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iForce survey finds online retailers need more delivery options

The majority of online retailers have yet to embrace the need for varying delivery options that can improve their customer proposition, with only 9.7 per cent of online retailers offering AM/PM delivery options and just 6.9 per cent offering evening deliveries.

This was the one of the conclusions of a new Delivery Options survey carried out by the leading outsource multichannel logistics specialist iForce.

The research, conducted by analysing the websites of over 70 top online retailers, also found a wide variance in the clarity of delivery costs on retailers’ websites, with these costs often being displayed only during the final stages of the online experience. Furthermore Terms & Conditions relating to delivery were often found to be difficult to understand while key information on cut-off times for next day deliveries was frequently hidden in the detail or completely missing from the websites.

"The class leading companies will be those who can grow organically and attract new sales as well as protecting existing sales by grasping the opportunity revealed in this survey and offering wider consumer choice," comments Geoff Taylor, Director of Client Services at iForce. "The standard seems to be set by online grocery retailers whose customers enjoy excellent delivery time window options including evening deliveries."

According to the survey over 90 per cent of online retailers analysed offer standard delivery through Royal Mail or a carrier, with the remaining sample instead offering next day service only with no standard provision. There are 18 variations of ‘standard delivery’, the most common being defined as 3-5 days, followed by 2-4 days and then 2-3 days.

The survey also found that the average charge for standard delivery was £3.83 per order. This fell in a range from £1.99 to £10. Just over 11 per cent offer free standard delivery with an additional 10 percent providing free delivery based on minimum order value. Next day delivery is offered by 66.7 per cent of those surveyed with the average charge equating to £5.89 per order.

The survey’s findings suggest it is essential for all online retailers to investigate delivery options to gain competitive edge, particularly in a sector that is continuing to grow at trend bucking rates. Consumers are becoming more sophisticated in their shopping practices and will expect more delivery options as they become accustomed to the norm.

"The days when a consumer had to wait for a Saturday morning to visit the high street and buy from what was only available in the shop are long gone," says Geoff Taylor. "Consumers are becoming accustomed to shopping online at anytime of day, expecting a wider range of products and, crucially, expecting it to be delivered to them in the way they prefer at a time that is convenient for them. In the past they would have been content simply by having their order delivered to them within the retailer’s proposition; frustration would occur only if it was late. Today the growing demands of customers means frustration is generated even if parcel is early; it needs to arrive as promised within the desired time slot to fit in with their busy lives.

"Traditionally the obstacle had been finding carriers that could provide this service. However as the carriers have adapted and expanded their services to cater for the growth in home delivery, this is no longer the case. The onus now rests with retailers to grasp the opportunity to gain competitive edge by offering a broader range of delivery options."

One example of where greater agility can support more delivery options and give competitive edge lies is the cut off time for next day delivery. The survey found that 41.7 per cent offered a cut off time of before 1 pm, 27 per cent between 1pm-3pm and the remainder offering it between 3pm and 6pm. No retailer offered a post 6pm cut off time. "Working with e-fulfilment specialists will provide online retailers with an ability to push back cut-off times in order to give their customers more opportunity to purchase" says Geoff Taylor.

As for clarity issues at the web front end, the survey suggests that wherever possible the ‘Checkout’ section of the website should offer delivery options and charges at the early stages of the payment process to make it as unambiguous and customer friendly as possible rather than cause frustration. Delivery information needs to be presented with greater visibility, showing precise delivery options, the associated charges and, where relevant, cut off times.

Geoff Taylor concludes: "There are clearly lessons to be learned from this survey, in particular offering greater consumer choice around the delivery because, as our survey shows, at the moment there is not much choice and retailers have not moved forward in the way they could."

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