I was having a light-hearted discussion a couple of weekends ago with my attorney, who just happens to be a 20-year friend of mine. We were discussing news media hype about self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, and packages being delivered by drones. He had mentioned that he could not stand going to the store and having to deal with the ‘shopping experience.’ A typical guy thing, right? He then mentioned that several days prior he had ordered salt and pepper shakers from an online retailer because the ones his wife bought never provided the exact amount of salt or pepper that he desired. He continued to explain that on the following Saturday, a day after he placed his order, he received a call on his cell phone from an unknown individual named Gary who wanted to confirm the correct address for the delivery because my friend lives in a rural area. Thirty minutes later Gary showed up in 1982, powder blue Olds Cutlass, which was stuffed with as many packages as humanly possible in a vehicle of this size. My friend got his salt and pepper shakers and an oil stain left on his driveway from the Cutlass.
This scenario, albeit amusing, happens every day around America and the world. Although self-driving cars, artificial intelligence and using drones to deliver packages is where we are going, it’s not embedded yet into the mainstream of business. Therefore, for now, at least, you are getting Gary at your doorstep.
Consumers currently spend an estimated $2 trillion dollars annually online. That number is expected to double in the next five years as third-world countries are now enjoying the luxury of internet connectivity. This means that any company who is doing business online is scrambling to find the quickest and cheapest way to get that parcel from their distribution center to your doorstep. So what happens to that internet order then, which you expect to be delivered after you click ‘confirm’? Let us go back to Gary and a few questions. Who is he? Does he work for the company that you ordered the item from? Does he have a criminal record? Is he mentally stable? Not to mention is his 82’ Cutlass going to leave a huge oil stain on your driveway. The average consumer frankly, does not really care. They just want their order.
These questions, however, should be asked by every Loss Prevention professional responsible for ensuring package integrity once it leaves their company. What I am finding though is that most of my colleagues do not have a clue and here is why they should. What if Gary has a criminal record and for every five packages he delivers, he steals two other packages. What if Gary is mentally unstable and decides to assault the customer during a delivery. What if Gary decides that by 2 pm he is tired of making deliveries, so he drives to the back of a mini-mart and tosses the remainder of the undelivered packages in the dumpster? The following scenario not only has become problematic for the transportation provider but also now has become a priority for the Loss Prevention department to figure out. The customer never received their original order, forcing them to contact the retailer and complain. The retailer then has to initiate another order in the system, which results in additional labor costs when the merchandise has to be re-picked and shipped once again. More importantly, the customer experience has been eroded because they did not receive their order in the first place.
These are just a few examples of thousands that take place daily in the world of the supply chain and will continue to grow as the consumer is choosing to point and click versus getting in their car and traveling to a store.
These are the five things you need to do today if you have any responsibility for Ecommerce.
Understand your business.
I believe it is in our inherent nature to focus only on what our scope of responsibility is with respect to work. If there is any belief that another company has responsibility for that customer order then the mind set becomes a ‘kick-the-can’ scenario or that it’s someone else’s problem. Take time to understand the full scope of your operation, especially outside the four walls of your organization.
Include the full Ecommerce Supply Chain in your LP Strategies.
Unless your company has a fleet of airplanes, long-haul semi-trucks or parcel vans, you have to rely on other service providers. This means that although the package your customer orders may be picked packed and shipped from your distribution center or store, your company must contract out with other service providers to get that package to your customer’s doorstep. That means that package might touch two to four different companies prior to your customer receiving it.
Make Analytics Your Best Line of Defense, and Offense.
I have learned a valuable lesson in the world of Supply Chain Ecommerce Loss Prevention. It does not matter how many companies, countries or sets of hands touch that parcel. If the parcel is scanned by each entity capturing a barcode/order number and you have the ability to review that information, you can figure out where it has been lost or stolen.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Literally:
You cannot waste your time chasing one-off packages in a supply chain environment. In addition, this philosophy must be conveyed to the folks in other departments within your organization, who are frantically sending 100 plus emails searching for one package. Develop a comprehensive analytics report from missing scans in a simple excel spreadsheet. Include all the touch points. If packages are being stolen or continually lost, the trending will stick out like a flashing neon sign. Spend your valuable time chasing the trends in your network.
Learn to be a Teacher & Advocate Within Your Organization:
I have spent countless hours working investigations that involve other Loss Prevention departments and Law Enforcement. I have found that many of my peers in both industries do not understand how a package goes from point A to B and the complexities that it entails. Here is some simple advice from my college Algebra teacher years ago when I could not understand a complex problem. “Glenn, I am going to explain this to you like a five-year-old.”
A little patience and proper communication will go a long way in breaking down the complexities of the packages traveling in the supply chain.
Now is the time for Loss Prevention professionals to embrace the shifts in consumer buying behavior and realign their teams and focus on meeting the needs of the consumer.