If there is one thing that this COVID19 pandemic has shown us is the power in delivery. Most of us have had a good delivery experience and, of course, we’ve all had a nightmare experience. That’s because for most of the history of deliveries it has been an afterthought, a benefit, an outcome of the “real” effort of selling.
I remember when Amazon and Didi emerged with their plethora of products that couldn’t be found anywhere near my house. Books, electronics, clothes — the list goes on. It was so easy to purchase what you needed but then the wait. Oh the wait! How could something take 20 seconds to purchase but 20 business days to get to me? Being in Canada added to the woes as things would get stuck at the border or, even now, the taxes levied at the border are sometimes equal to the cost of the actual product I’m purchasing. Adding in the $US to $CAN dollar conversion and those days of an online deal are long gone.
The thing is that we were ok with this because we were early adopters. Same day or next day delivery at that time was done locally by bike couriers. Postal mail was a steady beast if you planned ahead and FedEx and UPS were last resort options. This was the state of delivery and the fact we could order product online and get it delivered…at the discretion of the delivery service…was good enough for all of us at the time.
Times are different now and so too is the state of delivery.
The mailbox is a funny thing. Sometimes it is a little box of terrors when bills arrive or your first post-Christmas credit statement. Other times it is the epitome of anticipation. Like most of my generation, I was part of the Columbia Records club where they would ship me 10 records for one cent and then send me one album per month for full price. Every month I would wait for the mailman to come by and it was either a great day or I would be forced to wait one more to see what tomorrow brought. I didn’t know then but that experience — no, not the purchasing of the product — but the one where I get my order in my hands — is the killer feature of commerce.
The purest in me says a little anticipation reinforces the purchase decision. Does it? Before online commerce and home delivery when you wanted a product you would go visit it in the store or see it in a magazine or on TV. That creates at least a little bit of anticipation making the product seem a little more valuable in your mind. I try to teach my kids about anticipation when they are looking at buying something. Regardless If we end up sleeping on a purchase or not, we still want to hold it the moment we buy it.
It’s easy to buy, it’s harder to get.
There is no lack of commerce options. If you can’t find what you are looking for locally you can jump online and find it there for sure. So if inventory is more of a commodity now and, all things being equal, the price is relatively the same everywhere, what is the differentiator? What makes someone buy a product that you can get anywhere for the same price?
For me it is the magic in the delivery.
Don’t be confused with the “ships in 1 day” slogan. The product often is shipping in a day BUT delivery is the tax we all pay and it is often hidden until after you’ve made your decision to buy. “Can it really take 3 weeks to get here?” “Nah” but it really does. This is what will kill companies that don’t understand that the joy is GETTING the product, not spending money to buy it.
Companies that understand why Amazon focused on building their delivery infrastructure while they built out their product offerings know that delivery is their magic. It has enabled them to get to a point where ordering something online and having it materialize in your hands on the same day is now an expected outcome. This is bad news for any other company that still thinks that their products are special and worth the wait. That may be the case but there are other similar products out there that will arrive 3 weeks faster.
When I was 18 my mother was living in Bangladesh so we would spend family vacations travelling through India and surrounding countries. On one of those trips my father purchased a dancing shiva cast iron statue that stood about 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. He spent around $200 on it and asked to have it shipped to our home in Canada. Months went by and it never arrived. Soon it was a distant memory, and then a lesson in optimism UNTIL 2 years almost to the day, the dancing shiva landed on our doorstep.
Recently I bought a pillow cover from an online store and only after the purchase did I realize it was from a store in Morocco. The product was what I wanted but it took 4 months to arrive. Many times I reached out to the store owner and I felt as though I was reminding him to ship my product every single time.
While these experiences were 32 years apart — and aside from the fact that I didn’t need to travel to Morocco to buy the pillow cover — delivery was still the hurdle.
The purchase is NOT the end of the transaction. Great companies understand that their brand experience ends when the product is in their customer’s hands.
As we emerge from this Pandemic, we will see a new learned behaviour that is delivery. Local stores that were forced to jump online to stay in business will need to continue selling online. The selling isn’t the hard part given there are companies that will enable that for next to nothing. The hard part will be nailing the delivery. It is THE experience that is often forgotten during a transaction but THE most important metric in customer satisfaction. It doesn’t matter that I can buy a product online, my joy is now related to how quickly I can get my hands on it.