Faster last-mile delivery times are top of mind for retailers these days. But speed is just one part of the delivery experience. Letting customers choose when to receive their order stands to increase buyers’ satisfaction and retailers’ revenue in the long run. 

That’s if retailers can pull it off.

There’s more e-commerce revenue to be won than ever before. The pandemic pushed shoppers online, and digital sales continue to grow. But customers have high expectations. Nearly half of consumers and more than half of businesses in a recent Forrester Consulting/Bloomreach survey would pay more for a better buying experience. And nearly 80% of shoppers would switch retailers if the buying process was difficult to navigate. 

“One of my theories is that consumers will start to put cost aside, and it will be more about convenience and availability,” Allen Bonde, former vice president and research director at Forrester Research, said in the report. “This will apply to both consumer behaviors and business purchasing behaviors. It will be more about reliability, convenience, availability, assured delivery trust and less about price.”

For retailers, that means offering customers choices for when and how to receive their product — and being ready and able to deliver on them.   

Understanding the Benefits of Optionality

It’s obvious why a load of groceries needs to be delivered quickly. But what if the customer isn’t home to put perishables in the fridge or doesn’t need the ingredients until the next day? That customer may want to place the order during their lunch break and have it delivered when they’re home or closer to when they’ll need it. Similarly, someone who buys an expensive piece of equipment doesn’t typically want it sitting on their front steps until they return.

These customers need the option to decide when their order will be delivered and the ability to track it along the way. Other customers may opt for a more hands-off approach, choosing to receive their order the next week or requiring fewer details about its arrival. The same customer may have different preferences across orders, based on factors like the products they are buying, the time of year and even their location.

“It shouldn’t surprise any of us that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution,” said Marc Gorlin, Roadie’s founder and CEO. “What consumers want can be different for every transaction, because different delivery models have different costs, different benefits, different risks.”

Customers want options at the point of sale. Are they willing to wait a week for delivery of their grill in order to save on delivery costs? Or do they want to pay extra to have it delivered right now, in time for this weekend’s cookout? Giving customers a menu of options for when and how to receive their orders not only stands to improve customer satisfaction. It also creates opportunities for retailers. Here are a few to consider: 

  • Avoid unnecessary costs. Moving quickly to offer same- or next-day delivery adds cost for retailers. By letting customers decide when their order should arrive, retailers can skip the potential extra labor and shipping expenses and focus their team’s efforts on fulfilling truly urgent deliveries.
  • Consolidating deliveries. Standard delivery timelines let retailers improve efficiency by consolidating orders. By combining multiple items headed to the same address into a single box, retailers can save time and money on picking and packing as well as shipping fees. 
  • Routing orders. When customers have fulfillment options, so do retailers. Instead of fulfilling from the nearest location, a retailer may choose to balance inventory by routing an item from a store or distribution center that is overstocked. 
  • Winning (and keeping) customers. When customers need an order delivered the same or next day, retailers that can make good on an offer of fast fulfillment will be ready to get that business and keep customers coming back.

Crowdsourcing Lets Retailers Offer a Full Range of Fulfillment Options 

By tapping an independent driver network, retailers can use crowdsourced delivery to quickly scale up when demand increases, without having to pay to maintain their own fleets. That also means they don’t have to leave orders on the table between contract carrier sweeps or when volume outruns fleet capacity. 

Ultrafast deliveries aren’t the only advantage crowdsourcing offers retailers looking to give customers more choice. Big and bulky products that are difficult and costly to ship via traditional routes can travel easily and efficiently through crowdsourcing. And orders can reach rural areas faster than with traditional carriers. 

Crowdsourcing offers advantages for retailers on the back end, too. Inventory balancing and repositioning needs don’t always line up with typical carrier schedules. With crowdsourcing, retailers can move inventory between stores and warehouses on demand so it’s at the point of sale when customers need it to be.

How Tractor Supply Uses Crowdsourcing To Give Customers More Delivery Options

Since its founding as a mail-order tractor parts business in 1938, Tractor Supply Co. has grown into the largest rural-lifestyle retail chain in the U.S., with more than 2,000 stores. Besides offering more than 15,000 SKUs, the retailer also offers customers a choice of when and where to receive their products. Online shoppers can choose between in-store or curbside pickup from a nearby location, standard carrier delivery times, and same-day delivery. In-store shoppers also can schedule home delivery, which helps when their vehicles aren’t big enough to hold large purchases like lawnmowers or chicken coops. 

Tractor Supply harnesses the on-demand flexibility of crowdsourcing for its quick-turnaround deliveries. The company partnered with Roadie to begin crowdsourcing same-day home deliveries in 2017. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, Tractor Supply accelerated its ramp-up with Roadie, becoming the first major general-merchandise retailer to offer same-day delivery from 100% of its stores nationwide. 

The option for same-day delivery puts Tractor Supply well ahead of the competition. Just 27% of businesses offer next-day delivery as part of their e-commerce strategy, according to Forrester/Bloomreach data. Yet a lack of flexibility around delivery is a top reason the buyer experience fails “at the last hurdle,” the firms noted. 

Roadie’s robust crowdsourcing solution is helping Tractor Supply achieve its goal of getting customers what they need, where and when they need it. 

How can crowdsourcing help your business? Check out our guide for how retailers can use crowdsourcing to outpace competitors in the last mile and give customers the choices they need.

How retailers can win the last mile