In today’s ever-expanding world, customers expect convenient and fast delivery options — especially given the rapid service provided by the world’s top commercial giants.
While there is no easy answer to that question, there are several measures that small businesses can take to make their deliveries more streamlined and cost-effective. To help, we’ll take you through four of the logistical challenges small business must overcome to keep up with the pace of change.
1. Getting to grips with key logistics theory
A streamlined logistics strategy is something every small business needs, but not many have the time to master. As such, learning a few key principals could give you an immediate advantage over your competitors. When it comes down to it, planning is the key success factor in any logistics strategy; tracking the product journey from the point of sourcing or manufacture, directly to the customer’s doorstep. When developing your own logistics plan, you need to consider the following points:
- What is the lead time on preparing new stock?
- Where will you source product/materials from? (Or will you manufacture independently?)
- If required, how will you get that stock to you, do you need to consider import support?
- How will you ship products locally, nationally and internationally?
- Will you handle shipping internally, or via a third-party solution?
Combined, these factors all influence the order fulfilment cycle, which determines how long it takes for deliveries to reach customers. By carefully planning each part of the cycle, and comparing several options for each stage, you may be able to reduce delivery time and even costs.
This planned approach is enough to build a solid foundation for effective logistics — but deeper knowledge may be required in order to ensure a competitive execution. To help, hiring an expert, such as a logistics manager, to join your team or working with a third-party logistics provider could help you to elevate your service above the competition.
2. Keeping customers updated on delivery progress
A recent study by salesforce.com found that 66% of millennials expect real-time responses and interactions about their orders from service reps, compared to 62% of baby boomers and traditionalists. While this may not seem like a big statistical difference, it does indicate a growing need for businesses to provide timely information on a product’s delivery status.
This poses a problem for small businesses because some small-scale logistics providers offer very limited information during shipping. When customers ask for detail, all businesses can often rely on is a response such as: “It’s been dispatched.” Small businesses can solve this problem either by hiring their own delivery agents and drivers, which creates high overhead costs, or by working with a logistics provider that offers the technology and fleet you need, such as live parcel tracking and in-flight delivery updates via email and/or SMS.
3. Putting the right storage facilities in place
Another key piece in the logistics jigsaw is storage. Primarily, keeping as much stock in your location as possible can help to keep order fulfilment time down. The challenge here for small businesses is one of capacity. Small businesses often rely on a small stockroom or even space on a residential property to store items ready for shipping.
Since deliveries increase as a business grows, you could look to expand your storage capacity by using a network of warehouses located around the country, which can help reduce delivery time and free up space on-site for other uses. Alternatively, you could look for a logistics partner that has a nationwide footprint with storage space to support a ‘just in time’ delivery model, all from the one supplier.
4. Managing logistics effectively
Some growing SMEs with a large budget have the luxury of being able to employ a logistics specialist to ensure deliveries are running smoothly — but what about those that are just starting up, or prefer to limit their workforce?
One solution is a CitySprint business account. You’ll receive preferential business rates and your single account will give you access to a complete same day, UK overnight and international delivery service suite. Plus, you'll benefit form real-time tracking on deliveries and 24/7 customer support to help solve any issues you or your customers may encounter.
The bottom line
There are no two ways about it: keeping up with the expected speed and flexibility of deliveries in today’s marketplace is an everyday challenge for small businesses. However, by making just a few changes here and there, you will be able to deliver a more streamlined service to your customers. If you could use a hand at any stage of this process, CitySprint are here to help. We offer same day, UK overnight and international delivery solutions, as well as storage and fulfilment services, with speed in mind, ensuring that your consignments arrive securely, safely, and in time. If you’re interested in learning more about our services, head over here for more information, or contact us directly.