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Delivering the right experience

The retail interaction doesn’t stop once a shopper clicks on the buy button. Emma Herrod investigates why the delivery experience is just the start of the opportunity to connect.

Convenience and price have been driving the growth of online retailing and the same factors are of equal importance to consumers when deciding how they want their purchase delivered. While some shoppers say that they choose one delivery method over another because of price – with the free option predominantly offered by retailers requiring a minimum spend – for other purchases convenience is chosen. This convenient method may be delivery to a locker, pick up point or click and collect location because the shopper knows that they will be passing the location at a certain time. Delivery to home on a specific day or at a certain time also offers this convenience.

This surety of getting the product at a certain time extends back up the supply chain with shoppers wanting to know that something is in stock at a particular location before they go to the store. This has been a driver of reserve and collect services whereby a shopper can go online and reserve an item in a particular store and pick it up a set amount of time later.
For some retailers this can be as short a time as 5 minutes, with store staff collecting the item from a shelf and putting it into a holding area such as a customer services desk or ring fencing it from amongst the stock allocation. For others, the reserve online, pick up in store is a longer process with the item being transferred from another store – as per Argos’s hub and spoke method – or from a central distribution centre.

“This nirvana of getting a clear view of inventory irrespective of where it is, whether it’s in the warehouse, being moved somewhere or in a store is critical to allowing retailers to sell in today’s world,” says Craig Summers, Managing Director UK, Manhattan Associates. “It’s a simple thing to say but a really hard thing for people to do,” he adds.

All of these connections make the customer feel that they are in charge of fulfilment of their order and give them confidence that they can get the item they want to buy from the right location and in a way that suits them. The anything, any time, any place predictability of omnichannel retailing is becoming less of a differentiator for the customer experience and more something that is simply expected as the norm.

In the last year alone, fashion retailer Asos has introduced 200 related delivery improvements around the world. Since October 2017, it has been rolling out same-day delivery to UK customers in selected Leeds, London and Manchester postcodes. These customers can pay £9.95 in order to receive their parcel – which must be ordered by 10am – between 6pm and 10pm. “We’ll be pushing back cut off times to midday soon,” says Mark Holland, Supply Chain Director, Asos.

The Asos Instant service will be expanded further throughout 2018, joining the retailer’s other UK delivery options that include next-day delivery, click and collect, one-hour delivery times and free returns as standard on all of its orders. Looking further ahead, Holland believes that delivery to a mobile rather than a fixed point is something that should be investigated.

Chris Haighton, Head of Logistics at Shop Direct, believes that it’s easy to get distracted by new technology and that retailers need to concentrate on the basics in order to give customers the best delivery experience. “You have to build on solid foundations,” he told delegates at the recent MetaPack Delivery Conference.

At Shop Direct, delivery is seen as a hygiene factor. It’s also the biggest driver of customer complaints when delivery goes wrong. Haighton explains that getting the delivery experience right for your customers is all down to listening to them. Shop Direct customers “want free delivery. Behind that then is convenience, speed and a number of other options but primarily free,” he says.

Shop Direct therefore focuses on ensuring that the delivery proposition fits with the customer lifestyle. “We try to break the proposition down into all of the different elements of the journey starting with product setup , setting up the carriers for success, in checkout and the checkout page, capturing the right information there and refining that all the way down the process to the point at which when you make the delivery the customer has the right communication, the expectation has been set in the right way, the carrier has been set up for success right the way through the chain,” says Haighton.

Regardless of which company is carrying out the delivery, Shop Direct aims go get three things right in order to give the customer the right experience: get the parcel to the customer’s door on time; land it with the customer first time; get the communications such as tracking and customer information right. This communication is vitally important, according to Haighton. “We drive all of this so that we minimise customer communications back to us because that reduces cost and delivers a hygiene factor,” He adds “It’s all about making sure we minimise that level of failure right the way down the line,” he says.

At River Island, the key has been to look at customer service in terms of getting back to customers when there’s an issue and having a good resolution process in place. This has meant “putting the best carriers into the business that service the customers and make sure that when there is a problem it’s resolved very quickly and the problems are few and far between,” says Martin Goldstein, Head of Purchasing, River Island.

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