Multiple elements have to come together to form an effective ecommerce strategy. Such a strategy begins long before a shopper even visits the website in question, with strategic advertising and marketing, and clever encouragement of clicks. It continues on the website itself, turning browsers into buyers and working to ensure that checkout processes are completed. And it extends long after the purchase, with transport and logistics helping to achieve a smooth, efficient, fast and reliable delivery process.
As a minimum, an effective ecommerce strategy should address all these stages.
However, delivery processes can be an area in which online retailers fall short. On the one hand, services like Amazon Prime and ASOS Premier delivery are setting new gold standards in terms of delivery speed and raising the bar of customer expectation higher than ever before. Same-day delivery and even delivery within an hour or so, for Amazon Prime Now customers based in particular cities, are becoming increasingly common. Yet these services can also be hugely costly for said businesses to implement. And on the other hand, many retailers, particularly smaller businesses, are still falling short when it comes to offering more premium delivery options.
Last year, just over half (51 per cent) of ecommerce brands offered same-day delivery, compared with just 16 per cent the year before. Experts have predicted that over the next two years, 65 per cent of online retailers will offer same-day delivery. Premium delivery is clearly a growing field – but is it growing fast enough? Given that other experts have calculated that ‘nearly a fourth of early digital adopters – who represent 20 per cent of consumers today – expect same-day delivery of goods’, and that according to research by PwC, 88 per cent of customers have said that they would pay more for same-day or accelerated delivery, it seems that retailers who fail to explore premium delivery options risk falling behind.
The question is, how can ecommerce businesses balance the potential costs and complexities of premium delivery with the needs and expectations of their customers? How can you develop an outstanding ecommerce delivery strategy, and what should you consider when putting such a strategy in place?
Offer a clear choice of options
First principles – you need to decide on the range of delivery options you are going to offer, and present them as clearly as possible on your website. Not all retailers require the same options, and what premium looks like varies across different retail segments. Broadly speaking, however, next-day delivery is the gold standard, and a timeframe that shoppers appreciate across a massive variety of products.
Remember that premium delivery options are, in part, premium because they are faster than a standard option. Only offering a single, costlier delivery option can actually put customers off when they don’t have an urgent need for the product, or when they are looking for cost-effectiveness above all else. Different customers have different preferred delivery options – and these can vary through time – so offering choice is paramount.
Remember, too, that offering a range of delivery options is only worthwhile if customers can easily navigate and understand their options. This means having the information they need pertaining to costs and timeframes front and centre, and enabling them to quickly toggle between different delivery choices if they change their minds. For retailers selling bulkier or luxury items, or wholesalers, it may be wise to display delivery times and costs clearly on all product listings, alongside the price. If such a summarisation is impossible, consider providing a clear link to delivery details on the product and shopping cart pages, as well as on the bottom or sidebar of each individual page on your site.
Balanced and expected costs
Generally, customers understand and expect that premium delivery options need to be paid for and, as revealed by PwC above, they are happy to do so. However, costs need to fit within expected parameters. It is always unwise to hit your customer with a huge unexpected add-on right at the end of their checkout process – that way shopping cart abandonments lie. Do your research – both in terms of your own costs, to ensure that your proposed delivery charges will not end up being a revenue drain – and in terms of the wider marketplace, to ensure you are not pricing yourself out.
Don’t forget that premium delivery charges can be applied via different models, and do not always have to be an odd-on at the end of checkout. Some businesses are very successful at charging one-off membership fees or similar, which guarantee a certain number of premium deliveries within a particular time period.
Think beyond home delivery
Click and collect has dramatically risen in profile and popularity – according to one estimate, 82 per cent of consumers want the ability to collect online shipments from stories, and yet half of retailers do not offer it. And you do not need to be a huge multi-site retailer to take up this option – networks like CollectPlus are enabling even small businesses to offer this flexibility and agility to their customers.
Recognising customer loyalty and repeat custom can dovetail into premium delivery options too. What about rewarding regular customers with reduced cost or free premium delivery for a limited time period? Remember customers’ previous delivery choices so that they can seamlessly repeat their preferences next time is also important. And an oft-neglected but highly impactful dimension of customer personalisation focuses on customer communication, making it easy for shoppers to ask questions about shipping and delivery option, for genuinely human and tailored resolution of queries.
A premium experience
Offering premium delivery options can be a powerful way for online retailers to enhance the customer experience, to position themselves as a convenient and cost-effective choice and to maximise shopping cart conversion rates. Clearly, back-end logistics are vital to underpinning premium delivery. However, they need to be augmented with clarity and conciseness at the front end – with a website optimised to offer premium delivery.
Sam Rutley, managing director, PushON
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