If you think 2-day and same-day shipping is the only impact The Amazon Effect is having on 3rd Party Logistics (3PL) operations and eCommerce fulfillment, think again.
Let’s say you’re a 3PL specializing in omni-channel fulfillment with all the complexities of sales, multiple channels, and value-add services.
Every customer of yours is also a consumer using Amazon or other similar eCommerce platforms. Their personal digital interactions have drastically changed expectations of how they believe ALL business should work.
I’m not saying 3PLs need to incorporate single-click to buy or AI voice assistants into their workflow. But there are lessons to be learned by the way these massive eCommerce platforms are focusing on customer experience and the effect it’s having on expectations. As Amazon continues to evolve the customer experience, the rest of the world’s digital native brands and DTC sellers are listening, watching, and mimicking their behaviors as fast as they possibly can.
There is a trickle-down effect on the evolution of customer experience and the resulting expectations:
1. Speed: When living in the world of instant gratification, speed is likely the most important factor shaping 3PL customer expectations. Remember, the average attention span of a millennial is only 8 seconds! Millennial's are now between the age of 26-40 and likely make up the majority of 3PL clients. HubSpot recently found that 90% of customers rate an “immediate response” (defined as 10 mins or less) as important or very important when they have a customer service question.
SLA’s with 4-hour response times are not going to cut it in the eyes of 3PL customers for much longer. 3PLs need to adapt new processes and technology that allows customer service and account reps to acknowledge and attend to their inbound customer concerns in a much quicker, more efficient manner.
2. Transparency: We can track our pizza step-by-step along its journey from the moment we hit buy to the moment it arrives at our door. With a single tap, we know where our Uber driver is, what car she’s driving, what music she likes, and how long it’s going to be until she picks us up. Transparency reduces anxiety and gives consumers peace of mind that they are somewhat in control of a situation even when they are not! Consumers value transparency more than ever with 86% of people rating “honesty” as the top quality they look for in brand communications.
Transparency is already having a massive effect on upstream supply chain activities and among carriers. 3PL clients are coming to expect the same levels of transparency for their inventory, order statuses, special project statuses, and more. Much of this data is captured by 3PLs in spreadsheets and can be communicated via email and phone calls.
Transparency serves to be a massive opportunity for 3PLs to delight their clients and reduce operational costs by reducing the number of emails, phone calls, and service tickets spent managing daily requests.
3. Proactivity & Hyper Personalization: Consumers are now used to brands reaching out to them in personal ways. Think personalized emails, newsletters, product recommendations, etc. that have been formulated from the consumers previous purchases. 69%of consumers want highly personalized experiences. Consumers love this because they get what they want without having to say a word.
As a 3PL, being able to extract and understand the DNA of your customers i.e. order volumes, kits/bundles,custom packaging, etc. is likely the most valuable assets you can create over the course of building a long term relationship. Capturing this data and deriving insights from it allows you to go above and beyond just “answering the mail”. Equipped with the proper predictive analytics and insights, 3PLs can make quicker better suggestions to boost their customers performance and help them grow by suggesting add-on services at the right time.
For the foreseeable future: the world of 3PLs and Supply Chain & Logistics will still be a “people-first” industry. 3PLs are in the business of moving boxes, not bits and bytes. That being said, it has never been more important to equip 3PL employees with a digital tool belt and empower 3PL customers with real-time data and digital support & services. Doing so will likely become a necessity for long term survival in our ever-changing digital world.