From Fulfillment to Returns: Building a Unified Customer Experience Through Lifecycle Order Tracking

Updated: June 03, 2024

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6 mins read

In today's evolving retail landscape, consumers expect a seamless shopping experience across touchpoints. Unified commerce has emerged as a strategy connecting backend systems with customer-facing touchpoints through a single platform. 

A crucial element of this approach is lifecycle order tracking, enabling effortless tracking and synchronization of order status in one unified system. Whether customers make purchases, pick up parcels, or return and exchange products, they can access real-time order information and enjoy a cohesive journey.

In this article, you will learn:

  • Why unified commerce is the revenue engine for future retail
  • What is the essential aspect of building a unified customer experience
  • How to optimize your operation strategies to achieve unified commerce

Unified commerce as the revenue engine for future retail

Unified commerce transcends traditional multichannel strategies by creating a cohesive, end-to-end customer experience as shoppers interact with your brand across channels, including making purchases, tracking shipments, and initiating returns and exchanges. 

Consistent brand presentation translates into greater customer engagement and has been proven to help maximize retail revenue. For example:

  • Retailers embracing an integrated approach in 2022 saw an 8% increase in revenue growth.
  • 77% of retailers believe unified commerce provides a seamless experience and consistent data.
  • As the industry progresses, about 17% of retailers are investing heavily in unified technologies, with 33% beginning their investment journey and another 39% considering its adoption.

Lifecycle order tracking is essential to a unified customer experience

Customers increasingly expect consistent order tracking across multiple touchpoints, with 73% expressing a preference for such visibility. Additionally, a staggering 94% of consumers indicate that they are more likely to remain loyal to brands that offer complete transparency. 

Without a comprehensive view of lifecycle order status, retailers face challenges leading to fragmented customer experiences and potential loss of brand loyalty. For example, customers may encounter difficulties when trying to exchange items due to stock unavailability in the warehouse. This issue arises from the lack of real-time visibility into inventory updates, preventing timely restocking and causing customer dissatisfaction.

By integrating disparate operational silos such as warehousing, inventory availability, order fulfillment, and returns/exchanges, lifecycle order tracking helps establish seamless data connectivity and a unified view. This integration enables retailers to provide the order visibility and transparency that customers value while realizing benefits in inventory optimization and more streamlined delivery, returns, and exchange experiences.

Build a unified customer experience with AfterShip’s post-purchase solutions

By implementing effective tracking mechanisms throughout the pre-shipment, delivery, and post-purchase stages, retailers can bridge the gap between customers and their orders, ensuring transparency, timely updates, and proactive issue resolution.

Enhance EDD accuracy with the transparency of pre-shipment data:

Generating accurate EDD (Estimated Delivery Date) requires inputting the order processing time. With pre-shipment tracking, retailers can obtain a more precise timeline for order processing and provide customers with a more accurate delivery date at checkout. This, in turn, sets realistic expectations regarding delivery times and plays a vital role in managing shoppers' expectations effectively.

Boost CX with prompt order status notification right after the order is placed:

Once customers place an order, their focus shifts to the package. Where is it? When will it arrive? 

To ensure a positive customer experience, retailers must communicate the key delivery stages effectively. Implementing AfterShip's rule-based notification workflows and multi-language branded tracking pages enables businesses to keep customers well-informed throughout the carrier's transit process. 

Important notifications include: updates on when the package is shipped, the status of delivery or pickup availability, and issues related to exceptions or special circumstances during shipment. 

Moreover, in certain circumstances, such as print-on-demand businesses, pre-ordering products, holiday seasons, and periods of warehouse overload, retailers often require longer lead times for fulfillment. In managing customer expectations and reducing anxiety, it’s essential to provide customized pre-shipment statuses and visibility into the progress of these orders. By keeping customers informed at this early stage, businesses establish trust, set accurate expectations, and alleviate concerns before the delivery process begins.

Streamline operations with order-level data:

AfterShip post-purchase solution works across disparate systems and data silos to give retailers a single source of truth and a central point of management. Retailers benefit from a centralized dashboard to manage order details and track fulfillment statuses. This allows the customer service team to quickly locate shipments with specific orders, greatly improving operational efficiency.

Moreover, integrated systems provide a wealth of data that enables you to evaluate performance and inform critical business decisions. With these insights, retailers can continuously enhance their backend operations and overall customer experience. 

Use cases include:

  1. Identifying supply chain inefficiencies - Compare actual lead times against targets. Identify and address the stages and parties responsible for discrepancies, such as enhancing inventory accuracy to resolve stock shortages.
  2. Adjusting logistics for peak seasons - Review historical lead times and revise logistics strategies to mitigate delays. Consider expedited services, additional carriers, or preemptively notifying customers of expected delays.
  3. Optimizing carrier selections - Evaluate and diversify carrier options based on lead times, SLAs, and costs in various regions. Utilize a combination of national and regional carriers to optimize costs while maintaining service quality, assessing carrier performance by transit and pickup times.

Address exceptions and process returns & exchanges timely:

Delays in receiving replacements, refunds, or exchanges and a lack of shipment visibility can significantly impact customer satisfaction. By offering transparent shipment tracking for returns and exchanges, businesses can promptly address exceptions, leverage status-triggered automation to expedite refunds and exchanges, and proactively engage shoppers through branded emails and SMS notifications. 

AfterShip post-purchase solution provides a unified view of all orders and shipments, enhancing data-driven decision-making and operational efficiency. By implementing the AfterShip post-purchase solution, retailers ensure every customer interaction is as seamless and satisfying as possible, retaining more customers and setting the stage for continued growth and success.


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