3 e-commerce tips from a South-East Asian courier van
Customers want greater variety, simplicity, and control in their e-commerce orders than ever before.
E-tailers cannot afford to “skimp on their logistics capabilities” if they want to stay in favor with customers.
E-tailers should design their supply chains based on direct feedback from their customers.
One of the most interesting and enjoyable parts of my job is going on regular courier rides with some of my employees. A few months ago in Thailand, I sat in one of our DHL courier vans as it made its rounds at speed. As the week progressed, my time in the van with my front line employees and customers reinforced my thoughts on the growing complexity and huge upside of e-commerce in the region.
South East Asia is a hotbed for online trade. By 2020, more than 480 million people in the region will be online. At the moment, 3.8 million new users get connected to the internet every month. E-commerce in the region is expected to be worth US$88 billion by 2025. There are high volumes of deliveries across the countries: Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam have more than 150,000 B2C parcel deliveries a day, and still only represent between 3 and 5 percent of all retail sales in their countries.
It is a huge and growing ‘pie’ for new and existing e-tailers. Whilst it is a great time to be an e-tailer, the huge opportunity also comes with some challenges. Customer requirements are becoming more complex as are the channels that merchants have, to keep up with them. One of the biggest signs of this trend is the way South East Asian customers interact with brands. Among digital shoppers, 80 percent use social media to research products and interact with sellers. Shopping via mobile devices has also become the norm, especially for those who live outside metropolitan areas: 85 percent of Thailand consumers outside the major cities, for example, use their mobile phones for online purchases.
“After experiencing deliveries first-hand from the passenger seat, you quickly realize what’s working, what isn’t and how to make that experience better.”
As online shopping becomes more prevalent, customer expectations will continue to rise. They will have less tolerance for delays, and be frustrated at the lack of choice. When I spoke recently to one of our partners, Hans-Peter Ressel, CEO of Lazada Malaysia, he remarked to me: “When customers buy from us today, they are looking for a seamless shopping experience. As e-tailers, we can’t afford to skimp on our logistics capabilities. It’s important to continuously offer fast, convenient, and reliable delivery options—because these are what customers are looking for today.”
So let’s take a step outside and consider what exactly is it that the South East Asian customer wants after they have hit the magical ‘check-out’ button. What makes them tick? What do they like? What frustrates them? From my journey walking the ground in our facilities, to sitting in our delivery vans, I’ve noticed three things that customers in the region want from their e-tailers today:
1. Variety to match their diverse needs
The ‘on-demand’ economy has given customers many options and their expectations have changed considerably as a result. Today, customers want not only faster delivery options, but a pre-determined and agreed delivery window. Payment preferences also vary across different countries. In several developed cities like Singapore, customers are fine with paying by credit card. However, when it comes to the 60–70 percent of people in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam who are “unbanked”, cash on delivery still reigns supreme. Customer demands have diversified, and so should the services e-tailers offer. They must become more sensitive to on-the-ground feedback from customers to be able to adjust their offerings to suit their needs. Don’t treat deliveries as a cost center: in the long run, a great delivery experience will pay dividends.
'Brewer’s Top Tip’: Approach the delivery process as part of the value chain. A variety of payment and service options, coupled with excellent service, can create ‘raving fans’, or emotionally engaged and loyal customers who drive up repeat visits and basket size.
It may seem like a cost, but in the long run, a great delivery experience will pay dividends.
2. Hassle-free deliveries
Today’s busier and multi-tasking lifestyles mean that customers have little time to spare and short attention spans. Deliveries have to suit the consumer’s schedule, not the e-tailer or delivery company. One of the best ways e-tailers can add value to their customers’ lives is to offer a variety of delivery options. Apart from the traditional home or office deliveries, they can make use of what is now the fastest growing delivery method in Europe: parcel lockers, service points, and convenience stores. These facilities are located in areas that customers frequent, so they don’t have to be stuck waiting for delivery staff to arrive. More pick-up options will make the collection experience much less disruptive to their daily lives.
'Brewer’s Top Tip’: Partner with a delivery company that can provide seamless alternate delivery options (and not just one) without skimping on order visibility for customers.
3. Tools for more control
When it comes to deliveries, customers want to be empowered. They want the best experience possible—from the moment they make their purchase to the point of delivery when they receive their goods. In fact, 60 percent of digital shoppers in South East Asia rank “experience” as a bigger factor than “price”, which only influenced 45 percent. It is important for e-tailers to provide that sense of control and comfort if they want customers to keep returning. They can empower customers with the ability to track and trace their purchases every step of the way. This capability can be performed via a variety of methods, such as online portals or SMS notifications, that allow customers to access the information on the go.
'Brewer’s Top Tip’:Give consumers control as part of your operational process flow. To really go the extra mile, ensure your partners have the IT capability to allow customers to change their mind about where and when to receive their order!
At DHL eCommerce, we have already helped hundreds of e-tailers to circumvent the challenges I have just described. We sometimes miss the details of the customer experience – but after experiencing deliveries first-hand from the passenger seat, you quickly realize what’s working, what isn’t and how to make that experience better. There’s never a better time to build choice, convenience, and control into e-tailer offerings that we- not only as e-tailers, but consumers as well – can delight in.
The demands I have touched on will continue to grow as e-commerce expands. At DHL eCommerce, we have already helped hundreds of e-tailers to circumvent the challenges I have just described. Our passion is in knowing more about the diverse customer needs across the region and tailoring e-commerce logistics solutions that fit the requirements of each market. There’s never a better time to build choice, convenience, and control into e-tailer offerings and create better e-commerce experiences for customers today.
A version of this article first appeared on ecommerceIQ.