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Delivery costs down, but still a way to go on service: research

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The cost of delivery is falling – but there’s still a way to go to give consumers the kind of service they’re looking for, according to new research out this week.

Studies from logistics specialist iForce and technology company Trimble, both out this week, bring fresh insights into the delivery service. The first focuses on the service, while the latter looks at customers’ experience.

iForce’s twice-yearly Delivery Options Research detected improvements to the services that retailers are offering. It found that costs to the consumer were falling both for click and collect services and for home delivery. It found that click and collect was now only charged for by 4% of companies. More than a third (36%) of retailers now offer the service, compared to 18% last September. And the logistics of the service have now improved, the study found, with 68% of retailers now offering concise information on how long the item would be available for collection in store.

At the same time, standard delivery charges are down by an average of 75p on each delivery order, the study found.

“Transparency seems to be a positive trend, with many more retailers highlighting the delivery charges upfront and not as the final step in the online purchasing process. This appears to be another nod to retaining consumer loyalty through consistency of service,” said Geoff Taylor, iForce director of client services. “This is further endorsed by e-retailers proactively illustrating how Bank Holidays and Weekends will affect next day deliveries and the like.”

But new research commissioned by Trimble, also out this week, suggests that consumers spend £3.6bn a year on delivery charges – but feel let down by the service. The OnePoll survey found that consumers are happy to pay an average of £2.99 for their delivery, but that they feel let down when deliveries are late, missed or simply don’t specify the time of arrival.

Asked about their specific complaints, 30% cited goods left when noone was at home, 14% the inability to specify a short delivery window.

On delivery charges, a quarter of UK adults thought delivery costs were too high, but the OnePoll research suggested consumers were prepared to pay to get the items they want, when they want. Some 40% of consumers would pay for next day delivery, 22% would pay for delivery within a two-hour slot, 13% would pay for a Saturday delivery and nearly three quarters of respondents agree that fast delivery is a key factor when shopping online.

Mark Forrest, general manager of Trimble’s Field Service Management Division, said: “Effective delivery is critical to a positive service experience, but the study shows that many companies are not meeting their customer’s needs. Technology is available today that can help retailers improve their service for consumers. The key is keeping commitments; making ones that the company can keep and then ensuring the customer is informed along the way. As the online era is here to stay retailers have a real opportunity to improve their brand recognition and leapfrog the competition by providing excellent customer service.”

Our view: The findings of these studies may seem to differ in the detail, but a common theme running through both is the need to ask consumers what they want, while also tracking behaviour to find out what they actually use.

It’s no great revelation that poor delivery disappoints customers, but what is interesting from the Trimble study is that shoppers say they are willing to pay, as long as the delivery service is then up to scratch. At the same time, the iForce study suggests, retailers are putting efforts into making sure that their services meet expectations. That there’s a way to go is not surprising – but analysing what customers ask for, while tracking what they actually use, must underlie a successful delivery service.

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