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Snow Valley reports on the state of online deliveries

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UK online retailers are continuing to improve their delivery services, according to the fifth annual Snow Valley Online Retail Delivery Report, this year sponsored by delivery specialists MetaPack.

Snow Valley evaluated 166 UK retailers for this year’s report, placing orders on 137 sites and monitoring 27 aspects of the delivery process, from charges to speed of delivery.

The research discovered that 64% of the retailers provided a choice of delivery times and charges in 2009, up from 54% in 2005.

The most pronounced improvement from the past five years, however, was in communication and customer service — 84% of the retailers can now provide online order tracking, allowing the customer to check the status of their delivery, compared to just 59% in 2005.

But the report also found that there is room for improvement. Many premium services have remained proportionally static over the past five years:

  • Saturday delivery was available on 26% of sites compared with 23% in 2005.

  • Nominated day and time of day delivery has increased from 14% in 2005 to 15% in 2009. (Larger retailers were much more likely to support these services — 53% of those on the Hitwise Top 50 Shops List had a Saturday service).

  • 94% of retailers sent an email to confirm the order had arrived, but only five retailers used any text messaging during the delivery process.

Other key trends identified in the report include:

  • 15% of the retailers offered some sort of collect from store option, up from 12% in 2007.

  • 39% of retailers now offer free delivery over a certain order value threshold, compared to just 24% in 2005.

  • Standard delivery charges have crept up very slightly over the past five years but charges for premium services, such as nominated day delivery, appear to be coming down.

  • Despite the weakness of sterling, only 43% of retailers could deliver to the US.

  • Cut-off times are getting later — one retailer could accept orders until 11pm for next-day delivery.

“These are exciting times for online retail delivery and there are many trends that we’re going to be watching closely in future,” says Carlo Rimini, CEO of Snow Valley. “The rise of delivery loyalty schemes like Amazon Prime and Asos Premier, where you pay an annual fee and then every order is delivered for free, is very interesting for example.”

“The use of super saver delivery is also going to be very important,” he added. “For years retailers had a standard delivery charge and then they scaled upwards with premium services that cost more. Asos are now offering a low cost supersaver service where you pay just £1.95 but it could take up to seven days. We expect to see more of this.”

“Many of our other top ten trends are continuations of what we’ve seen over the past five years,” Rimini concluded. “We expect to see more growth of nominated day and time of day options, as they’re still relatively uncommon and there’s a lot of room for improvement. Text messaging is still in its infancy and we expect international delivery to increase.”

“The Snow Valley report is particularly valuable for retailer benchmarking, not only to compare the customer proposition at the website, but additionally, to find out what is actually going on through the end-to-end process,” explains Patrick Wall, CEO of MetaPack, the report’s sponsor. “We have used these findings to support the push to best practice in delivery as set out in standards such as the IDIS Gold, and have explained how to achieve these in our supporting white paper.”

Readers can download both the full 2010 Online Retail Delivery Report and MetaPack’s white paper from Snow Valley’s website. The report is free of charge for a short time, after which it will cost £249.

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