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What is ‘top’? Operations and Logistics

How do online traders stand out when they’re selling similar products at similar prices to their competitors? Increasingly, the answer comes down to logistics, and retailers are fast recognising the competitive advantage to be gained by offering the best services.

Shoppers have firm ideas about when and how they want to take delivery of their purchases – and generally they prefer not to wait in all morning for that knock on the door.

Top retailers and delivery companies have both recognised that and responded with services that match rising expectations. Market-leading home delivery services include that operated by logistics company DPD in partnership with fashion pureplay Asos , which notifies customers the night before their parcel is due for delivery and gives five alternative ‘in-flight’ delivery options.

But top retailers no longer rely on home delivery to meet all their customers’ needs: choice is key, since changing circumstances mean what’s convenient one day may not be another. The popularity of click and collect services is therefore soaring. At Christmas, supermarket Tesco found 70 per cent of general merchandise orders placed online were collected from its stores. Networks of third-party delivery points and collection lockers have sprung up from the corner shop to the railway station, enabling shoppers to pick up their goods at a time and place that works for them.

Leading traders continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible. Innovations from the highly-competitive supermarket and department store sectors include John Lewis’ use of Waitrose stores to deliver click and collect orders, the stores that act solely as ordering and collection points, Asda’s collect from London Underground stations service, and Tesco’s drive-through grocery collections, to be found in school and park-and-ride car parks as well as its own.

The fastest and most sophisticated services rely on having a single view of products, wherever they may be located. Debenhams , for example, is able to ship online orders from whichever store they are available, while Apple can tell customers the location of the item they want to order, whether it’s in another store, a warehouse, or on a lorry or ship. Shoe retailer Schuh’s click and collect in an hour rests on knowing exactly where items are.

In summary, top retailers offer the widest choice – and then they work tirelessly to extend the options.

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