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How these two popular businesses squeezed delivery times

When customers want their dresses or scented candles, they want them now. Here’s how two businesses are winning at last-mile delivery.

Woman unpacking delivery box

Urban Rituelle’s scented soy candles and lux lotions are in hot demand from Darwin to Sydney this Mother’s Day. So too are the brightly printed cotton dresses from Perth designer Lola Australia. Here, Urban Rituelle founder Leanne Haining and Lola Australia General Manager Kylie Weall-Basic share the fine art of meeting demand.

At a glance

Here’s a snapshot of some tips from our interviewees:

  • Communicate delivery cut off dates for special occasions like Mother’s Day.
  • A third-party distributor can be convenient but ensure there’s no cost to your brand’s personal touch.
  • The more insight you have into customer processes, the better. Being able to track customer orders is an essential part of a successful customer experience.

Customers have always wanted fast delivery on their orders. But ‘fast’ used to mean five days. Now it means two, max. Meeting the need for speed that’s created by the biggest brands without sacrificing the personal touch and quality boutique brands are known for is no mean feat.

Size matters

“At the beginning of each day, we batch our orders into wholesale and retail, as the way we handle them is quite different,” explains Urban Rituelle founder Leanne Haining. “Wholesale orders are much larger – our average wholesale consignment consists of three to four cartons with a total weight of 30-40kg. Most online orders are dispatched in one carton of about 5-7kg. For that reason, we use different couriers for each customer group – StarTrack for our wholesale customers and Australia Post for our online customer orders.”

Speed matters too

“Speedy delivery is really important to our customers,” says Kylie Weall-Basic, General Manager at Lola Australia. It’s become even more important than the small touches that used to set the brand apart to retail stores.

“We used to deliver garments to our Australian wholesale customers in hanging fashion bags. The garments would arrive steamed and ready to go straight onto the racks in-store. We had to stop this service as the only way to deliver hanging bags was via road and this could take between five to seven days to arrive,” Kylie explains.

“In the current market, stores want it in immediately, so we now ship flat packed and use an overnight courier service. Wholesale customers love the fact they can call with a special customer order and it arrives in store the next day. They do repeat purchases knowing the stock will arrive fast, when they are at their busiest to maximise their retail sales.”

And sometimes there are advantages to being based in a remote location. Thanks to the time difference with WA, a NSW online customer can make a Lola order at 5pm and still receive it the next day.

Customer experience matters the most

“Our business is built on making the customer experience unforgettable,” says Leanne at Urban Rituelle. “When our wholesale and retail customers receive their packages, we want them to feel good and to be excited to open up their delivery to see the gorgeous items inside. When they have a positive experience, they refer us to their friends and might even take the time to write a positive review.”

On-time delivery and beautiful packaging are crucial parts of this customer experience.

Urban Rituelle products

“We know if we can exceed their expectations, they will want to do business with us again.”

For Lola Australia, Kylie says the all-important customer experience might even outweigh the convenience of having a third-party distributor for international sales.

“While securing a distributor in the USA would be an easy option, we do fear that we’ll lose that personal touch with our overseas clients,” explains Kylie. “We’d lose the ability to offer them real-time stock-on-hand information and for them to select from that stock. We wouldn’t be able to offer them substitutes or recommend best sellers then ship the same day. Customers like the fact that they are communicating with Lola Australia and not a third party.”

An integrated team makes it happen

“We manage the entire distribution process in our Taren Point facility,” says Leanne. “Our office is in the same building as our warehouse, so we have fantastic communication and rapport between the two teams.”

“We hold regular meetings and daily huddles with the sales and warehouse teams, and our sales and customer care team can just walk out to the warehouse and talk directly with a team member if there’s a special request or query. The warehouse team puts in as much love and care for the end customer as our sales and customer care team.”

According to Leanne, co-location and integrated processes are one part of achieving speed – the other part is removing repetition and friction.

“Integrating our IT systems has also helped hugely in streamlining logistics, reducing administration time and improving delivery experience,” says Leanne. “This also helps us provide a seamless experience for our customers.”

Lola Australia also manages all its distribution from its head office in Subiaco, Western Australia.

“The USA market has grown significantly to the point where we are about to sign a lease for larger premises,” says Kylie.

But that tough decision about a third-party distributor still looms.

“We have commenced discussions about securing a distributor based in the USA but we have been reluctant to do this as we do like to receive the garments and pack and ship them ourselves so we can quality check thoroughly and pack them beautifully to fit with the Lola Australia branding. Sending stock direct from Australia can also be quicker as we can pick and pack at the warehouse, ship it with an express courier and it arrives in the USA store in four to five days.”

Mother’s Day means action stations

“The biggest challenge with peak buying periods like Mother’s Day is receiving a large volume of orders from the whole of Australia, in a very short period, that all need to be sent out the same week,” explains Leanne. “We manage our large volume of orders by ensuring that the regions with the longest delivery times, such as Tasmania, Far North Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory are shipped out first. We also try to get these orders shipped out on a Friday, so they can travel over the weekend. We never want our customers to receive their orders after a special event like Mother’s Day.”

The biggest hurdle Lola Australia faces in terms of delivery timeframes is the delay of garments leaving overseas production warehouses.

Lola product

“Weather, religious celebrations and now COVID can cause major delays with getting our products into Australia,” says Kylie. “So when the garments land, we have a small team who works at super-speed to open the boxes, sort the stock, quality control the stock, and then pick and pack and send it out to stores. We have a 24-hour turnaround and the pressure is on to ‘get it in’ then ‘get it out’. It’s a challenge but we enjoy seeing it all packed and ready to be sent at the end of the rush.”

Communication around peak shopping days and order deadlines for delivery is critical.

“We communicate delivery deadlines with our customers via email and on our website, with deadlines broken down by state. We want to under-promise and over-deliver to ensure our customers receive their orders on time,” says Leanne.

“Any time we are running a promotion, we promote cut off times via email, on the website and across our socials to make sure customers get their order in time.” says Kylie.

Tracking is tops

“Tracking is so important,” says Kylie – and it’s so important that Lola has automated the process to ensure delivery timeframes and progress are transparent from the time an order is placed.

“Customers like the security of a tracking number emailed immediately. For online orders, we have recently integrated our shipping accounts into our online store so that shipping labels are automatically generated at time of receiving the order and an email is sent direct to the customer with tracking information. And for our wholesale clients in the USA, we manually email the customers a link to the courier tracking along with a copy of their invoice.”

Leanne agrees. “We send a link via Australia Post or StarTrack. It’s expected by customers so they can stay updated on the journey of their orders.”

“It’s an ever-changing situation,” says Kylie of the logistics around speedy delivery. “The expectations of delivery are fluid and we have to always keep in touch with our customers to keep on top of what they need and expect from us.”

Speak with one of our small business lending specialists about how flexible access to funds could help give your business the boost it needs to meet customer demand.

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