As Canadian retailers know all too well, when it comes to shipment delivery expectations, the bar keeps moving higher to reduce delivery times. Yesterday’s “fast enough” is today’s “too late.” And expectations will continue to rise as Canadians grow increasingly accustomed to expedited service levels from mega-retailers like Amazon. How can the rest of us keep pace?

Yesterday’s “fast enough” is today’s “too late.”Tweet

Here are some innovative solutions that are helping retailers rise to the occasion:

1. Gain visibility for greater control, better fulfilment options
When you know exactly where your inventory is at any given moment, across all channels, you can fulfil each order from the most logical location. Full visibility also allows you to better forecast replenishment needs so that required inventory is continually in the pipeline. With a wide range of options and price points available, good visibility has fast become a must-have competitive investment.

2. Eliminate a step – ship direct from vendor to reduce delivery times
Allowing merchandise to be shipped directly from a manufacturer or wholesaler (drop shipping) takes the retailer out of the transportation process, thereby eliminating a big step in the supply chain. In addition to expediting delivery, this option reduces carrying costs. And it can be especially helpful for large, heavy items that can be difficult to ship and require special handling. You may want to weigh the benefits of this solution against the potential risk of entrusting your customer’s care to your vendor’s delivery company.

3. Use a courier solution for smaller, more frequent deliveries
Courier services allow a high degree of flexibility and customization that can result in faster, more efficient deliveries. For one thing, couriers specialize in smaller shipments, allowing for easy movement between warehouses, retail locations and consumer residences. Other benefits include:

• Special access to shopping malls and apartment complexes, which facilitates delivery and ensures packages are left in a safe location.
• A range of specialized services that may include evening or weekend deliveries, indoor pickups and extra security precautions.
Last-mile services, including high levels of tracking/visibility, ability to reroute a delivery and delivery notifications.

4. Locate product as close to end customer as possible
In a trend pioneered by Amazon, Canadian retailers are finding the value in storing inventory close to their customers. This is a departure from traditional inventory management, which relied on one or two distribution centres to service the entire country. Today it is not unusual for a retailer to have multiple warehouses, often in urban areas, so that retail stores can be easily replenished and online orders quickly fulfilled. To avoid high fixed costs, you can consider relying on a transportation provider’s warehouse network or leasing space in regional multi-client warehouses.

5. Choose a transportation provider with faster transit times and direct delivery
When it comes to carriers, it’s important to do your research and choose one that can provide the service your customers expect. An obvious necessity is true coverage throughout Canada so that a shipment won’t be handed off to another carrier mid-route. It’s also important to look for a wide range of service options so you aren’t locked in to a single “one size fits all” option. Finally, transit times vary greatly among carriers. Some carriers still rely on old-school distribution centre stopovers, even if it takes a shipment hundreds of kilometres off course! Make sure your carrier maximizes technology to ensure shipments travel via the most direct route, which is critical to reduce delivery times.

Canadian retailers are facing constant pressure to deliver increasingly faster. Resourceful retailers are finding relief – and, often, cost economies and a competitive edge – in solutions such as these.