Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Not-So-Special Delivery

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Not-So-Special Delivery

Article excerpt

Online retailers cannot afford to ignore the problematic final yard of shipping goods to the customer.

Christmas was a bugger. Central London was rammed with shoppers who didn't know where they were going, inexplicably stopping in front of you, bringing giant pushchairs on to buses, blocking escalators as they tried to figure out where to go.

Oxford Street was closed to traffic for two days in the run-up to the holiday, attracting 1m desperate consumers and giving it the appearance of a scene from Gandhi, only with carrier bags. No wonder ecommerce is so popular.

Online retailers aren't just sitting around waiting for it to happen, though. They have continued to improve, making websites more usable for consumers and more visible to search engines. Particularly, there has been real innovation in the delivery space, with genuine choice now being offered to customers.

Big retailers such as Tesco, John Lewis and Argos are leveraging their multichannel advantage by offering collect-in-store options Increasingly, others are offering economy delivery for those consumers who are more price sensitive or in less urgent need. Next-day delivery is, meanwhile, becoming widespread, while some retailers even offer a same-day service.

A recent report by ecommerce specialist Snow Valley highlights the vast gulf between best practice and that of the majority. It was found that 71% of searches for 'delivery' on ecommerce sites returned no useful information. More than a quarter (26%) of orders required a signature on delivery, but sites didn't warn of this. The same percentage failed to provide a space on the order form for delivery instructions such as 'leave with neighbour'.

The armed forces, police, banks, hospitals, schools and many companies don't permit personal goods to be delivered to their premises. Many people are understandably reluctant to spend the day at home to wait for a delivery, and don't want to pay a premium for timed delivery (or aren't offered it). Add to this the 26% who had expected a delivery while they were out, unaware it needed signing for, and it seems that for all the effort that has gone into offering customers choice about delivery, the final yard is still a problem for retailers, couriers and customers.

As ever, the metrics are deceptive. Since couriers often report 'carding' a customer (with the dreaded 'we called but you were out') as a successful delivery, their clients overestimate their success rate.

These non-deliveries (more than 12% of the total) create a very poor customer experience, often entailing a visit to the depot (95% of Royal Mail carded deliveries are collected). …

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