Hybrid retail demands a rock-solid last-mile delivery partner:


Nowadays it’s a universal truth that customers won’t buy from a retailer again if the delivery service is poor. This is especially true in the age of hybrid shopping, where consumers favour both brick-and-mortar and online purchasing for the different options and conveniences they present.

What is common to both is the importance of effective delivery, as even the slightest issue can leave people running for the hills. This means that retailers must do their homework when it comes to choosing the right delivery partner. Shaunei Gerber, Product Marketing Manager at South African smart logistics platform Pargo, says business owners should look at several key aspects when assessing who to partner with.

The first is price to consumer, she says. “Your checkout delivery pricing strategy needs to make sense to your consumer. Pricing otherwise affordable delivery methods like Click & Collect, where orders are placed online and then collected from a designated pickup point, above other more traditional delivery methods, including home delivery, will not serve your target market.”

The right delivery partner should also be committed to customer convenience and understand that consumers don’t want a delivery method that requires them to use more of their valuable time than absolutely necessary.

Gerber emphasises that last-mile delivery partners should be doing most of the work. “You should be spending 80% of your time on growing your business, and only 10% on administrative tasks. Don’t let your delivery partner occupy more than 5% of your time.”

The right delivery partner should also make liberal use of technology to serve all South Africans, no matter where they live. While dream partners don’t exactly grow on trees, there are several effective avenues retailers can explore to find promising candidates. Referrals remain an excellent way to meet and network with new suppliers, while word of mouth gives a brand credibility through those who have experienced services and products first-hand singing its praises.

“PR (public relations) is also a great way to find new partners,” Gerber says. “Taking note of thought leaders and experts who the media deem notable and topical gives you a really good idea of how well they know their own product, the market they serve and the problems they solve.”

Throughout this ‘recruitment’ process, retailers should always ensure that they never settle for second best.  The logistics brand must be established and well-versed in the last-mile to avoid consumer-friction risks, including delivery delays, missing parcels or otherwise problematic deliveries.

Last-mile specialists like Pargo have spent years understanding consumers’ online buying behaviour and working with best couriers to deliver excellent service.

“With the right technology, courier partners and communication tracking strategy, your business will be set up for success when it comes to the final mile,” Gerber says. “You need to walk in your customer’s shoes and test the delivery journey, making sure that the solution is well positioned at every customer touch point to keep shoppers informed every step of the way.”

For the retailer-delivery provider relationship to succeed, there needs to be communication and transparency, just as there is in any profitable business. Gerber says it is vital to have tough conversations to identify gaps.

“Only once you have understood your business, your consumer and the entire buying journey, you will be able to zoom out and orchestrate the ideal checkout journey that works for your customer and your business. 

“Above all, your delivery partner should be willing to grow with you. This means understanding how technology is evolving, how processes are changing and making the effort to be fluid in providing solutions to any challenges that may occur.”