Better, Faster, Stronger: Improving DTC Fulfillment

A DTC eCommerce brand can have the best products in the world, but if they cannot deliver them to their customers quickly and reliably, they will not win customers and sustain business. 

Logistics is the backbone of any DTC business, and fast shipping is one of the best ways to build customer loyalty. Create a powerful and resilient shipping strategy with the following tips. 

Build a Multichannel Fulfillment Model

If the pandemic taught us one thing about logistics, it is that no DTC brand should put all their faith in a single company when it comes to managing their international logistics. Instead, work with multiple carriers for a contingency-proof and cost-effective solution. 

Building a multichannel fulfillment model with multiple distribution centers will: 

  • Secure the best price and most efficient shipping options by finding and comparing multiple carriers
  • Create contingency plans. With several carriers, if one cannot respond to your shipping needs or meet a deadline, another will be able to take their place.
  • Ensure business continuity if faced with the prospect of needing to close a warehouse. 
  • Ship products faster to your customers. The more distribution centers you have across countries and continents, the quicker you’ll ship to customers.
  • Score better shipping rates. Possessing well-placed distribution centers around the country and globe will help your company benefit from more cost-effective pricing.

Forge a Robust Supply Chain 

A resilient supply chain is just as important as a strong shipping strategy. After all, brands cannot ship products they do not have. Make your supply chain robust enough to manage the biggest challenges and even unforeseen events with this three-step strategy. 

  • Move away from Just In Time (JIT) supply chains
    JIT supply chains have been all the rage for the past 50 years. Not any more. The smallest issue can derail everything, instantly ruining all of the cost-saving benefits.
  • Source suppliers closer to home
    Local suppliers may be more expensive, but you can trust them to deliver when global supply routes have ground to a halt. Having products made in your home country has never been a more marketable feature, either.
  • Diversify your supply chain 
    Relying on one manufacturer is tired, but using multiple? Wired. Just like shipping carriers, the more manufacturers you work with the better costs you can achieve and the more contingency plans will be built into your systems.

Creating a robust supply chain is not only about cutting costs. The end-game is becoming a more resilient, diverse and flexible brand.

a row of DHL pickup lockers; improving DTC fulfillment concept

Focus on Last-Mile Delivery

The area of logistics where processes are likely to become most unglued? According to ShipBob’s Kristina Lopienski, it’s the last mile.Optimize the final leg of your logistics to be miles ahead of the competition.

Start optimizing your last-mile by retaining delivery practices that have developed during the pandemic. For example, not requiring signatures (save for very valuable parcels,) and giving customers the option to specify a secure drop-off location will add efficiencies and protect against loss. 

Then, offer as may different delivery options as possible, such as 

  • Curbside pickup
  • Locker delivery
  • In-store fulfillment

The more flexible you can be with delivery, the better. Bear in mind, the more complex your last-mile delivery becomes, the more important it will be to partner with someone who can offer centralized fulfillment management.

Communicate Clearly With Customers

No one wants to be left waiting in the dark, wondering when their package will arrive. Delays happen, and part of having a resilient supply chain is having the ability to communicate with customers effectively when something does go wrong.

  • Be Transparent Create a Delivery FAQ page and have this information located somewhere clearly on your site. This gives customers the ability to find common answers to shipping and delivery queries without bogging your customer support team down. Create a section dedicated to global events that are impacting your business, such as natural disasters or the global COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Be honest. Let customers know of expected delays ahead of time. Rather than overpromising and under-delivering, set clear expectations. 
  • Be Proactive Send emails to your customers in the wake of major events that could expect your delivery timeframes. Even if your brand does not expect to be affected, best to let consumers know in advance. 

Turn Delivery into a Product

There’s never been more demand for eCommerce products, which makes this the perfect time to take a page from Amazon’s book and turn delivery into a product. Research shows that 43% of consumers would choose Amazon over a DTC brand because of cheaper or free shipping options. 33% would choose Amazon over a DTC retailer because of Amazon Prime perks. DTC brands then, have two ways to compete:

  1. Offer faster shipping than anyone else and consumers may pay for it.
  2. Create your own Prime-style delivery product and charge consumers for it.

Logistics should not be seen as an expense for DTC brands. A great shipping strategy can can build consumer loyalty and even turn into a product itself.

Images by: chuttersnap, Jan Antonin Kolar

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