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Four approaches leading retailers take to operations and logistics

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Customers want speed and convenience when it comes to online fulfilment – but with demand set to outstrip supply, how will leading retailers keep ahead? Penelope Ody highlights best practice

1. Adopt a subscription model

Amazon started it all with Prime back in 2005, with a membership scheme providing access to free delivery, music, movies, special shopping promotions and other perks, for – in the UK – £79 a year. Today, it has 100m members and the annual US membership fee increased in April 2018 to $119. Other leading retailers have followed suit, although focusing more on free delivery rather than a raft of additional goodies. 

Asos has Premier Delivery – Livraison Premier for the French site, Premier-Lieferung in Germany and so on – providing free next-day or nominated-day delivery for an annual fee, in the UK, of £9.95 (€15 in France, €20 in Germany) with a neat chart on its information page pointing out that a shopper would save £109.50 (or €200 elsewhere in Europe) if they ordered items 20 times a year – which presumably some dedicated fashion followers regularly do. At Missguided a similar scheme – Unicorn Class – is priced at £9.99 a year: its marketing message points out that “the days of adding £60 worth of MG goodies just for free next-day delivery are over”. La Redoute has R Premium for €15, which not only gives free delivery – to home or parcel shop – but a 10% discount on purchases.

As Prime well demonstrates – persuade your regular customers to sign up for a free delivery scheme and they buy even more from you.

2. Expand the collection options

For many shoppers collecting a parcel is far more convenient and secure that home delivery – especially if the parcel ends up being left on the doorstep for much of the day. For the omnichannel retailers in the IREU Top500 collecting from stores in most geographies is fairly standard. For pureplays, there is a growing list of parcel shops and lockers to choose from, as well as partnership deals with supermarkets and convenience stores.

Argos orders have been collected at a growing number of Sainsbury stores since the supermarket acquired the Home Retail Group in 2016; no doubt they’ll also be added to Asda To You’s list of clients – which includes Asos and Missguided – if the proposed merger with Asda goes ahead. John Lewis orders can similarly be collected in Waitrose branches.

Many carriers now provide parcel shops – often located in convenience stores or petrol stations as well as some dedicated units. Collect-plus, jointly owned by Yodel and PayPoint, has 7,000 locations in the UK in outlets such as Londis and Spar and is used for collections by around 150 retail brands including Asos, Echo, J D Sports, Marks & Spencer, Ryman, Schuh, Sole Trader and Very among the IREUTop100.

DPD Relais has 5,000 pick up points for parcels in France, while Packcity has several hundred locker locations in the Paris region used by such companies as Decathlon for click-and-collect. Providing convenient collection locations can help encourage repeat purchases.

3. Make returns information obvious… 

While many shoppers check on delivery charges and timescales before ordering, others will look first to returns: are they free of change? How many days are allowed? Will they involve cross-border or is there a local address? With the competition only a click away, if there is a negative aspect to any of these parameters, that can mean a lost sale.

Asos offers free returns via relevant post offices or parcel shops in all the geographies is serves – although there are courier charges for collection in some of them. The information is clearly laid out and easy to find on its various sites while shoppers can also download a returns form in case they’ve lost the one included in the parcel. Asos doesn’t specify a time limit for returns but states that refunds will be processed within 14 days.

The French home products retailer, Boulanger, takes a rather different approach presenting shoppers with an online form to complete giving details of the purchase and reason for return which they must then submit. A response, giving instructions about how to make the return, is then sent within 24 hours. Elsewhere the FAQs spell out the EU’s standard statutory rights for returns, but Boulanger doesn’t make it clear if online orders can be returned by post or if there is a charge to do so until the online form has been submitted – which is not terribly helpful.

4. … flaunt your generosity…

EU directives, adopted by all member countries, specify that notice to return goods bought online must be given by the purchaser within 14 days of the item’s receipt and it must be returned within a further 14 days. Many sites – such as Boulanger – stick to this minimum guarantee, others are rather more generous, but the detail is often hidden in the FAQs or must be accessed by the “delivery and returns” link among the small print at the bottom of the landing page.

Euro Carparts makes its generous trading terms very obvious with “365 day returns” included in the menu header on its pages. Click through on that and there is a clearly written section detailing the returns process. Schuh takes the same approach with “Easy 365 day returns” in its banner heading and, again, a click through to full information about the returns process.

If you’re offering rather more than “statutory rights” make it obvious.

This feature first appeared in the IREU Top500 Operations and Logistics Performance Dimension report, part of the IREU Top500 series of reports. You can explore this series of reports by clicking here

Image: Fotolia

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