AxleHire CEO Goes Deep into Delivery Experience

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If you think the retail industry is overwhelmed at this time of the year, when the holidays take center stage, try working in the shipping industry. Raj Ramanan is CEO of AxleHire, a last-mile shipping service for e-commerce retailers, touts its “Amazon-like” service experience of next-day and same-day delivery as desired. And satisfaction goes right through to the customer’s unboxing experience.

AxleHire’s Ramanan said that in 2023, customers, brands and delivery partners sought to emulate the gold-standard that is Amazon Prime’s last-mile fulfillment service in the sales funnel. “In 2024, they will look for ways to surpass it from both the shipper and shopper perspectives,” he predicted.

Last-mile delivery companies like AxleHire will give shippers far more granular dashboards and features for tracking packages and optimizing costs, delivering to difficult-to-find addresses, and improving on-time delivery rates. Ramanan sat down with StreetFight to provide an industry outlook for 2024.

How can brands repair the customer relationship when shipping is late, especially during holiday-gift season?

The most important thing a brand can do if a shipment is going to be later than expected is to notify the customer that their package will be arriving later than planned and provide ongoing updates throughout the delivery process with precise delivery windows. In addition, it helps to offer options for the customer: Is there a similar item that could be delivered on time? Is there a discount you can provide on a future order? Any olive branch you can extend to make up for a late shipment can help repair the brand-customer relationship.

What are the top challenges in last-mile delivery, both during the year and compared to the holiday season?

The challenges for last-mile delivery providers are all centered on the customer experience: ensuring on-time delivery rates; providing open and transparent communication with the customer, along with tracking capabilities throughout the delivery process; and keeping delivery costs in check.

These challenges are ongoing throughout the year but are especially critical during the holidays when customer expectations are at all-time high and delivery budgets are tight. Brands know even their most loyal customers will go elsewhere if their packages do not arrive on-time and free of damages. It’s imperative that brands partner with a last-mile delivery provider they can trust without them charging exorbitant delivery fees.

Speaking of damages, can brands do anything to combat “porch piracy?”

Porch piracy–thefts involving ecommerce packages that are stolen before the customer is able to retrieve their order–is a major issue, especially in urban areas. [While AxleHire does not have proprietary data on stolen packages] Industry reports estimate as many as 119 million packages were stolen in the past year, with three out of four people reporting they’ve had at least one package stolen.

Customer communication is key to helping reduce package theft. Sending prompt notifications when a delivery is on the way helps customers keep track of their orders and know when to expect the shipment so that they can retrieve it as soon as it arrives. Also, providing real-time tracking updates as a package moves from the warehouse to a customer’s doorstep not only helps fight theft, but vastly improves the overall customer experience.

How can brands keep in mind the customer experience right up until the “unboxing” part of delivery fulfillment?

When it comes to “unboxing” packages, extra touches are a nice detail. The best brands spend a lot of time thinking about the customer experience. The packaging is designed with care to make the unboxing delightful. Including a thank you note for choosing your brand, specialty wrapping paper, and free samples are always nice to have and can help boost the customer experience—and drive future sales.

When are fulfillment expectations unrealistic?

Consumers are increasingly concerned about climate change, which puts pressure on companies to find more environmentally sustainable forms of delivery. Unfortunately, most companies have put these efforts on the backburner because they cling to three patently false myths: First, that consumers don’t care [about sustainability]. Second, that it will increase costs or shipping times. Third, that it is not worth trying until carriers can afford an entire fleet of electric vehicles. In 2024, we hope [the industry] will wake up and realize that these assumptions are false. There is so much we can already do – at no extra cost – to improve doorstep delivery while also reducing our carbon footprint.

Is Amazon still the gold standard for tracking, managing, and delivering packages to a customer’s expectations? Which brands have equaled or exceeded Amazon in this regard?

Amazon may have ushered in the standard for “fast and free deliveries” with the launch of Amazon Prime memberships, but that was nearly two decades ago. Many brands are meeting—and exceeding—customer expectations when it comes to their shipping strategies with the help of last-mile delivery solutions. By embracing a multi-carrier strategy, brands are able to scale their delivery efforts, improving the overall delivery experience while simultaneously decreasing delivery costs.

Brands like American Eagle, Hello Fresh, and Nespresso, clients of AxleHire, have been able to ensure a 99% on-time delivery rate to fulfill their last-mile delivery services. Best of all, they accomplished improved delivery times and increased customer satisfaction without having to increase delivery costs—a win-win for brands and customers.

Kathleen Sampey
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