At RSR, some of our favourite projects are what partner Steve Rowen calls “bespoke” research, more commonly known as custom benchmarks. From time to time, we are commissioned to cover topics that might not otherwise become part of our research calendar, and this year, we’ve done quite a few. In the coming weeks, we hope to give you a window into some of those results.

First up, I’ll present an abstract of “The State of Home Delivery,” a benchmark study that was commissioned by Descartes and has just been released. At a later date we’ll summarise other studies like the impact of omnichannel retailing on the Supply Chain, retailer growth strategies and others.

For this study, we surveyed retailers, distributors, manufacturers and logistics providers with the help of Descartes media partner DC Velocity and got some very interesting responses.

The rise of digital channels has moved home delivery solidly into retailing’s mainstream. It allows manufacturers to sell direct to consumers and has become a part of most retailers’ businesses as well. Shipping “eaches” to consumers costs money….and consumer expectations for more services and tighter delivery windows have put a lot of pressure on the entire delivery ecosystem.

It’s common knowledge that “free shipping” is a real sales driver on digital channels. Consumers will shop around until they find a company that offers free shipping on the item(s) they want. Or, if there’s a “hurdle” beyond which free shipping becomes an option, they’ll try to add items into their shopping cart to take them past that hurdle. We know that, but we sometimes forget that those costs don’t go away.

For the most part, logistics providers are the only group for whom home delivery is a revenue generator. Approximately half of retailers find that it is, at least, paying for itself. A not insignificant number of retailers and manufacturers believe there’s potential for home delivery to become a profit centre, and they also recognise that to do so, they must change their processes and enabling technologies to make that happen. Still, almost all respondents believe that today, their home delivery operations are a competitive differentiator for them.

Retailers have enormous gaps between the delivery-oriented technologies they value and the ones they actually use. In fact, there are significant gaps in what might be considered “basic” capabilities including track and trace, GPS tracking and even electronic Proof of Delivery. How many of us, as customers, have wanted to track the status of an order we requested? And how many retailers actually provide that capability without contortions?

On a positive note, logistics providers are most eager to take the most action in improving the technologies that support their delivery operations. They’ve got the basics covered, and are looking to become more sophisticated to achieve both efficiency and flexibility.

This is just the barest of windows into this very rich study. To read the entire benchmark, you can click here.  We’ll also have the benchmark on RSR’s site in the coming weeks.

We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we enjoyed writing it. And stay tuned for more!

This article originally appeared on the RSR Research website. It is reproduced with the organisation's permission.