Today’s InternetRetailing newsletter is focused on delivery at a time when getting goods to shoppers is becoming increasingly challenging. For, until relatively recently, the large majority of UK retail purchases were bought in-store by shoppers who then took them home themselves.
Over the last year the balance has shifted, with online shopping demand growing during the Covid-19 pandemic and remaining higher than previously afterwards as many customers still work from home more than they did before. That is now combining with a shortage of drivers caused by factors including Brexit and Covid-19, and is now likely to have knock on effects on online deliveries and on product availability.
Some answers to the driver shortage, according to Logistics UK and the British Retail Consortium, include issuing extra temporary visas to EU drivers who can no longer work in the UK following Brexit rule changes while investing more in training domestic drivers and getting them through their tests. On Friday, Logistics UK issued a call for the UK government to issue 10,000 temporary visas for EU drivers. The call came as Hermes UK launched an apprenticeship scheme to train delivery van drivers. By Sunday, Logistics UK had teamed up with the British Retail Consortium to write to the government asking for temporary visas as well as investment in HGV driver training and in speeding up tests. In response, the government refuses to consider temporary visas and points to existing investment in driver training.
In the meantime, retailers are looking to new ways of getting their goods to customers on a range of missions. Boots is now trialling a Deliveroo service that largely uses cyclists – rather than qualified drivers – to get goods from a range of 400 products from medicines and nappies to beauty products and toiletries to shoppers who needs goods urgently. We report today on how Hotel Chocolat is using delivery information to improve the customer experience. And we cover research that suggests online shoppers are now more likely to opt for the most specific delivery slots ahead of the speed of delivery.
Beyond retail, the Post Office says online shoppers can now use an app to prove their identity when collecting parcels from one of its 11,500 branches. This, it says, will make it easier for shoppers to use click and collect.
The Deliveroo and Post Office initiatives each offer some commercial answers to the problem of how to get goods to those who now want to do more of their shopping online. Expanding click and collect in particular could provide a relatively sustainable way to get goods closer to shoppers, at scale, without demanding that they travel to a shop. The Post Office move builds on last week’s announcement that it is now working with DPD – and is open to working with others – to provide a place where shoppers can pick up their parcels when they are not at home to take delivery. Convincing shoppers to order for collection rather than home delivery when they are now more likely to be working from home will provide the next challenge, however. In the meantime, delivery services that work together rather than standing firmly alone will be better placed to benefit as shoppers continue to buy online – and as a shortage of drivers continues.
In today’s timely guest comment, Oliver Guy of Software AG suggests that retailers might usefully rethink what bricks and mortar shops are for. And we have the latest news of the upcoming RetailX Nexus event that will be exploring issues including sustainability, diversity and automation.