Ecommerce delivery – what do consumers want?
How consumer expectations have changed when it comes to delivery
What do consumers want from delivery? This could be the shortest article I have ever written: they want it delivered immediately, for free and they want it delivered to where ever they want without any hassle.
But the story doesn’t end there. The story of what today’s multi-channel shoppers want from delivery isn’t a clear cut one of ‘now’, ‘free’ and ‘unfettered’, but more a tale of flexibility, reliability and speed.
Flexibility on the fly
According to Retail Week, the biggest gap between consumer expectation and retailer capability lies in the flexibility to amend delivery requirements after an order is placed.
The research compared the results of an in-depth study of 2,000 consumers against an exclusive Retail Week survey of 50 retail leaders. When asked what delivery standards the industry should be striving to achieve in the future, 70% of consumers surveyed want more flexible options.
What this means is that consumers want, more than anything, flexibility: the flexibility to change the delivery date or time, its location or to switch from delivery at home to store collection or vice versa. And they want to be able to do this on the fly.
Despite this, the Retail Week found that today only 4% of retailers allow customers to make changes to their delivery requirements at any time after they have placed an order. Nearly a fifth (18%) of retailers offer customers absolutely no flexibility to their delivery requirements after an order has been placed.
And this is putting people off. According to a study by Econsultancy, as many as 50% of consumers abandon their carts because of lack of flexible delivery options. When Econsultancy conducted this study, the flexibility considered pertained to the range of options available for delivery. This still holds true: shoppers want, at checkout, to see a range of options for delivery, ranging from the next day to guaranteed time slots to immediate two-hour delivery.
What has changed in the past year is that now ‘flexibility’ means offering the ability to alter delivery options on the fly.
This is clearly a huge challenge to retailers and courier companies. While offering a flexible range of delivery options at checkout can be done by cleverly managing a roster of courier firms and using software and services to run that, adapting that to ‘on the fly’ is hard.
Putting it into practice
While it is undoubtedly tricky to deliver this level of flexibility, some are trying.
The Foschini Group (TFG), the South Africa-based clothing retailer – and owner of Phase Eight, Whistles and Hobbs – has been trialling a premium delivery service in its home country, allowing shoppers to use Uber-style courier service WumDrop to deliver the product directly to their GPS location.
The mighty Amazon has also got in on the case, starting this month with delivery to car boots in the US.
The new Key In-Car service is available in 37 US cities for owners of 2015 or newer Volvo or General Motors vehicles, including Chevrolet, Buick, GMC or Cadillac brands. The cars require GM’s OnStar or Volvo’s On Call connectivity services.
Users link their connected car to their Amazon account using the eCommerce firm’s Amazon Key app. No additional hardware is required, and deliveries can be made to cars parked in publicly accessible areas, such as a customer’s home or work.
The delivery person approaches the car, unlocks the boot (or trunk), puts the parcel in the car and then secures it, all without needing a key. Users get notifications through the Amazon Key app when their package is out for delivery, once it has been placed in the boot, and can track when their car was opened and closed. Amazon cannot track the location of a shopper’s car, instead they tell Amazon where the vehicle is parked using the app, along with the make, model, colour and licence plate number.
In Germany, Amazon is doing much that same – and is building on work done by DHL in 2015 with Audi to deliver to car boots.
Perhaps more interestingly, Amazon is extending its Amazon Key service to smart locks for homes, potentially allowing the same process as with the car boot to take place at people’s homes.
This is interesting because it perhaps then obviates the need for any other degree of flexibility – other than needing goods at a different location – as the default will be that goods are delivered when you want to your home or your car boot. And if you aren’t near one, the chances are you are near the other.
The need for speed
While flexibility and on the fly changes to delivery criteria are one of the key areas of development for couriers in the battle for the consumer, speed of delivery is also still vitally important.
A study by carrier partner Whistl has delved further into the growing delivery expectations of the British public and has discovered that a third of shoppers are still happy to receive their orders within two to three days, while 7% of British consumers want same day delivery and nothing else. A significant 12% must have their purchases on the next day.
Surprisingly, over a quarter of the nation’s shoppers willing to wait a week to receive their shopping.
Shoppers in London are very much focused on instant deliveries, with 10% looking for same day delivery, opposed to Belfast and Dublin not caring about same day delivery at all.
Overall Birmingham, closely followed by London and Liverpool, are the most impatient, with the lowest average expected delivery of 3.3 days. Compared to the most relaxed city, Nottingham, where they are willing to wait an average of 4.7 days for a delivery.
This shows that, overall, shoppers are wanting to get their goods as fast as possible, however, what they really crave is to specify when they get it. A staggering 9% of those quizzed said they were happy to wait up to a week for a delivery, but these are the exception. Specifying when ordering, shoppers want to be able to dictate where and when they get their goods – that is, if you need an answer, is what consumers want from delivery.
It all falls down?
However, it is worth adding a note of caution. Express delivery might be an ideal for shoppers, but are there enough of them to make it viable? Back in 2015, express deliveries were already being touted as the next big thing in delivery, but many have tried and some interesting start-ups that have recently failed are just blips.
In the US both UberRush and Shyp, set up to tap into this fledgeling world of immediate and flexible shipping have, this year, both failed.
Shyp was set up to ship anything to anywhere for a $5 flat fee – regardless of size. UberRush, on the other hand, was an Uber spin-off designed to use Uber drivers on downtime to deliver anything anywhere immediately. Both are now no more.
Why they failed sheds an interesting light on what consumers want from delivery: in the Shyp case, the flat fee model was always going to be doomed, as moving a sofa is going to require way more time and effort – not to mention a specialist vehicle – than say delivering a laptop. It simply couldn’t make money and, despite adding relatively exorbitant $25 return fees, went under.
UberRush is more interesting. The model seems perfect: using idle Uber drivers to fulfil a need for immediate delivery for a premium. Turns out the demand simply wasn’t there. While many people say they want two-hour delivery and they want it where they want it, there aren’t enough of them on any given day to make it viable currently.
This points to how the likes of Amazon Key perhaps are the answer to the problem: forget what consumers want from delivery, just give them delivery to their homes or cars as fast as you can and be done with it.
For now, offering a range of delivery options at checkout – and making that range of options clear to users and sticking to it – remains the best tool that vendors have to satisfy shoppers. This strategy in itself is complex and requires most merchants and retailers to have a sophisticated network of couriers or a shipping and fulfilment management company in place.
While consumers may want a degree of flexibility that for many retailers is prohibitively expensive today, letting them choose the when, where and how of delivery and then sticking to it is a viable strategy for most retailers when it comes to logistics. What consumers want is choice and reliability. If they can’t have it right now, or change their delivery options on the fly, then at least having a reliable delivery slot is what will separate the good from the bad and the ugly.
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