How retailers can stand out in the online shopping crowds with innovative delivery experiences

From same day delivery to a ‘wow moment’ unboxing experience, three leading retail brands share how they plan to maximise the opportunity in the upcoming peak ecommerce season

Ship-ageddon’: that’s how the ecommerce landscape of 2020 could be described, thanks to 81% of consumers reporting a bad delivery experience - a five-fold increase on the previous year due to overwhelming demand brought on by the pandemic.

That’s according to data from delivery management software provider Metapack’s ‘Peak 2021 Delivery Trends’ report, which analysed delivery data from 272 retailers across five markets.

The numbers suggest ecommerce volumes will continue to rise, with the traditional peak shopping season set to open with a bumper October that’s tipped to be up 18% from the same time last year in terms of delivery volume. And that’s ahead of an overall 11% increase across the peak season of October to December.

It’s a huge opportunity for retailers to not just capitalise, but avoid the chaos of last year, says Duncan Licence, VP global product for Metapack Group. “When you think about the impact a bad delivery experience has on brand, loyalty and consumer buying behaviours, I know a lot of retailers and carriers are thinking very hard about how they improve the customer ecommerce and delivery experience in 2021,” Licence says.

He adds, “But what’s consistent across every peak trading season is that retailers acquire new customers, as there is still a cohort of customers out there who don’t shop online regularly, who will begin doing that this Christmas for the first time.

“However, retaining those customers is the most important thing, because acquiring a customer is very expensive. Retaining a customer is how you make sure that you run a sustainable, profitable business. And delivering great customer experience around ecommerce is absolutely pivotal to making sure you do that.”

The need for speed

With further research revealing that 49% of shoppers would be enticed to shop online by same day delivery, how important is accelerating delivery times in the whole scheme of the ecommerce customer experience?

For a young, urban demographic, it’s incredibly important, according to Tom Reding, Group Digital Director for beer producer BrewDog, who are about to launch delivery of cold, fresh beer in 30 minutes or less across Central London.

“The expectation levels are going through the roof - hyper convenience is a trend that will continue to grow,” Reding says.

Retaining a customer is how you make sure that you run a sustainable, profitable business. And delivering great customer experience around ecommerce is absolutely pivotal to making sure you do that

Likewise, cosmetics retailer Lush partnered with same-day delivery provider Stuart during the UK lockdowns to cater to the influx of online orders, shares Lush’s head of ecommerce Nicole Belling. Yet, both she and Reding agree that speed isn’t always the top priority for all consumers.

“There’s still another part of the customer base who might want a larger order, and don’t want to pay for the delivery, and they’re willing for it to arrive a bit more slowly. But we’re talking days, not weeks, we’re still pretty tight on that, as our average order comes in 48 hours, and many next day” says Reding. “So the expectation for speed is still pretty high. And as carriers keep innovating that will keep increasing, so it’s something we spend a lot of time thinking about.”

When convenience and completion is priority

Lush’s Belling has noted there are also increasing customer demands for convenience over speed, which aren’t necessarily the same thing: “It’s ‘give me what I want when I want it’. It might be a gift that needs to go on a certain date. That’s about the convenience of the time of arrival, the time the customer wants it to be.”

While brands like interior design retailer Graham & Brown are making internal processes slicker to speed up dispatch times, its head of ecommerce, Jan Bartczak, believes speed isn’t always the pinnacle of a good delivery experience.

“Selling premium wallpaper, paint and home products, it’s much more of a considered purchase; it’s more of a project. So many customers want to get it when it’s right for them, versus as fast as possible,” says Bartczak.

He adds: “But it’s not just the delivery itself, it’s the product aspect. It’s also about matching products. Our proposition is very much about perfectly partnered wallpaper and paint. It’s not only making sure we can deliver fast, but that we can also deliver all the products needed for a project, so people can begin decorating their home with everything they need at the same time.”

An uplifting touch

As a result, aesthetics are a significant aspect of the delivery experience too, Bartczak says. “We want to make that unwrapping moment amazing for the consumer. We provide beautiful branded boxes with little quirks, like our wallpaper patterns used on the lining. It adds more life to it with that extra ‘wow’ moment.”

Likewise Lush’s monthly beauty subscriptions are all about that special touch to elevate the delivery experience from functional to tactile.

“Our Lush fans just want more of what they love from Lush. They get to vote on the products we include. We’ve had such good feedback from our community in terms of what they would like to see from us and how we’ve been able to parcel this up,” says Belling.

“And it’s very much community driven. They want to find out what’s in the box, and spoiler alerts come up all over social media. We consider, what does that unboxing look like to the customer, to make them feel like they’ve had an experience that they’ve not got anywhere else. And that connection we build emulates what we’re trying to produce both in store and digitally.”

That element of delight is also something BrewDog has incorporated into its delivery experience, Reding adds.

“‘Surprise and delight’ is fundamental to the experience these days,” he says. “For example, we recently partnered with Tony’s Chocolonely and include chocolate in some of our packs. We’ve sent some of our customers handwritten letters in the post. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that the last interaction is remembered most.”

Retailers can be assured of a lucrative peak season if they remain agile in terms of customer delivery choices, Metapack’s Licence concludes.

“The technology and the logistics foundations to deliver on all of those things exist today. If retailers pick their technologies and logistics providers correctly, they can curate the perfect mix of delivery costs, speed and convenience that their different customers want.”

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