The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the importance of meeting customer expectations for delivery of everything from toilet paper to patio sets. Amazon set the bar years ago, essentially training consumers to expect multiple options to fit their needs, from next-day to same-day to choose-your-day. These changing expectations were already putting pressure on traditional brick-and-mortar retailers when the pandemic accelerated the retail reckoning and forced businesses to figure it out.

It’s clear that more and more consumers across every demographic are emphatically embracing delivery. And it’s not just in the interest of social distancing. Having experienced the ease and convenience of on-demand delivery of anything, anytime, anywhere, it’s not likely they’ll ever go back.

Shipping Plays a Big Part in Brand Loyalty

A recent survey of 1,000 consumers by Lasership found that shopping behaviors have dramatically changed from pre-pandemic. Importantly, 99% of consumers surveyed believe that shipping impacts brand loyalty and 84% would be unlikely to buy from a retailer after just one negative shipping experience. In which case, brand-hopping is likely to increase: shipping satisfaction has dropped sharply during the pandemic, with just 67% satisfied compared with 80% previously. Late and slow deliveries are causing damage to retailers’ revenue, whether they’ve realized it or not.

The demographics of e-commerce and delivery are shifting, too. Baby Boomers, who control almost 70% of disposable income, are shopping online more than ever. Pre-pandemic, 82% of Boomers made less than half their purchases online. Today, 47% of Boomers plan to increase their online buying.

When it comes to e-commerce and delivery, the pandemic is finishing what Amazon started, with explosive consumer demand for same-day and urgent delivery. For smaller, more traditional retailers, providing low-cost or no-cost same-day and urgent delivery will be essential to not just survive the pandemic’s existential threat, but to thrive on the other side of it.

The Right Delivery Strategy Makes All the Difference

What’s all that mean for a traditional retailer or small business?

Bottom line, the delivery options you offer your customers make a big difference when it comes to loyalty. Fortunately, you don’t have to have a mountain of cash to devote to overhauling your supply chain. With the right strategy, David can compete and even win against Goliath.

For starters, delivery “optionality” can help you punch above your weight. A Capgemini study found that 73% of shoppers say receiving a delivery in a convenient time slot is even more important than receiving it quickly.

Having a full menu of delivery options ensures you can deliver whenever a customer wants. By combining service levels, including those enabled by your internal delivery solution and those enabled by a third party, you ensure a repeatable, positive customer experience that can flex and scale to meet your customers’ needs, even during peak season.

More than One Tool in Your Toolkit

Survey after survey shows that consumers are most interested in one critical factor: consistency. Whether it’s same-day, next-day, or two-day, if that’s the service ordered, it has to be consistent each time.

Diversify your delivery infrastructure to improve the delivery experience. Consider an on-demand delivery platform to augment your own fleet to ensure you’re ready to scale for peak, no matter how big the order or the SKU. Integrating a crowdsourced vehicle network with your e-commerce platform adds capacity without adding assets or headcount, making it the easiest, more flexible way to enhance your customer’s delivery experience – and ensure loyalty.

Delivery isn’t a panacea to every retail problem brought on by these massive global forces – whether Amazon or the pandemic. But creating a great delivery experience is one of the most important ways to differentiate your brand, personalize the buying experience, and add value to make consumers “stickier” and more connected to your brand. Sure, Goliath may have deep pockets and his very own global supply chain, but when it comes to a personalized, one-to-one customer experience, David – and all the other small guys out there fighting to win their customers every day – has always had the advantage.

Valerie Metzker is Head of Enterprise Sales & Partnerships, Roadie. She has 20+ years of experience in sales and marketing. After beginning her career at the agency level, she held executive roles in banking and healthcare in the Philadelphia area before taking the plunge to join the Roadie team in 2014. Valerie’s role at Roadie includes enterprise sales and business development, where she helps retailers add speed, flexibility and scalability into their logistics ecosystem. Valerie holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and an MBA from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.

This article originally appeared in the November/December, 2020 issue of PARCEL.