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Online retailers still don't offer enough delivery options

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A survey of the delivery options offered by online retailers has found that the vast majority are still not providing consumers with a flexible enough service. Less than 10% of retailers offer customers the option of choosing between AM and PM delivery slots and only 6.9% offer evening deliveries.

For the new Delivery Options survey, multichannel logistics specialist iForce analysed the websites of more than 70 top online retailers. The company also found wide variation in the clarity of delivery costs on retailers' websites, with these costs often being displayed only during the final stages of the online experience. Terms and conditions relating to delivery were also often found to be difficult to understand, whilst key information on cut-off times for next day deliveries was frequently hidden in the detail or completely missing from the websites.

According to the survey, more than 90% of online retailers analysed offer standard delivery through Royal Mail or a carrier, with the balance instead offering next day service only with no standard provision.

A total of 18 variations of 'standard delivery' were found, with 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% offer free standard delivery with an additional 10% providing free delivery based on minimum order value. Next day delivery is offered by 66.7% of those surveyed, with the average charge equating to £5.89 per order.

One example of where greater agility can support more delivery options and give competitive edge lies, says iForce, is the cut-off time for next day delivery. The survey found that 41.7% offered a cut-off time of before 1 pm, 27% between 1pm and 3pm and the remainder offering it between 3pm and 6pm. No retailer offered a post 6pm cut-off time.

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, the survey suggests.

"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," says 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."

"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," Taylor added. "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," he continued. "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."

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