When we launched our first e-commerce web site in the late 90’s (our attempt to cash in on the .com bubble!) on Actinic V2, the delivery options were limited and a straightforward migration from the successful mail order business sector.
Taking an order and shipping it out within 28 days was the norm and customers were always delighted if they received their goods within 7 days. Now 15 years later, expectations of purchase process are completely different with the way ahead being shown by consumer led companies, in particular Amazon.
Customers now expect next day delivery as standard and with Amazon moving to 7 day delivery cycle (including ordering on a Saturday and receiving the goods on a Sunday), customer’s expect all other businesses to follow suit. This increasing expectation has led to a number of business changes:
1. Delivery Options
Sending a package out, non signed for on Royal Mail within 28 days just won’t cut it any longer. Increasingly, there is also little point in just offering a standard courier service sometime in the following week or so. As a business, you need to be able to offer the following options :
- Next working day delivery
- Signed for
- Trackable deliveries
- Urgent pre-time deliveries
- Customer time slot delivery
- Drop off at a local location
- Click and collect
Most of these can now be achieved through a good quality courier, pre 12, pre 10 and pre 9 deliveries standard fare. The only problem with putting these on the web site is that if you do not have sufficient stock to immediately fulfil the order the customer will be left frustrated that they were offered the option. In addition, even if you note clearly by the delivery options, you will have the occasional customer who will order at 8pm on a Saturday and expect their selected pre 9am time on a Sunday (as Amazon would!). Using Sellerdeck or Woocommerce e-commerce as your ecommerce infrastructure this is simple to do.
Dropping off at a local location is a trickier proposition. Our understanding is that if you have Parcelforce the goods will be delivered to a local Post Office but most other companies cannot afford to install dedicated lockers at various locations as per Amazon and above Waitrose. If you are a small company or individual, then there are a couple of other networks you can use to deliver to local newsagents for example CollectPlus.
Will this change continue at such a pace? Unfortunately for the Merchant but fortunately for the customer, same day delivery in major cities is becoming the norm and in America, Google is leading their shopping in major towns with e/retailers uploading their inventory for customers to pick up (dramatically increasing Click and Collect). And nobody mention the drones….
Cater For You Limited which we set up in 2003 to test a number of technologies, uses a range of courier solutions to implement most of these and it was noticed that they improved customer service. If you were to pick one top recommendation from the list it would be to use a courier such as DPD who do time slots as this improves your customer satisfaction no end and thus repeat business.
2. Stock Availability
Traditionally, customers would place an order and the delivery times would mean that merchants could hold little stock and back to back orders from their suppliers. This is becoming less of an option with customers expecting next day delivery. The Internet has meant that instead of a general local store selling a small range of many things, web sites can now specialise in extremely narrow ranges, but do them comprehensively. Therefore, if you are going to encourage repeat business, holding stock and delivering it the next working day is essential.
3. Working Practices
The traditional 9-5 of a wholesaler, e-tailer or other outlet may be something that will also change. Traditionally couriers will pick up from the merchant between 3-5. However, what if your customer expectation is to order up to 11pm at night! Most couriers of course will not pick up too much later as they have to reach their trunking network slots, but it is possible that you could arrange the collection for closer to six (depending on how close to the depot you are). For example, we occasionally use ebuyer and they have ordering up to 11pm at night, though they don’t do time slots!
Will it Affect You?
A lot of our customers are in specialised business markets with some technical expertise required, so there is a level of expectation that these changes will not affect them. However, as we work closely to understand our clients, we have seen first hand that new entrants will develop a web presence and sell the product at much lower margins than is traditional for the industry but have no technical expertise relying on the customer knowing what they require. They will however back it up with Internet levels of product service ie next day deliveries, timed deliveries and much more.