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When free delivery is a waste of money


Do you remember when offering free delivery was the default for new customer acquisition? It wasn’t that long ago, really, but in some ways it feels like a lifetime ago.
Now, I’m not about to start arguing there’s no place for free delivery or that free delivery won’t attract customers – only a fool would argue that, and I am not that flavour of fool. In fact, quite the opposite … I am someone who very recently received an email from a retailer offering free delivery and that was all it to took to get me to place an order; I was won over by the chance to save a fiver.

But here begins my cautionary tale, and if you’re in a hurry I’ll sum it up first in 27 words – if you’re going to incentivise customers with free delivery offers for goodness sake make sure the carrier and/or system you’re using isn’t going to let you down.

I placed an order for food and drink, coming to around £45. There was some booze, some things in jars, and some chilled items. I’ve bought from this retailer before, and although I hadn’t planned to place an order on this particular day I had a why not moment, feeling pleased that I’d saved myself the delivery charge too.

Later that same day I got an email telling me my order had been fulfilled but that “tracking information on carrier website is not available.” There was also a tracking number. But no indication of who the carrier was. Not my idea of useful information.

I found out who the carrier was the following morning (which was a Friday) when a card was pushed through my letterbox. There’d been no email, no SMS, nothing at all to hint at when the delivery would be made. The soonest I could get a redelivery..? Not until after the weekend. Or I could drive 50 miles to the depot to collect my parcel. I can’t be the only person who can’t fit a 100 mile round trip into their day at the drop of a hat, surely?

The usual carrier used by this particular retailer (and I’m not naming names, because that wouldn’t be fair to anyone) has more tracking and notification technology at its disposal than a schoolbus full of bored teenagers. However, the retailer was trying out someone new – hence the offer of free delivery. Taking on food delivery and operating a we’ll see you when we see you approach hasn’t been ok for many years, and it brought home to me just how off the pace some carriers are.

As for the food I’d ordered, well I don’t know about you, but I didn’t much fancy eating supposedly chilled food that would have been sitting in a variety of vans and DCs for the best part of four days. So I cancelled the order and had it returned from the carrier’s shed.

FOOTNOTE: the retailer fell over themselves to apologise and make things better. I placed another order about a week later, only this time it was a larger order, and I was able to select which carrier.

Elsewhere in eDelivery, there are no food-related dramas. Instead there’s the third in a series of features on click-and-collect, canvassing opinions on whether or not it is still fit for purpose. Related to which, there’s news about Doddle stores forming part of the myHermes ParcelShop network.

There’s also an analysis of the launch, in London, of AmazonFresh asking if the UK’s supermarkets were already getting themselves ready for a new era of competition, and whether Amazon might have left it a bit late on this occasion.

In the meantime, if you haven’t subscribed to eDelivery yet we’d love it if you did. You’ll get a weekly newsletter summarising the main stories we’ve covered, and we’ll keep you informed of other big announcements. But we won’t spam you – you don’t like spam, do you? We don’t. You’ll find details on subscribing here. And if you’re not receiving a copy of the magazine you’ll find details on that too.

You can also join our LinkedIn group for analysis and networking as it happens, or if you want your updates in real-time find us on Twitter @edeliverynet.

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