We chart retailers’ approaches to deliveries, collections and returns
SOPHISTICATED DELIVERY AND and collection strategies that enable shoppers to receive their online orders in the way that best suits them are rewarded in the IRUK Top500 Operations & Logistics Dimension. The leading retailers in this Dimension are those that offer a well-considered fulfilment strategy, allied to a generous and effective returns policy. This Dimension also included research into whether retailers had a stock checker on their mobile apps, judging this would be a more convenient service for multichannel shoppers looking to buy from the most convenient place.
“Retailers that offer delivery and collection choices, alongside generous return periods and fast refunds, come closest to meeting shoppers’ needs for seamless and flexible shopping,” says Martin Shaw, head of research at InternetRetailing. “Offering plenty of choice in this area suggests that traders have not only considered what their customers want, but that they have found a way to make this part of their business competitive in a way that will ultimately boost overall profitability.”
What the Top500 do: delivery and collection
Top500 retailers offered between two and three delivery options (2.5), on average. The widest choice was offered by Amazon, with an average of six delivery options recorded over four different tests over the period of research.
On average, the Top500 offered standard delivery that takes between four and five days, (4.6) to arrive. The fastest standard delivery promise came from Carphone Warehouse at one day. PC World, Currys, Superdry and Shoe Zone were the Top25 retailers that offered standard delivery for free. Of the 291 (58%) retailers that offered free delivery once a minimum order value was reached, that value is an average of £57 and a median of £49.
The Top500 analysis looked at the most common options, to see which were most popular or widely used. It found that next-day delivery, offered by 312 (65%) of the 479 retailers to which the metric is relevant, was the most popular premium option. That was followed by Saturday delivery, offered by 35%, nominated-day delivery (19%) and Sunday delivery (13%). Same-day delivery (6%) and nominated-time delivery (8%) were far less widely available, suggesting that these are not yet important or sought-after forms of delivery, or the logistics capability may be too costly or difficult for many retailers to implement at this time. It may be that they gain more popularity in the future, and that’s something this Index will track. Retailers were more likely to deliver next day than to offer collection, currently a service offered by 266 (57%) of the 469 for which the metric was relevant.
Stock checkers can help customers to locate and organise delivery, or collection, of the goods they want to buy. Some 15% of retailers with apps had a stock checker on their mobile apps for shoppers on the move, while just 2.4% had related stock-checking features that went beyond the basic functionality.
What the Top500 do: returns
Researchers examined returns policies for the 480 retailers for which the return of physical goods was relevant. They looked both at how generous and convenient for on-the-go shoppers they were. They found 52% would fully refund an item that had been returned because it was no longer wanted, as long as it was returned within the return policy time – which averaged 34 days, with a median time of 26 days. The longest returns period was 365 days, offered by Schuh and Shoe Zone.
The analysis also found that 13% offered pre-paid returns, while 20% would refund the postage costs of returning. Less generous retailers charged a fee to return, averaging £1.26 across the 365 that charged a fee. Looking at alternative ways of returning goods, the study found that 37% enabled shoppers to return their online purchases to the store, while 25% enabled return via a third-party location such as a locker or a local convenience store. A fifth (21%) enabled returns via a pick-up from the house, while 72% enabled returns in the post, but 28% did not. Refunds were processed in an average of 11 days.
The leading retailers
Tesco [IRDX RTSC], Sainsbury’s , Marks & Spence , Amazon and Screwfix were among the leading retailers in this Dimension, thanks to performances that often put them ahead of their peers by offering, for example, relatively unusual services. Thus a trader would be more likely to perform strongly if they offered same-day delivery than if they offered the more common next-day delivery.
Supermarkets Tesco and Sainsbury’s stood out for a broad delivery offer across grocery and non-food services. Both offer several less common services, including same-day delivery, nominated-time delivery and Sunday delivery.
Marks & Spencer scored highly for a comprehensive returns promise that included return via drop off at a third-party location. Amazon’s comprehensive service stood out with the promise of same-day and nominated-time deliveries, something that’s testing for a pureplay retailer. It also offered pre-paid returns.
Screwfix combined some relatively unusual services in its delivery and returns promises. For example, it promised Sunday delivery and also enabled shoppers to check in-store stock via its mobile app. It was one of the 100 traders to pick up returns direct from the consumer.
Those that performed beyond their weight in the Top500 Footprint included Asos , Moss Bros , Wiggle and Agent Provocateur , suggesting a performance that goes well beyond their physical presence and ecommerce turnover. Asos offered nominated-day and nominated-time deliveries and also pre-paid returns. Moss Bros offered nominated day and time deliveries, as well as returns via drop-off at a third party location. Wiggle offered a comprehensive returns policy that included drop-off at a third-party location, via a pick-up from the house. It also refunded the costs of return.
Finally, Agent Provocateur offered Sunday delivery, pre-paid returns and would also refund the cost of returns.