We’ve all grown accustomed to the importance of keeping up with accelerating customer expectations. So much so, that from jeans to jewels, from cars to carpets, shoppers’ every whim is now catered for by ecommerce. Convenience is retailers’ primary focus – creating frictionless opportunities to entice customers into placing orders. Shopping around the clock isn’t merely a possibility, it’s part of everyday life for many people. And much of that shopping takes place across national boundaries. Particularly in Europe. Whether you’re ordering from Manchester or Milan, chances are you’re having very similar purchase experiences. But what does RetailX’sresearch into what happens post-transaction tell us about how those experiences differ across Europe? Sean Fleming investigates.
Convenience is the watchword in retail. Making sure you never give a customer an excuse to walk away at the point of purchase is vital. From the moment they receive a marketing email, read a social post, or see an advert everything needs to make it easy for them to place that order. Whether it’s clear signposting on your site, excellent product information, or a reassuringly secure checkout it all needs to keep the customer journey heading in the right direction. Once they’ve placed that order, you can relax. Or can you? Well, of course not. More than ever, what happens behind the buy button is dictating shoppers’ future purchase decisions. Those retailers that make a feature of offering free returns are more likely to attract impulse buys than those who charge for returns, for example. Similarly, if you aren’t able to spend a day at home waiting for a delivery, you may not want to purchase from a retailer that can only offer you home delivery somewhere between 8am and 7pm.
It’s a consequence of a number of things, namely the expectations arms race instigated in no small part by Amazon, but as customers grow accustomed to expecting more, well guess what… they’ll expect more. And more. If you fail to deliver – literally and figuratively – you risk missing out.
Having the option to have your order routed somewhere other than your home or work address is not particularly new, but across Europe the extent to which it is offered varies extensively.
Click and collect is far more common across most of Western Europe than it is in countries to the east who were later additions to the European Union. Three countries with the highest rates of click-and-collect availability are the UK (65%), France (62%), and Netherlands (also 62%). Take up here is way ahead of many EasternEuropean countries – Romania (32%), Croatia (32%), Lithuania (26%), Slovenia (26%) and Bulgaria (13%). Belgium and Germany are slightly behind the pack-leaders, with both countries registering 54% click-and-collect penetration. While market maturity certainly has a part to play in the prevalence of click and collect, that alone cannot explain away the different rates, with Luxembourg, by no means an emerging economy, also showing up among the lowest (30%).
The Top500’sweighted-averageuptakeofclickandcollectacrosstheEEA is 60%. A little more than half (51%) of the IREU Top500retailers operating in the Czech Republic offer click and collect, and of those 28% offer same-day collection, which compares favourably with the EEA weighted average for same-day collection – 18%.The UK, which is a leader in click-and-collect generally, also leads in next-day collection, which is an option offered by 43% of collection-friendly retailers.When it comes to the speed of collection availability, Polish retailers lead the way with the fastest service – 48 hours being the standard time until items are ready to collect. That’s 19 hours faster than the EEA average of 67 hours, followed by Slovakia (62 hours) and the Netherlands (65 hours). In Romania, 41% of IREUTop500retailers allow shoppers to reserve online then collect and pay in-store, which is 25 percentage points ahead of the EEA average of 16%.
Home delivery is an abiding favourite across Europe. The maturity of the UK’s ecommerce and home delivery market is evident – 55% ofretailers surveyedoffer next-day delivery. Next comes Luxembourg, which at 19% demonstrates the UK’s experience in this offering. Both are ahead of the EEAweighted-average of 17%. Although gaining in popularity, same-day delivery is still not very widespread – an average of just 3% of the IREUTop500retailers offer it. Here, the UK and Greece sit at 5% just behind the category leader the Czech Republic, which leads the list with 7%.
Pushing the limits of convenience even further, Saturday delivery is led by the UK (24%) and Lithuania (8%), ahead of the average of 7%. It’s a similar picture for Sunday delivery, where the UK with 9% and Lithuania with 4% are ahead of the EEA average of 3%. Again, nominated-day delivery is led by the UK (18%) and Lithuania (8%), ahead the EEA average of 6%.
Nominated-time delivery is still very much a minority undertaking across the IR Top500retailer base, led by the UK (7%) then Portugal, Croatia and Switzerland (all at 5%). The EEA average is also 5%.
Delivery costs vary across Europe, as does the order value threshold for free delivery qualification.
The median standard cost of delivery is the cheapest among Central and Eastern European countries:
- Norway – €7.20)
- Switzerland – €5.70
- Finland – €5.30
- Denmark – €5.00
- Bulgaria & Czech Republic – €3.40
- Hungary & Romania – €3.20
- Poland – €2.40
The EEA weighted median is €4.50.
There’s a similar East/West split when it comes to the free delivery threshold:
- Romania – €32
- Poland & Hungary – €33
- Czech Republic – €35
- Germany – €39
- Denmark – €39
- UK – €46
- Finland – €47
- France – €48
- Greece & Ireland – €49
The weighted median in the EEA is €42.
Returns are regulated by consumer protection legislation across the EU, particularly in relation to faulty items. But maintaining customer loyalty means going above and beyond, to ensure shoppers are not put off by onerous returns policies.Shoppers in Romania and Bulgaria are given a median of 30 days to make a return. Retailers in Croatia and Lithuania offer a 29-day returns window. Whereas in Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Finland, Germany, Austria and Slovenia it is just 14 days, which is the minimum required under EU law.
Returning online orders to a store is accepted by 69% of retailers in Lithuania and Croatia, 67% in Latvia, and 65% in Ireland, ahead of the EEA average of 44%.
The ability to return items to third parties is offered by just over a quarter of IREUTop500retailers in the UK (27%), followed by Belgium (17%) and Germany (16%). The EEA average is 12%.
This option was found atless than 1%of retailers in Bulgaria, Romania or Slovakia pointing to the lack of maturity in third-party collection networks.
Returns via pick-up from shoppers’ addresses are relatively common in Croatia, Romania and Portugal (33%, 32% and 31%, respectively), considerably ahead of the EEA average of 14%. The data shows a variation in the maturity of delivery and collection services across Europe. There are some obvious leaders in some areas. The UK, for example, had a thriving mail order sector before the advent of ecommerce, andis an unsurprising leader in many aspects of delivery. Likewise, some UK retailers were offering click and collect many years before others had even adopted ecommerce. But across many developing ecommerceeconomies, particularly those in eastern Europe, lower costs and increasing convenience will combine to help propel customer interest. However, it may create a challenge that is familiar to many retailers in more mature markets, where increasing customer take-up fuels higher expectations for high-end service levels at cheap and near-free cost levels.