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Opinion: What Santa can teach retailers about the online delivery experience


With nearly half of British shoppers doing at least 50% of their Christmas shopping online, Julian Krenge, chief technology officer at parcelLab, looks at how retailers can learn from the master of speedy deliveries: Santa Claus himself.
It’s no secret that the festive period is the busiest time of the year for retailers. But new research highlights the reason why traditional high-street outlets are likely to continue to struggle – with or without Christmas. That’s because 49% of UK shoppers now do at least half their festive purchasing online.

The investigation into the UK population’s Christmas shopping habits also reveals that 27% do at least three-quarters of their buying online. Meanwhile, only 11% stay away from the internet.

Of course, all is not lost for traditional bricks and mortar retailers. They simply need to make sure that their online presence is up with the best online retailers. This way they can grab a slice of the online pie as well as benefit from high-street sales.

In fact, the smart ones are creating a seamless online and offline experience with initiatives like click and collect, plus introducing more technology in-store to deliver a deeper customer experience. This helps create a key point of differentiation from their online counterparts.

There are key signs that high-street shopping is far from dead, with many online retailers opening pop-up and permanent stores. This is particularly the case at Christmas, and Amazon has again popped up in London. That said, online festive shopping is very much here to stay, with younger generations preferring to buy over the internet. This is shown in the survey with over 60% of the power spending 25 to 44-year-old age group doing at least half their buying online.

But whether you’re an online or traditional retailer, the research carries an important message: Prepare properly for the Christmas rush, so it doesn’t damage your service levels. Fail on the service front at this time of year, and it could deter those affected from buying from you in the future.

So which areas do retailers need to focus on?

Top of the online purchase problems list was delivery time, with 34% of shoppers surveyed citing it as their most common issue. Next up were out-of-stock items complained about by 31% of customers, followed by late deliveries by 28%.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, apparently. So online retailers need to keep their customers jolly by stocking up properly. Plus there’s clearly an issue here with getting purchases to shoppers once they’ve parted with their hard-earned cash. And delivery costs also feature on the problem list.

In fact, the post-purchase experience overall needs attention, with 26% of shoppers naming communication from purchase to delivery as another issue. Perhaps this is because so many online retailers hand this important part of the customer journey over to their logistics partners. Yes, these people are skilled in delivery, but clearly there is a disconnect when it comes to communicating with customers.

So maybe it’s time for retailers to take control to prevent the post-purchase process derailing their entire online shopping experience – particularly at Christmas when time really is of the essence.

After all, the last thing online retailers want to do is give Santa a bad name. Don’t forget, he can serve the entire planet in one night with a sleigh drawn by reindeer.

Now that’s what you call post-purchase excellence.

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