Customer Engagement in the Last Mile: Why is it Important?8 min read

Customer engagement is a much-loved term and a cornerstone of most businesses. It’s all about communicating with customers when it matters and forging relationships that last.

Every business aims to give its customers the best possible customer experience. Businesses leave no stone unturned to have a robust and user-friendly site with easy navigation up and running. They make sure to provide a great checkout experience that is secure and which inspires confidence. They make sure to have a support team that’s available around the clock to tend to customer issues.

However, the situation between when a parcel is shipped out and when it is delivered at the doorstep of a customer is radically different. This phase, the post-purchase phase of retail logistics, is when the parcel is handed over to a shipping carrier like UPS, FedEx, or DHL for fulfillment.

The last mile is most often controlled by third-party shipping carriers. This unfortunately results in a situation where customer engagement suffers tremendously during this critical phase of the customer journey leading to irreparable problems and lost opportunities.

The post-purchase customer experience often ends up getting neglected.

The last mile is most often controlled by third-party shipping carriers. This unfortunately results in a situation where customer engagement suffers tremendously during this critical phase of the customer journey.

Impact of Insufficient or No Customer Engagement in the Last Mile

Now, why does customer engagement suffer in the last mile of eCommerce?

To understand this, it makes sense to compare eCommerce with brick-and-mortar retail.

In a typical modern-day brick-and-mortar store, the emphasis is on providing a great personalized shopping experience in-store. There is face-to-face communication between a customer and the salesperson helping them. Right until the moment the customer walks out of the store with the product in hand, there is a constant effort to tend to them. 

On the other hand, while eCommerce retail businesses may be able to control the onsite experience to a great deal with an optimized website and navigation, they still hand over their parcels to a shipping carrier for delivery. To the shipping carriers, a business’ parcel is only one among the millions they transport everyday. Unlike the merchant, a shipping carrier has no specific interest or incentive to provide a great post-purchase experience to the customer concerned.

And the fact is that between 8 and 10 percent of all parcels transported get routinely delayed because of issues on the part of shipping carriers.

An alarming 8 to 10 percent of all parcels transported get routinely delayed by shipping carriers.

It doesn’t help that a customer is more likely to hold you, the retailer, responsible for a delayed parcel than the shipping carrier. In their view, they ordered from you and their parcel was delayed because of an issue at your end. Herein lies the crux of the problem: the additional last-mile component in eCommerce transactions that retailers like you are often unable to control.

Inadequate customer engagement in the last mile creates a broken shopper experience that impacts a business in multiple ways:

1. ​​​​Loss of control over customers' experience with the brand to a third-party shipping carrier

One of the most alarming impacts of outsourcing the last mile to a third-party shipping carrier is the fact that it results in the loss of control over customer experience on the part of the retailer.

This makes it impossible for the retailer to customize the delivery experience they provide to their customers. Consequently, what ends up happening is that the experience every customer is subjected to in the last mile is the default experience provided by the shipping carrier, and as we’ve already discussed, shipping carriers never go out of their way to make deliveries special! After all, shipping carriers have no incentive to meet the high expectations of the retailer with regard to the last mile.

2. Increased customers anxiety & frustration over parcel whereabouts

Shipping carriers have a tendency to only provide generic updates on their tracking pages. What this means is that they deliberately avoid reporting about potential holdups or delays when a parcel is in transit. 

This creates a situation where customers become anxious or frustrated about their parcels. The entire system, as it stands, is set up to fail your customers. And a poor delivery experience with your parcel means your customer might switch to a competitor for their next purchase. After all, 1-in-3 customers say they will switch to a competitor after a poor delivery experience.

1-in-3 customers are likely to switch to a competitor after a poor delivery experience.

3. Lost opportunities to monetize post-purchase tracking moments

Since most businesses tend to outsource their tracking and notifications post-purchase to their shipping carrier, they lose a valuable opportunity to meaningfully engage with their customers, reinforce brand identity, and drive sales through upsell and cross-sell opportunities. 

Research shows that the average customer tracks their parcel 6–8 times on the tracking page of their shipping carrier post purchase. Additionally, most automated updates to customers are sent by the shipping carrier rather than by the retailer. This creates a situation where the shipping carrier’s brand, rather than the retailer’s, is placed in front of each customer.

4. Absence of a mechanism to receive customer feedback

When their is no or inadequate customer engagement in the last mile, there is almost no way by which to receive feedback from customers about their delivery experiences and rectify them. And disappointed customers are likely to take their grievances online in the form of poor reviews

These reviews will end up dissuading the over 90% of potential customers who read online reviews before making purchasing decisions from buying from you.

Benefits of Customer Engagement in the Last Mile

With all the challenges that having a shipping carrier handle the last mile in its entirety presents, it makes sense to understand the benefits that accrue from retailers investing their energy and resources in a solution that helps them boost customer engagement in the last mile.

First and foremost, such a solution helps make your loyal customers feel more valued and understand that you, the retailer, have their back. This would help you stand out at a time when delivery experience management, as a methodology, is still nascent in most industries.

Actively engaging with your customers during the delivery phase fosters a sense of connectedness with your brand and creates awareness of last-mile processes, critical to them understanding that it is service failures by your shipping carrier that create delay situations rather than any gap in your processes. This inevitably leads to better outcomes to support calls.

ustomer engagement is all about timely communication
Customer engagement is all about timely communication.

In the simplest of terms, fostering customer engagement in the post-purchase phase has three tangible benefits:

  1. Increased customer loyalty & retention: It allows you to forge long-lasting customer relationships and inevitably leads to increased retention resulting in higher customer lifetime value (CLV).
  2. A competitive advantage: Quality customer engagement in the last mile allows you to gain an advantage over competitors that do not treat their last-mile engagement as a priority.
  3. Revenue growth: Meaningful customer engagement in the last mile, from a sales standpoint, allows you to win more from current customers.

How to Achieve Customer Engagement Success in the Last Mile

At this point, probably the foremost question on your mind is, “so how do I actually ensure that I am effectively engaging with customers in the post-purchase stage?”

The fact is that due to the lack of a way for retail businesses to establish control over the last mile by themselves, there is a need for a solution that enables you with the necessary tools to manage your customers’ delivery experiences at scale

A dedicated third-party Delivery Experience Management (DEM) suite that encompasses tools to enable engagement with customers in the last mile is what you need.

A Delivery Experience Management (DEM) suite will allow you to:

  1. Keep customers informed of delivery status through automated email and SMS notifications that are triggered and sent to customers when their parcels reach specific events during the shipping process.
  2. Proactively handle delivery exceptions using a communication solution that helps send customized messages to specific customers regarding delivery status.
  3. Keep support reps on top of delivery issues using a dedicated customer support dashboard that displays delivery issues as soon as they are detected.
  4. Provide an on-brand delivery experience by providing a branded tracking page that customers can visit for information on parcel status.
  5. Gain real-time, granular visibility into shipments in transit across carriers.
DEM Increased Customer Engagement

All these capabilities are present within, a bleeding-edge AI-driven algorithmic tool geared to help you boost customer retention and lifetime value and provide memorable delivery experiences. Additionally, also automatically audits your shipping invoices for over 50 service failures and submits refund claims on your behalf.

It takes only 2 minutes to set up your account, so why not give it a shot?

COVID-19 Note: To help tide over the current crisis, we are giving all businesses full and free access to our Delivery Experience Management Platform till June 30, 2020.