Learn about the benefits of planning delivery slots using software, and how effective delivery slotting can help to optimize your last-mile delivery.
Scheduled Delivery: How to Let Your Customers Book Their Deliveries
In this post, you’ll see what is scheduled delivery, why you should let customers choose the date and time of delivery, and how to do just that.
In today’s post, we’re going to explain scheduled delivery.
- What it is and how it works
- Why you should make it part of your delivery offer
- And how you can do EXACTLY that in a few simple steps
So if you want to make delivery planning more predictable and generate more income by providing a reliable delivery experience, you’ll enjoy this article.
Scheduled Delivery Basics
To understand scheduled delivery, you’ll need to know the basics.
So in this part, we’ll give you the definition of scheduled delivery and how it works.
We’ll also show you why it’s crucial to make it part of your delivery offer in 2021.
Plus, a list of several benefits that may persuade you to do just that.
Let’s dive in.
What Is Scheduled Delivery?
Scheduled delivery is a type of fulfillment that enables customers to select the date and time when they want their order to arrive.
Typically, consumers were able to choose a time of day of their delivery (morning, afternoon, or evening). But in recent years, companies have let customers select more precise delivery times, usually within two or one-hour time slots.
This has greatly improved the delivery experience as customers no longer have to spend entire days waiting on orders to arrive. Instead, they get a more accurate delivery window that enables them to organize their day around their other daily activities.
How Does Scheduled Delivery Work?
Once a customer has selected an item for purchase, they can choose how they want their order to be delivered.
To choose scheduled delivery, they’ll have to input or select the date and time of the delivery at checkout from a list of available slots.
In some cases, customers can schedule the delivery at a specific time without choosing the date because it is tied to the delivery option that they’ve selected.
For example, if a customer selects 5-day standard delivery, the package will be delivered five days from the purchase date. But the customer can choose a time slot on the date in question.
Why Should You Offer Scheduled Delivery?
Although scheduled delivery requires advanced planning and logistics, there are several reasons why you should offer it to your customers:
#1 Improved customer experience
Regardless of which delivery option customers end up choosing, allowing them to schedule the time of arrival means they won’t have to spend an entire day waiting for their order to arrive.
They’ll have a delivery window in mind when your driver is supposed to arrive at their door. Which means they experience less stress when ordering an item online. And less worries that they’ll miss the delivery.
If you also send notifications with more accurate estimated times of arrival (ETAs) on the delivery date, you can improve their experience beyond their initial expectations.
#2 Anticipate inventory demand
Without scheduled delivery, it’s difficult to forecast product demand. And that means it can be difficult to sustain the right inventory levels, especially when demand exceeds your capacity.
But when you offer scheduled delivery, and you know the exact date of each delivery, it’s easier to align inventory with delivery demand.
Based on that information, you can see if some products are out of stock, and whether you’ll need to resupply before each delivery date.
Pro Tip: If you’re using delivery management software, you can use APIs to integrate it with your inventory or warehouse management solution. This can give you bonus visibility over inventory, which can help you to optimize your supply chain and the frequency at which you restock products.
#3 Predictable delivery schedules
Unless customers select same-day delivery, you can use scheduled delivery to plan better delivery schedules.
Since customers are choosing specific time slots, you have a better understanding of what to expect for each date. That enables you to anticipate how many orders you’ll have to fulfill for that day.
This can also help you to plan schedules ahead of time, since most customers set arrival times at least one day in advance.
#4 Lower operational costs
Because you know the exact date and time when you have to fulfill orders you can reduce operational expenses by routing delivery vehicles ahead of time.
In doing so, your drivers will know which paths to take to reach customers. This means that they’ll spend less time finding the customer, and less fuel to do it.
At the same time, scheduled shipping means you’ll have less returns. As a result you’ll spend less money on handling them through reverse logistics. And you’ll free up more of your vehicles to fulfill orders that bring in money.
#5 It Works In-House and If You Outsource
Scheduled delivery works both in-house and when you outsource the service to a third or fourth-party logistics provider.
If you operate an internal vs. external delivery fleet, then you know the extent of your delivery capacity. And you can limit the number of order requests you are able to fulfill.
On the other hand, you can monitor the amount of deliveries and vehicles you’ll have to hire when you have a clear understanding of your order volumes.
And in doing so, you can rightsize the workforce and fleet according to that number.
#6 Efficient Fulfillment
If you establish an ordering and delivery process you will be free from many disruptions, invoices, payments, and calls.
Scheduled delivery allows your team to stay focused on improving the more important components of your business.
Your shipping process and business in general, can be much more efficient that way.
Who Should Offer Scheduled Delivery?
Since it improves customer experience, scheduled delivery is a viable option for any type of business.
It also isn’t limited to the type of products you sell. Or the size or complexity of your business.
But that said, it works better for some businesses than others.
If you sell large items or they have to be handled with special care, as the case with pharmacy delivery, then it makes sense to know when you have to fulfill orders.
That makes it easier for you to manage the logistics behind your operations. So that you don’t end up exceeding the capacity of your fleet.
It also benefits you if your order volumes vary depending on seasonal sales’ tendencies of your shoppers.
For example, scheduled delivery can be the solution for last-delivery logistics behind Black Friday or Spring Sale.
It’s easier to monitor order volumes, and that can help you hire more people or outsource part of your service to a provider.
Examples of Scheduled Delivery
One of the best examples of scheduled delivery is Amazon.
Amazon lets customers choose the date and time when they want to receive their orders.
But because Amazon is a marketplace, not all vendors offer this kind of service. Nor does Amazon fulfillment offer this service across the globe.
UPS, DHL, FedEx and other courier and 3PK/4PL companies allow both businesses and consumers to use scheduled delivery.
If you use it to outsource deliveries, then you can schedule both pick-up and drop-off times.
But when it comes to the scheduled delivery examples themselves, there are three ways you can go about it.
You can let customers choose:
1. The delivery date
2. The delivery date and time slot
3. The delivery approximate time of delivery (e.g. morning delivery)
Depending on how you overcome last-mile delivery challenges, you can achieve all three types of scheduled delivery.
Challenges of Scheduled Delivery
Organizing and managing scheduled delivery doesn’t come without its share of challenges.
In this part of the article, you’ll see five difficulties that prevent most businesses from enabling customers to choose the date and time of their delivery.
Let’s take a look:
#1 Letting Customers Choose the Date and Time of Delivery
Let’s face it:
The biggest challenge of scheduled delivery is letting customers choose the date and time of delivery.
First, you have to activate the option on your website.
Besides making the changes on the checkout page, you’ll also have to connect the order management system (OMS) to a software that automatically schedules those orders for delivery.
For this, you can also use a solution such as a delivery management platform.
By using API integration, you can connect the platform with your OMS. This allows the software to automate the scheduling process, and prevents delivery times to overlap or double-book an order for the same time slot.
From an organizational point of view, this means you’ll have to streamline how you dispatch drivers.
Again, you can use software to create delivery schedules and automatically dispatch it to drivers.
Since delivery management software uses a platform and delivery driver app, all the schedules you plan are automatically updated to the app on the driver’s phone.
#2 Delivery Speed and Fulfillment Delays
Scheduled delivery relies a lot on delivery speed. If your fleet can’t fulfill orders on the requested time and date then you can seriously affect customer satisfaction.
The same is true when it comes to fulfillment delays. But, on the other hand, delays can happen.
So it’s important to allocate extra time to account for any unexpected events that cause delays which can ruin the entire delivery schedule.
#3 Last-Minute Orders or Cancellations
If you don’t offer same-day delivery, last-minute orders can affect scheduled delivery.
Not closing open time slots once you’ve planned the delivery schedule means customers can still choose that date or time.
And if unplanned order requests occur, you won’t be able to fulfill them since the fleet will have left on their routes.
That can seriously affect customer service and the reputation of your delivery.
On the other hand, last-minute cancellations can also occur. When canceled deliveries happen, they won’t affect your customers, but they will drive your transportation costs.
#4 Not Offering Other Delivery Options
Customers want choice.
In fact, it’s what customers value in last-mile delivery.
So you’ll have to offer more options than scheduled delivery alone.
And while Amazon offers 20+ delivery options to its customers, you don’t have to offer as much.
In fact, it’s better if you don’t. According to Sheena Iyengar at Columbia Business School, too many options can lead to choice overload. Which can prevent people from buying your products in the first place.
At the same time, offering same-day delivery and other logistically challenging deliveries can be a problem if you’re a small business.
That’s why the secret to competing with Amazon Delivery is to co-exist with them.
And you can do exactly that if you offer a few extra delivery options besides your scheduled and standard shipping.
How Can You Offer Scheduled Delivery?
Now that you understand the value of scheduled delivery, it’s time to add it to your service.
To do this, you’ll have to follow a few simple steps.
Here’s what you need to do:
#1 Customize Ordering and Checkout
We’ve already mentioned this.
You’ll have to make scheduled delivery an option for customers at checkout.
This means adding a calendar with available delivery slots which customers can select.
It also involves integrating your order management system with your delivery management systems.
The OMS can automatically transfer orders to the delivery software, and schedule them for fulfillment. While the delivery platform makes the used time slots unavailable for selection.
Pro Tip: It’s best to use experts to do this. You can hire a developer or choose a SaaS company that provides support and documentation when it comes to integrating your delivery and order management systems, like eLogii.
#2 Plan Schedules Ahead of Time
When you let customers choose the date and time of delivery, you should start planning the delivery schedule ahead of the fulfillment deadline.
But this can be difficult if you manually plan deliveries. If you use software, then you can plan drop-offs as soon as an order arrives days, or even weeks ahead of schedule.
In that way, you ensure that all deliveries are scheduled for fulfillment. And you cut the time it takes to plan deliveries on a day-to-day basis.
Pro Tip: If you don’t offer same-day delivery, make sure to close available time slots 24 hours before so that customers can’t choose them at checkout. This can become a habit if you start planning deliveries ahead of time.
#3 Plan and Optimize Delivery Routes
Planning delivery routes makes it easier to know how many drop-offs each driver in your fleet can complete. So that you don’t offer too many or too few time slots your customers can choose.
It also means that drivers will spend less time on the road, which means you’ll lower costs.
And they can spend more time with customers, which can improve customer satisfaction.
It will also make your fleet more efficient, especially if you have to set various order priorities but you don’t want to reduce the order accuracy of your fulfillment.
But manually planning routes is also difficult.
So, route optimization software can help you to do this more efficiently.
Because route planning is tied to the delivery schedule, you can also plan routes ahead of time. And for the entire fleet.
Not only that but the routes are immediately optimized based on a variety of factors, such as traffic or route density which makes your delivery more efficient.
#4 Integrate Forward and Reverse Logistics
When it comes to planning shipments’ schedules, you have two options: forward and reverse logistics.
Forward logistics refers to planning the tasks and steps from the first point of the delivery process (when your products become available). Reverse logistics (or backward logistics) refers to planning the returns.
While you can’t let customers schedule returns, it can be difficult to offer scheduled delivery when you have to handle returns, as well. So integrating them into one system makes it easier to fulfill both returns and deliveries.
To do this, you can again turn to delivery management software.
On the one hand, you can schedule returns in the same way you schedule drop-offs. But you can also adjust routes and schedules while your drivers have already left on their initial route.
So you can assign pick-ups of returns depending on the driver’s location. Or once they have completed the initial stop order.
Start Offering Scheduled Delivery
Now it’s your turn.
Are you ready to start offering scheduled delivery?
Do you want to allow customers to choose when you fulfill orders on other delivery options?
We can help you with that.
Our software is the answer to scheduled delivery.
Best of all, you can…