5 parcel delivery data insights from The Very Group

“What’s the point of having all this data if you don’t know what to do with it?” It’s a common question directed at customer-facing organisations, including retailers, that collect so much consumer information but never act on the insights.

At The Very Group, which owns Very.co.uk and until recently was known as Shop Direct, that is not necessarily the case. From its Littlewoods mail order roots to the multi-brand online retail and credit provider it is today, data crunching has always been central to how the business is run – and the data and analytics team is a continued area of investment.

Chris Haighton, head of outbound logistics at The Very Group, told The Delivery Conference, an event run annually by delivery management software firm Metapack, how the recently rebranded company delves through customer data to assess and amend its fulfilment strategy.

1. Devil is in the detail

The Very Group Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey was streamlined 18 months ago, and Haighton said the meticulous process the company goes through to analyse results helps influence service and strategy.

Whereas, before, a lengthy customer survey was distributed, potentially asking mistimed questions about payment experience or receipt of goods, now customers are surveyed throughout the purchase journey – no more than seven questions are posed.

A combination of human efforts and machine learning is used to assess responses, feeding into a dashboard highlighting overall delivery success. Then, the burgeoning data science and analytics team drives out themes from those insights, using topic modelling to map changes in satisfaction scores against company strategy.

They then dive into the text analytics from the free text box provided in the customer survey, allowing the business to view the direct impact of the initiatives it is putting in place. After that comes the route cause analysis.

“[It’s] not just understanding what the customer is saying [and] why they are saying it but what we’ve done to cause them to say that,” Haighton noted, adding that this method allows him and his team to focus on specific issues, and fix or promote accordingly.

2. Don’t doorstep it

So, what are The Very Group’s findings from wading through the NPS survey and crunching the numbers?

The largest negative in the eyes of consumers is, perhaps unsurprisingly, no receipt of goods. But the new way of analysing NPS has also busted a myth that early delivery is a problem for consumers, while also suggesting delivery is “a hygiene factor”.

If a parcel arrives on promise, customers will rate it “ten”, but if there’s a problem they’ll typically score it “one”, Haighton commented.

One major surprise for the logistics boss was customers’ reactions to leaving a parcel on a doorstep, which is the second biggest negative theme derived from the NPS data.

“My logic was that if the parcel is left on doorstep or thrown over hedge it’s an annoyance but you still got your parcel on time – oh no, customers hate it,” he explained.

“My logic was that if the parcel is left on doorstep or thrown over hedge it’s an annoyance but you still got your parcel on time – oh no, customers hate it"Chris Haighton, The Very Group

“We’re working on gathering more ‘safe place’ information, and working with carriers on compliance and how they make the delivery.”

Haighton said leaving a parcel on the doorstep is “almost a betrayal”, and he argued it was driving customers towards a “goods lost in transit culture”, whereby shoppers report not receiving the item, even if they did.

3. Human and machine

Haughton is now presented with real-time customer feedback information displayed via Microsoft’s Power BI tool, and that – alongside the company’s ever-growing data science and analytics team, which digs deeper into the data – is apparently paying dividends.

“Previously I used to look at all the negative data comments because I didn’t have the time to look at the positive ones,” he explains.

“Once we applied data science and analytics to it, then a machine looked at all the comments, gaining much more interesting insights.”

4. Click & collect love

From the NPS data, Haighton understands click & collect is the most satisfying fulfilment method for The Very Group customers. Only 25-30% of the customer base use it but those who do “are incredibly loyal” and talk up its ease of use, convenience, and sustainability credentials, he said.

“One of the things we really want to do is drive that take up of click & collect,” Haighton noted, adding: “If we can get more customers to try it, we know those customers will like it.”

5. What matters most

Data science and analytics is a complex issue for all retailers. Indeed, a recent podcast from trade association the British Retail Consortium, and Oliver Wyman, a management consultancy, said incorporating analytics into processes to understand consumer change is effectively a differentiating point between those who succeed and fail in retail.

Haighton’s presentation suggested The Very Group is making many business decisions based on data insights, and actively embracing good and poor customer feedback.

“We need our carriers to communicate well, to get the basics right, and have that real customer service attitude because those are the things that matter to our customers most,” he concluded.

Arguably, even those retailers without huge data and analytics teams should understand that.