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A complete definition of the delivery process must include more than just shipping. Delivery is the entire process of getting your products or services into the hands of your customers. Certainly this includes the mechanics of the delivery, but there is much more to it than that.

As you know, Delivery is another name for “Place,” the fourth P of the Marketing Mix and as such, it must be considered from a Marketing perspective as well. This means that your distribution systems must be fully compatible with your Marketing Strategy. For example, if your customers perceive your products to be particularly valuable, it may be appropriate to have them hand-delivered. The situation may also call for some type of security features such as signatures and verification through personal identification or unique passwords. This broader approach to the delivery experience will enhance your market position.

From your customers' perspective, delivery is an experience that is as much a part of their purchase as the sale is, in fact, it's more important. If we remember that the “purchase decision process” is predominantly an emotional one, then the impact of a positive delivery experience becomes clear. The sale is not over until it's over for the customer, and that includes the entire emotional experience, not just the exchange of money for a product or service. The sale is important, but it is receiving the services or products that really matters to the customer.

Think about a young family waiting to take possession of their new home. Once they have made the decision to purchase the home, nothing is more important to them than taking possession. At this point, any delays in the process will be a source of disappointment. It doesn't matter how smooth the process has been up to this point. If the delivery doesn't happen as they anticipate, the entire sales process will be tainted, jeopardizing the real-estate agent's chances for future business.

  1. Design your delivery mechanisms with your customers in mind. For example, even though it may be more convenient for you to drop your products off in the afternoon, if your customers need them in the morning, find a way to meet this need.

  2. Make the delivery process as effortless as possible for your customers. If the items you sell are heavy or awkward, for example, you can have them taken out to your customers' cars or delivered to them. Paperwork is also a consideration here. If you sell insurance, for example, paperwork is a large part of the delivery process. Simplify the process wherever you can by filling out as many forms as possible beforehand and by providing simple, clear instructions for the rest.

  3. Make the delivery process as convenient as possible for your customers. A self-service approach can often accomplish this task. Automatic Teller Machines at banks are a good example of this.

  4. Make certain that your delivery processes produce accurate results. You should strive for zero tolerance when it comes to things like late deliveries, or even worse, wrong deliveries. Remember that your customers' perceive their delivery experiences as part of your products and services, so even if everything else is great, a poor experience here will reflect badly on your company as a whole.

“Whether service is your primary product, or only part of it, delivery must be effective, efficient, and dependable if it is to have value to the customer. The service must be predictable and uniform; the customer has to be able to depend on what it will look like in delivery, and what it will cost. A Big Mac is a Big Mac, is a Big Mac.”

- Karl Albrecht and Ron Zemke

Delivery Channels

Delivery channels are the various mechanisms available to you for delivering your products or services to your customers. They include everything from sending packages via courier, to giving professional advice over the telephone. Your goal here is to identify the ones that best meet your needs as well as the needs of your customers. Delivery systems may be categorized as inbound, outbound, or both. Inbound delivery systems involve your customers coming to you to receive their products and services. Outbound delivery systems involve bringing or sending your products or services to your customers.

If your delivery process involves face-to-face interaction with your customers (as is likely), then consideration must be given to the part your employees play in your customers' delivery experiences. Even if your deliveries are an outsourced component of your business, your customers will associate their experiences with your business. So if you outsource your deliveries, choose wisely. You don't want the wrong person or company representing your business.

Inbound Delivery Channels

Inbound delivery channels organize the delivery process when your customers come to you to receive their products or services. If your customers pick up their products or service at your facility, then facility design itself becomes part of the delivery process. In this case, make sure that your facility promotes a positive delivery experience. The televisions many dentists mount on the ceiling, over the heads of their patients are a good example. Watching television can make the experience of receiving dental services a little more pleasant. Of course it is equally important that the experience be consistent with your marketing position. If a dentist specializes in children, for example, the televisions might show cartoons. If your delivery channels are self-service oriented, avoid any confusion or frustration on behalf of your customers by making the process as simple and clear as possible. The signs that identify the items in a grocery store aisle are a good example.

Outbound Delivery Channels

If you send your products or services to your customers, or if you travel to your customers to perform your service, then you use outbound delivery channels. Once again, your goal is to make the delivery experience as positive and as consistent with your Market Position as possible.

If you sell your products or services to resellers, such as retail outlets, then you make use of external Distribution Channels. Certainly your distributors are your customers, but it may be better to treat them more as business partners to whom you have outsourced your sales activities. From this perspective, you are selling your products through your distributors rather than to your distributors. Your goal, then, is to find ways to help them sell more of your products.

Identify the Delivery Channels that you currently use as well as those you might wish to use in the future.

Delivery Timing

It may seem like a little thing, but the difference between a good business and a great business is in the attention to details. When you make a promise to a customer, no matter how trivial, do whatever it takes to keep it. Following through on your promises will go further to support your integrity in the mind of your customer than anything else.

With this in mind, we can see that every sale culminates with a promise to deliver a product or service to a customer. The details of this may seem trivial from your side of the deal, but for the customer, this promise is the deal. Consequently, it is essential to make a full commitment to deliver your products and services exactly on time.

It's the emotional experience that has the greatest impact on your customers, and delivery time plays a significant role in that experience. In most cases, your goal should be to shorten your delivery times in order to minimize the time between receiving an order and filling it. Faster is not always better, however. Sometimes accurate timing is more important than speed. For example, a well-timed delivery is more important than a fast delivery to a couple out for a romantic dinner at a fine restaurant. A building contractor is another example of someone who may prefer accurate delivery times to fast delivery times. It is unlikely that he would want the roofing materials to show up before the foundation was laid, for example.

What timing issues are related to the delivery of your products or services and how can they be improved? Your answer will help with the design of your Delivery System.


The worst delivery mistake you can make is to give a customer the wrong order. Once the customer has paid their money, they no longer feel in control of the transaction. Even if money does not change hands until the products or services are delivered, the customer has invested time and energy into the transaction, so from their point of view, the exchange is lopsided until the transaction is complete. As a result, if they then receive something that is below their level of expectations, or even different from what they ordered, their reaction is likely to be negative, and possibly emotional. Giving your customer more than they ordered is an obvious exception to the rule, but even here you should be careful. If it happens without an adequate explanation it may give the false impression that your business is disorganized.

Getting your deliveries wrong can…

Cause additional expense — First there's the delivery expense itself. Then, depending on your business, there's the cost associated with manufacturing a product that you didn't need. If the product is resalable, there may still be costs associated with restocking and/or restoring it to a sellable condition.

Negatively impact your reputation — Mistakes, no matter when or where they happen, reflect poorly on your company's reputation. Considering your customers buy your reputation as much as they do your products and services, damage here can have a lasting effect.

Disappoint your customers — For obvious reasons, the last thing you need is a disappointed customer.

Luckily, the solution to this is nothing new. It is the same work you have been doing all along. The solution is the development and implementation of your delivery systems.

What reliability issues are related to the delivery of your products or services and how can they be improved? How could you make your deliveries more accurate, more convenient, more enjoyable, and so forth? Your answer will help with the design of your Delivery System.

Delivery Systems

Solid delivery systems make the sales process a smoother and more pleasant experience for your customers and your employees. This critical phase is often given limited attention by businesses, however, because the sale appears to be complete at this point, especially if the financial transaction has occurred. But for your customers, the delivery is the most important part of the sale. This is where they receive what they have paid for. The delivery also plays a significant role in your customers' decision to make future purchases from you or to recommend you to their friends.

Given this, it is important to design some measure of control into your delivery systems. Even if you use an outside delivery service such as a courier, you will want to keep your customers informed of the status of their order and follow up with them to be sure that things went according to plan. By being proactive, you will be able to head off problems before they get out of hand.

When the physical act of a delivery is removed from the equation, what's left is the experience of that delivery. In the example above, the delivery experience involved the behaviour and mannerisms of the consultant, the way the consultant dressed, the length of time it took to do the work, and anything else that impacted the client's experience of receiving the service.

If yours is a service business, then your delivery systems may be closely linked to your production systems. In some cases, delivery and production may even happen simultaneously. If a computer consultant arrived at a client's business and upgraded their computer systems, for example, where did production leave off and delivery begin? In this case, they both happened at the same time. The service was delivered as it was manufactured, so how do we define distribution in this instance?

As much as your delivery system should be focused on your customers, there is still value in improving it from an operations perspective. After all, the two perspectives are interrelated. What would make your current delivery activities more efficient? For example, how could you reduce labour costs, reduce delivery expenses, reduce errors and so forth?

With the above in mind, record your delivery channels, along with any concerns and improvement ideas you have regarding your delivery systems.

Delivery ChannelsConcernsImprovement Ideas
Customer pick up windowCustomers must sometimes wait too long for service when it gets busy but hiring extra staff to cover these periods is cost prohibitive.1. Consider offering deliveries for a small fee.
2. Consider offering a prepayment options to simplify and speed up the pick-up procedure.


Identify Your Delivery Systems

As you have done before for your other systems, make a list of your Delivery systems. Following is a list of examples to help you get started. We will go over these systems in more detail shortly, but this tends to be a fairly business-specific process, so treat it more as a guide than as a complete list.

Driving System Route Planning System Loading or Packing System Courier System

In this chapter you should have designed, shared, and made a plan to review your:

  • Supply Systems.
  • Delivery Systems.