purchase, and accurately stating delivery addresses, reference numbers and relevant promotions, should be sent instantaneously and made explicitly clear.
  • Detail delivery estimates after purchase. Customers want to know exactly when to expect their order, so providing as much dispatch and delivery information as possible after purchase will improve expectation fulfilment. This can include providing 24/7 order tracking availability.
  • Make sure customers are satisfied. Completed deliveries should be followed up to ensure positive service and feedback. Ensuring returns procedures are smooth and well considered should also be a part of this.

Simply packing up an order and shipping it off in the hope that “it’ll turn up at some point” is not conducive to a successful strategy. But by accounting for every action in the e-fulfilment chain and relaying that information quickly back to the customer after ordering (via their preferred method of communication, such as text or email) retailers can boost success-dependent components such as reliability and reputation, increase customer opinions of capability and competency, and encourage loyalty and customer retention.

E-commerce expectations: Order and customer fulfilment

The path to a cohesive, seamless e-commerce strategy which integrates the components of communication, capability, reliability and competency throughout its infrastructure – from processing transactions, to managing stock in the warehouse to packaging, shipping, and delivery – all while communicating real time progress to customers is no small feat. Ensuring fulfilment processes are quick, seamless and well-communicated both internally and to customers – from dispatch to delivery – is necessary to ensure and reflect a retailer’s reliability, credibility, capability and reputation, and fulfil customer expectations.

Without these key aspects, e-commerce strategies become disconnected, overcomplicated and damaging, as customers query capability and competency. Yet with them, customer experiences, strategy cohesion and expectation fulfilment will be successful and guaranteed.

Alastair Kane

Alastair Kane

Contributor


Alastair Kane is a freelance writer and supplied this article on behalf of 2touch services.