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The Importance of Estimated Delivery Dates

View the original Specialty Retailer article: The Importance of Estimated Delivery Dates

Providing shoppers with an estimated delivery date is crucial for customer satisfaction and loyalty. It can even help improve conversion rates. According to an article from ShipBob, if a customer is on your site and sees that a package will be delivered within a few days, they’re more likely to convert compared to a site that doesn’t show delivery dates.

“If you look back at the early years of e-commerce, it was completely acceptable for retailers to offer a four-to-seven day delivery time window. But that has changed,” says Devadas Pattathil, co-founder and head of product at Nextuple. “Customer expectations have grown, and now an estimated delivery time of two-to-three days is expected.”

Difficulties Implementing Estimated Delivery Dates
Even though estimated delivery dates are a top priority, many retailers have not prioritized it. Pattathil mentions that this hesitation stems from two main concerns:

  • The cost of central fulfillment
  • The complexities of leveraging stores, including labor restraints, picking efficiency and potential order splits

Additionally, some retailers lack the robust analytics needed to create and monitor promise execution. Retailers know that providing estimated delivery dates has become an expectation — the questions are how aggressive it should be and at what cost?

“If you need to ship to most of your customers within two days, you need to have at least six fulfillment centers in the U.S.,” explains Pattathil. “If you need to ship to customers within one day, you need at least 15 or 16 fulfillment centers.”

That’s quite a lot of fulfillment centers needed throughout the U.S. and can be a huge hassle for smaller retailers. These added responsibilities and expenses can cause retailers to hesitate, but with better systems such as centralized inventory, they can deliver more predictive accuracy.

Collecting Delivery Data

In order to achieve customer satisfaction, retailers need to gather information on order metrics such as delivering on time and the right quantities. Centralized order systems are great for collecting all of this data as well as figuring out the issues that cause shipment delays.

“The average delivery time really needs to be measured,” advises Pattathil. “If you have a certain delivery goal, you need to make sure you’re meeting that goal.”

Taking a closer look at late packages is also important because it can help retailers dissect the root cause behind the delays. Delivering packages early causes problems since you’re still promising customers a different date than when the shipment actually arrives. 

“While it might seem OK since you’re still meeting your promise to your customer, the underlying issue here is that you’re leaving a lot of sales on the table,” explains Pattathil. “Many of the potential shoppers are walking away from your site because they’re seeing a delivery promise that’s not acceptable to them. Especially in cases with holiday shopping or events, if you can’t promise a delivery before that particular holiday, the customer will go elsewhere.”

By not offering accurate estimated delivery dates for customers, your competition will step in and sweep shoppers off their feet. There are a plethora of solutions to implement that can help with this, and especially with AI becoming easier and easier to utilize, retailers are running out of excuses not to provide accurate delivery dates.