Last month, I spoke at length with senior executives of two multinational retail businesses. One was in the quick-service restaurant sector and the other in sustainable health and beauty products. It would be hard to find two retail categories as diverse by nature, so that is what made one common conclusion of the two so noteworthy. At some point, each conversation turned to the importance of maintaining control over the customer experience. In the case of the QSR business, we talked about the r
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the risk of delegating delivery responsibility to a third-party app-based service bearing a different brand and lacking any specific training in handling the products they were delivering. I shared that I recently ordered a pizza online, only to have it delivered by a motorbike delivery contractor operating under the banner of a major app-based food-delivery brand.
Anyone who has ever ordered a pizza to take away understands the importance of keeping the box flat between the store and the dining table. In this case, the driver had simply slung the bag containing the pizza over a hook on his bike so that it ended up vertical. You do not need a photograph to imagine the complete carnage inside the box when it was opened. The fact the delivery app issued a voucher that covered most of the cost of the pizza was a moot point. We were hungry and did not want to wait another 45 minutes for a replacement. So we tried our best to re-assemble the mush and made light of it.
In my conversation with the sustainable health and beauty retail brand, we discussed a similar experiencewith a third-party agent. The company is headquartered down under and it was fortunate to establish a relationship with a third-party wholesale distributor in a significant Asian country to represent it with local retailers – and engage directly with consumers via online marketplaces. This B Corp-certified brand takes pride in its active commitment to sustainable business practices. Ingredients are not tested on animals, packaging is 100 per cent recyclable – and is usually recycled itself – and the brand has deployed refill stations in retail stores in multiple countries.
So imagine our surprise to order half a dozen sustainable products and receive them in a cardboard box triple-wrapped in adhesive tape, then to discover that each bottle inside was individually surrounded in bubble wrap and taped around its lid. In fact, every spare centimetre of space in the box was filled with plastic bubble wrap that will take 1000-plus years to break down in landfill.
Mortified, the H&B brand promised to explain again to its local partner the significance of the company’s sustainability credentials, its market positioning as free from single-use plastics, and the way thoughtless last mile delivery packaging damages that brand credibility.
As for the (much larger and more heavily resourced) F&B retailer, that company is now exploring developing its own dedicated delivery fleet and weaning itself off third-party delivery apps. Its goal: when someone orders one of its products online, the company’s own-branded team will fulfil the last-mile delivery. The customer will receive the food directly from a driver wearing the brand’s own uniform and presumably committed to the customer focus ethos.
While third-party aggregators and delivery platforms will always have their valid place in the retail market, smart brands are gradually understanding the importance of controlling the customer experience. When you accept an order from a customer who may be loyal to your brand, a disconnected, poorly trained employee of some third party to whom you have delegated the only physical interaction between your brand and your customer can inflict significant damage on your reputation.
In media relations, wise counsel advocates the importance of controlling the narrative, to ensure your brand has the high ground in a potential controversy.
Equally so, in online retailing, the importance of controlling the customer experience from order through to last mile delivery is vital to the success of your brand positioning. Food – or facewash – for thought, right?
This story first appeared in the February 2023 issue of Inside Retail Asia Magazine.