Brands need to make it easy for customers to get hold of goods and, in an age when many people routinely buy without trying first, make it equally easy to send goods back
To perform to the highest standards in the Operations & Logistics Dimension, brands need to excel not just in offering deliveries but also in handling returns. In addition, in an age of click and collect, brands increasingly need to offer customers the chance to pick up goods from convenient locations, whether that means a store or, as Amazon have introduced, a locker at a station or airport.
The latter example says much about why Top100 brands need to pay close attention to this nuts-and-bolts side to retail. Brands can employ all the whizzy front-end technology in the world but if customers can’t physically get hold of goods in ways they find convenient, all this effort will fail at the last.
Our analysis here focuses on larger European markets: Germany, Spain, France, UK and Italy. We chose the wealthiest countries and the biggest brands for our research.
“The UK was early to adopt click and collect, and this is reflected in the high number of brands offering collection in the UK.”
German brands performed strongly in deliveries, offering the fastest delivery time at four days, compared to between five and six days for brands in Italy, and 11% quicker than the IREU average for Top500 retailers. In addition, German brands offer competitive prices, with an average standard delivery cost of €1.79. In Spain, where brands offer the second-cheapest delivery costs, the equivalent figure is €2.91.
The research revealed subtleties in the ways brands operate in different countries. In the UK, for example, it’s clearly seen as important to offer different delivery options, with brands offering on average between two and three options. In Italy, by contrast, the emphasis is on free delivery, which typically kicks in when a consumer spends €45. This threshold was 4% higher than the average for Italian retailers in the EEA region.
Italian brands also perform strongly when it comes to being flexible on returns. Typically, consumers buying from Italian brands can expect to have 35 days to return unwanted items, a figure nearly 46% longer than the average for IREU Top500 retailers.
UK brands are strongest when it comes to processing refunds, which on average take nine days, 10% quicker than the average for IREU Top500 retailers. French and Italian brands tended to offer return via mail, while the highest number of brands offering pre-paid returns were located in Germany.
The UK was early to adopt click and collect, and this is reflected in the fact that the highest number of brands offering collection are located in the UK. German brands perform second best in this area, again perhaps a reflection of the sophistication of German retailing.
What the leading brands do
One of the most intriguing insights from our research is that Leading brands don’t necessarily offer consistent service levels across Europe in terms of, for example, delivery options. Perhaps inevitably, brands tend to be stronger in home markets. That’s not to say leading brands don’t also perform strongly outside home markets too but the picture is patchier.
Turning to individual companies, homeware brand White Stuff has stores in the UK, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Italy. In the UK, it offers a variety of different delivery options, including named-day delivery (£5.95) and free delivery on orders of more than £50. While it offers collect from store in several territories, it has yet to extend this service to Denmark, Germany, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, or to concessions in stores such as John Lewis and House of Fraser. Similarly, while it offers free returns in the mainland UK, it doesn’t offer these elsewhere as yet, while return to store is not available in Copenhagen and Guernsey, or at concessions.
As yet, fashion brand Hobbs London focuses its efforts in this Dimension in the UK, where it offers such services as next working day delivery (£6) and same-day click and collect in selected London stores. Its approach to international expansion has seen it launch a German website. However, it offers only one delivery option, standard delivery at €6, which takes between three and five working days. Orders must be returned within 14 days for refund, less than the UK where the figure is a month.
“Fast-fashion brand Missguided has tailored its offerings in different territories.”
Fast-fashion brand Missguided has tailored its offerings in different territories. In the UK, it’s highly competitive on price. UK standard delivery costs 99p and next-day delivery costs just £1.99, while delivery is free on offers of more than £60. Its performance is impressive in other territories too. In the Netherlands, for instance, it offers free standard delivery (up to three working days) while express delivery within two working days costs £1.50Fashion brand Fat Face and apparel brand Wallis both focus on the UK. Fat Face offers free delivery to stores in the UK, and free returns via post. Wallis’s impressive list of returns options includes return to store; or by post, Collect + or Hermes Parcel Group, free of charge and within 28 days of receipt in each case.
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