Customer Control Leads Retail Revolution
By Dick Stead
The evolution and growth of online commerce places demands on both retailers and delivery companies alike. As the industry has expanded so have consumers’ expectations, as has their ability to shop around. It’s no longer simply enough to have an attractive website, targeted marketing and a strong product portfolio, it may be a less than sexy part of retail, but delivery can also determine whether a consumer chooses to buy from you.
In fact a recent survey showed that 77 per cent of shoppers said that a good delivery experience has encouraged them to place a repeat order with a retailer. So if you want to secure loyalty from the increasingly fickle consumer, you need to think carefully about your delivery offering and how you communicate it to your target market.
As with any part of retail listening, responding and, wherever possible, pre-empting shoppers’ needs is key to a successful business - and the demands start before they’ve even clicked to confirm their order.
Research has shown that customers want control and giving them the option to stipulate their preferred delivery details, such as date, location and leave safe area, scores highly on their wish list. However this approach isn’t widely used, presumably because retailers want to make the checkout process as simple as possible, with the minimal number of clicks.
This could however be a false economy. Making this option available can make delivery quicker, safer and more efficient, with a higher guarantee of success on the first attempt. For the retailer it reduces the demands on their customer contact centre and the risk of GLIT claims and of course, all importantly, it increases the likelihood of consumer satisfaction and repeat purchases. Ultimately, with the reduction in repeat attempts it could also significantly reduce impact on the environment, helping to complement retailers’ CSR policies and even help to reduce the overall cost of delivery.
Oonce the order has been placed, long gone are the days of catalogue shopping when consumers were happy to wait 28 days for their order to arrive. Speed of delivery, and increasingly updates ahead of it, are of the essence.
More now than ever before, consumers want to be notified of the progress of their order, with recent studies showing that over 80 per cent of shoppers want advance notification of their delivery, yet only 11 per cent of retailers currently send proactive text updates.
Yodel has risen to this challenge by making proactive SMS and email alerts part of its standard service. It has also simplified its online tracking, making it more user friendly and allowing shoppers to see clearly which stage in the delivery process their order is at and when their goods are due to arrive. This approach keeps the consumer informed and reduces the volume of delivery queries coming in to customer contact centres.
It is not just when goods are received but how they arrive that is important. For many online shoppers the only human contact they will have during the whole process will be with the delivery agent and retailers need to know that their carrier has a range of service options to suit the demands of their business and target market.
Consumers want convenience, but unfortunately what is convenient for one may not be for another. With today’s busy lifestyles, and less than half of UK households having someone at home to receive deliveries during the day, there is no one size that fits all. It’s therefore important to understand your customers’ needs, as well as those of your business, and select a delivery partner that has a broad enough range of services to allow you to tailor the experience to suit.
Does their order require a signature or is it suitable to be ‘left safe’? Do they know when they will be in, or do they require a more flexible service? Will a locally based courier that they can speak to directly to arrange redelivery suit them or would a uniformed driver in a liveried van be more appropriate?
The Next Big Thing
In January, figures from Experian showed that online sales in 2012 dwarfed those of 2011, with 21.8 billion visits made to retail websites in December, an increase of 30%.
The period was dubbed the first ‘Click-and-Collect Christmas’, with demand for this service growing by 40%, and it certainly suits customers who have a less than predictable lifestyle and cannot say for sure when they may or may not be available to receive a delivery. With click and collect the goods are available for collection when it’s convenient for the shopper and the service eliminates the fear of missed delivery, which consumers currently quote as their biggest source of frustration.
For the retailer it’s win-win. The delivery process is more predictable, successful first time and the shopper may well make additional purchases while they are in the store collecting their online order. However it isn’t just restricted to retailers with a nationwide bricks and mortar presence. Pure online players and retailers with a limited estate can also access this model via third parties such as CollectPlus, which is a joint venture between Yodel and Paypoint.
Taking CollectPlus as an example, it has a network of convenience stores across the UK, effectively giving retailers a physical presence in over 5,000 locations nationwide. The model allows shoppers to pick up or return their order from their local corner shop or petrol station, the majority of which are open early to late, seven days a week. Indeed the last parcel collection recorded at a CollectPlus store this Christmas was 10.43pm on Christmas Eve at an Esso service station in Middlesex, and the first, presumably unwanted present, return was made just a few hours later at 7.38am on Christmas Day, at a Spar store in Stirlingshire, Scotland.
The returns process can also impact customer loyalty, with 63% of shoppers surveyed stating that they would be unlikely to use an e-tailer again if they experienced a poor returns service. Particularly important with fashion sales, consumers are looking for convenient drop off locations or specified day and time collections, coupled with tracking and proactive confirmation when their goods are received back into the warehouse. Reliable tracking not only reassures the shopper but also helps the retailer – allowing sight of what is coming back and when so that stock levels can be managed. And of course the quicker the goods are returned and the account is credited, the quicker your loyal customer can place their next order.
Vision for the Future
Consumer demand for fast and flexible delivery that suits their needs is likely to continue growing and changing, as do their lifestyles. Retailers too have high expectations of the carriers they choose and are looking for innovations which will give their company a USP, make them stand out from their competitors and add value to their offering. Delivery services which offer solutions and take into consideration a variety of consumer lifestyles will continue to secure the loyalty of existing customers and attract new ones. Meeting consumer demands, whilst continually looking for ways to exceed them, and setting a new standard in online retail and fulfilment, is the challenge that we are all embracing in 2013.
Dick Stead is the Executive Chairman of Yodel. Dick joined Yodel, the UK’s leading parcel delivery company, in September 2012, having previously worked for the Royal Mail Group for over 17 years. Immediately prior to his current position Dick was Managing Director of Parcelforce Worldwide and has also held a variety of posts within the Royal Mail and Post Office, gaining valuable insight and experience across the delivery sector. He is now Executive Chairman of Yodel, leading the recently restructured company, which delivers over 150 million parcels a year to homes and businesses on behalf of the UK’s top retailers.