Commentary

Opinion: Delivery – don’t underestimate the power of its influence

Online shopping has once again been proven the channel of choice so are there really still retailers underestimating the power of delivery? Bruce Fair, chief revenue officer at MetaPack, explains the dangers of such complacency.

As the 2017 peak period so sharply demonstrated, the internet is the shopping destination of choice for consumers. Retailers and brands are shaking themselves off and assessing how best to address the ever-growing gap between the online rise and the in-store fall during the busiest spending month of the year. One thing is for sure, as long as ecommerce remains in the ascendant, they cannot afford to become complacent about the role that delivery management plays in their future strategies.

Because when it comes to winning and keeping customers, delivery has the power to make or break the online shopping experience. In our recent research The State of eCommerce Delivery 2017,  carried out amongst over 3500 consumers in the UK, US and five European countries, we discovered that the delivery options consumers encounter determine whether or not they ultimately click on the ‘buy’ button at checkout; half (50%) of the shoppers we surveyed admit to abandoning online shopping carts because the delivery choices on offer were unsatisfactory or did not meet their needs.

Today’s shrewd cyber shoppers are transforming the retail landscape. They expect innovation and excellence across every channel they use and demand full control of their retail experience – and that includes where, when and how delivery happens.

From the choice of delivery options to the ease of the returns process, delivery impacts every stage of the buying process. As a result, retailers and brands hotly compete to impress the growing legion of online consumers which means that the pressure is on to get last mile capabilities right or suffer the consequences. If delivery expectations are not met, today’s online shoppers are unforgiving and won’t hesitate to shop elsewhere.

Delivery influence

So, what is it about delivery that holds such sway in the new ecommerce paradigm?

It’s influential. 54% of the consumers we surveyed said delivery defines who they always shop with and 60% admitted that they bought goods from one online merchant over another because the delivery options were more convenient for their needs.

In fact, convenience increasingly trumps all other considerations for online shoppers. Last year, for example, a massive 92% happily waited at home for their purchases to arrive, but this year the number of consumers opting for a home delivery had dropped to 82%.

Instead, online shoppers took advantage of options like collect in-store (44%), collection from a local pick up point or shop (39%), and delivery to the workplace (19%) or a locker (11%). And an impressive 8% plumped for delivery via a personal concierge service. The more options that retailers and brands are offering, the more likely that shoppers will pick them to suit their lifestyle.

Free delivery is still crucial

That doesn’t mean that free delivery is no longer important. On the contrary, it was the number one delivery consideration, which 59% of those we surveyed saying that free delivery would determine which website they bought from – up from 47% last year. What’s more, 28% of shoppers would expect same-day delivery to be free – with 53% of hard-to-please Dutch shoppers particularly resolute on this point.

Yet, as we’ve already seen, convenience is crucial and over one-third (35%) of shoppers say they are only too willing to pay for greater delivery convenience and speed when it suits them. Indeed, almost two thirds (59%) told us their attitude to delivery cost (and/or speed of delivery) varies according to the value of the item they’re purchasing.

Getting personal

As delivery interactions in mature ecommerce markets continue to evolve and diversify, it is not just convenience that goes up the list of priorities on the consumer delivery agenda, personalisation is high up there too.

Last year personalisation was ranked as an important delivery consideration by just 2% of shoppers. Fast forward to 2017 and 15% now say they expect online providers to know who they are, and to schedule delivery in line with their usual or preferred arrangements. What’s more, almost half (42%) said it was somewhat or very important that they had the freedom to choose which carrier delivers their online purchases, while over a quarter (29%) said that getting their goods delivered wherever they are – and not at a fixed postcode – was now a top priority.

For retailers and brands planning ahead, there are some findings that will be of particular interest:

Try before you buy trend

Consumers have come to expect more and more from their online buying experience and the ‘try-before-you-buy’ proposition plays well to their general desire for greater convenience and shopping ease. With 57% of shoppers saying they would be likely/ very likely to use a try-before-you-buy service, mastering fulfilment and returns agility – while achieving economies of scale – will be critical for those retailers and brands looking to capitalise on this burgeoning opportunity.

Delivery loyalty programmes

The appeal of delivery loyalty programmes is strong with 79% of consumers saying they want the ecommerce websites they shop with to offer a delivery loyalty programme, so they can benefit from faster/free delivery – and 86% of these went on to say this ‘VIP style’ membership would incentivise them to shop more exclusively with ecommerce sites.

The conscientious consumer

A significant number of consumers are ethically motivated and concerned about how the decisions they make as shoppers, impact society.

Given that over a quarter (27%) said that they cared a great deal about the environment toll of their online deliveries, and 71% of consumers saying they would like to have all of their online orders delivered in one go, a consolidated delivery approach by retailers and brands is likely to meet with overwhelming approval by conscientious consumers.

The research shows clearly that shoppers are driving the rapid changes in eCommerce, and it is their demands that will shape delivery in the year ahead. Retailers and brands have to offer a broad array of delivery options, meet the highest standards and transform to put speed and accuracy at the heart of their delivery strategies, just to ensure they compete.

Bruce Fair, chief revenue officer at MetaPack.

Image credit: MetaPack and Fotolia