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Internet Retailing 2010: Interview with Royal Mail’s Mike Brown

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As we approach our annual conference, Internet Retailing 2010, we’re speaking each week to one of the key speakers who will be appearing at the event. In this week’s preview we talk to Mike Brown, fulfilment director at Royal Mail.

Mike will be speaking in Track One, Captivating the Customer, at the October 12 event. So we asked him how delivery partners can best help online retailers to captivate their customers.

As fulfilment director of Royal Mail, Mike Brown is responsible for keeping a lot of customers happy. And not all of them are his own. For when it comes to working with online retailers, not only he must keep his own customers happy – but theirs as well.

“Making a consumer’s experience a pleasurable one is essential if that customer is to return,” says Brown. “The safe, timely delivery of goods ordered is an essential part of that experience. Customers do not expect a retailer’s responsibility for their order to end when the item has been dispatched so a delivery partner is effectively an extension of the retailer. And it is more vital than ever that delivery partners provide the choice, convenience, and transparency required to enable retailers to respond to the varying needs of consumers, enabling them to take even more control over the delivery of their goods.”

Brown says it’s important therefore that delivery partners not only get goods to the consumer safely and on time, but that they also help retailers respond to consumer demand by giving them control over an item’s delivery. That includes giving choice about where and when orders are delivered, as well as allowing tracking of services. Thus, the Royal Mail Tracked service allows consumers to track their order and choose an alternative safe delivery point in case they’re not at home when delivery is attempted. And earlier this year, the hours at Royal Mail delivery offices were extended in order to make it easier for customers to collect parcels after work or at weekends.

And in the future, Brown predicts that consumers will get more demanding as they part with larger sums of money online. “As consumers spend more online, they will also expect easy and convenient returns procedures so that they can easily send back unwanted items. If customers can feel confident about returning an item, it is more likely they will feel confident about ordering as well.”

Mike Brown’s top five tips for growing your business online:

Homepage matters

Your homepage is your shop window – so make it look attractive, but clearly show products and prices, starting with your best offers or bestsellers.

Make it easy to navigate

Logically categorise products in sub-sections or shoppers will get confused and leave your site.

Make payment simple

Make your purchasing process as simple and quick as possible. Being affiliated to a secure payment provider such as PayPal also gives your customers confidence.

Make sure customers find you

Market your business to make sure customers know you exist. Forty-five per cent of shoppers look at a printed catalogue before buying online.

Don’t forget delivery

A customer’s online buying experience ends with the safe, timely delivery of an order and displaying clear information helps reduce shopping cart abandonment. Sixty per cent of online shoppers would continue or increase their use of a retailer if clear information about delivery charges was provided.

Mike Brown, fulfilment director, Royal Mail, will be speaking at Internet Retailing 2010 on October 12 at the Novotel Hammersmith. For more details or to register click here.

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