Delivery “arms race” intensifies but small businesses can still compete

A delivery transport “arms race” is intensifying and could pose a potential threat for small business as more customers become lured toward shorter delivery times and greater professionalism by larger players.

Retailer Cue recently launched a three-hour delivery service throughout Australia. The Iconic also offers three-hour deliveries for Sydney and same-day to Melbourne metro. JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman offer same-day delivery, and Amazon offers one-day deliveries. Even Australia Post recently announced it wants to use Uber-style tracking for parcels.

This isn’t just a retail issue: we’re seeing it in industries such as auto parts, catering, building materials and other business-to-business sectors where there are opportunities to improve. The message to all small businesses which depend on parcel deliveries is they can no longer rely on the old ways of doing things. Customers now expect more.

Many small businesses may never be able to respond with the same velocity as the big retailers, but they can make a difference by offering better professionalism and customer service. Speed is only part of the equation – business can go a long way by keeping customers informed, and delivering items in full, undamaged and on time.

Improvement is only possible by understanding your current capability, and knowing the costs. Too many small businesses don’t really know what their delivery transport is costing them – use technology to reveal the true costs and then keep measuring to ensure you’re getting the most from your dollar.

Be prepared for a surprise: we know that even experienced logistics divisions, which consider themselves efficient, are often shocked by what technology reveals. They find systems which are sound in principle fall down in practice: issues may include poor communications across the business, drivers doubling up on delivery routes, or drivers backtracking due to overlooked or misplaced items. Finding these quirks is an important step to competing in the current delivery arms race.

Partnerships with good suppliers are now more critical: Only specialised carriers with a proven track record of delivering in full, undamaged and on time should be considered.

Beware the cheaper delivery options when assessing your possibilities. A cheaper, inferior solution could see your small business fall behind. You need suppliers who can grow with you, and respond quickly.

Flexibility is key: We know many small businesses with delivery fleets of fewer than six vehicles, which perform strongly due to having a flexible delivery transport structure. This flexibility is critical for responding to customers quickly.

A final, important piece of the puzzle is incorporating good tracking technology. This is now affordable and available and essential for any small business reliant on regular delivery runs. You don’t necessarily need the latest, cutting-edge tech system to make a difference, but you do need something. A common mistake is implementing a system and then being slack on keeping it up.

Combining telematics technology with flexible transport arrangements helps any small business become more responsive and competitive with big business. You may not have the resources of Amazon or Harvey Norman, but can remain competitive by working smarter, not harder.

Walter Scremin, General Manager, Ontime Delivery Solutions

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