When it comes to Christmas delivery, customers expect more than ever before, according to exclusive Retail Week research.
As online shopping continues to thrive, delivery expectations have come under the spotlight.
All 2,000 consumers who took part in this exclusive Retail Week survey (conducted by 3GEM) say they will do at least some Christmas shopping online this year, with the most popular delivery option proving to be standard delivery – between three and five working days.
However, retailers need to offer multiple options, as a significant chunk – nearly 38% – say they will use click and collect in store.
Another third say they will opt for next-day delivery, as rapid service increasingly becomes the norm.
Shoppers demand free delivery
But the most important thing to consumers – the survey found – is that delivery is free.
Two thirds of respondents say free delivery is the most important element, while nearly 40% cite the ability to track the parcel and 35% choose speed.
The cost of free fulfilment and returns is clearly unrealistic for some retailers.
However, some businesses have offered value here while also engendering loyalty through encouraging customers to pay a one-off fee for unlimited free deliveries – such as Amazon’s Prime membership and Asos’ Premier Delivery.
Another popular alternative is to stipulate a minimum spend, which many shoppers will try to surpass to avoid paying postage.
Consumers seemingly care little about the packaging the parcel arrives in; fewer than 5% say this is important to them.
One chance to get it right
As time-poor consumers get used to receiving their preferred method of delivery, nearly half claim they would shop elsewhere if a retailer did not offer it.
A huge 86% say a bad experience would affect their view of that retailer.
“The fact that a massive 44% of people will buy from a different retailer if they can’t get the delivery options they want definitely reflects the biggest trend we’ve seen over the past few years”
Dwain McDonald, DPD
DPD chief executive Dwain McDonald says this is “no surprise”.
“The fact that a massive 44% of people will buy from a different retailer if they can’t get the delivery options they want definitely reflects the biggest trend we’ve seen over the past few years – consumers now expect much more choice than in the past,” he says.
He explains that the huge increase in home delivery, and the importance of getting this service right, has changed the role of the parcel carrier.
“For parcel carriers, that means adjusting to a new world where receivers are much more influential than they were before the ecommerce boom when many more of our deliveries were to high street stores rather than home addresses.
“As Toby Paxton, now partner at Deloitte, pointed out in a previous issue of Retail Week: ‘Customers are making choices of who they shop with based on fulfilment. Supply chain is sexy now.’
“Sexy might be taking it a bit too far, but it could explain why we saw the DPD app trending ahead of the National Lottery on the App Store last week.”
Pushed to the extreme
The research found that retailers feel pressure to meet even unrealistic expectations.
For example, more than a quarter of shoppers expect orders placed as late as December 22 to be fulfilled in time for Christmas.
While this is a strong show of faith in retailers’ capabilities, it also piles the pressure on the businesses – eager to meet the demands of the consumer.
“Consumers have become accustomed to next or same-day delivery and, Christmas or no Christmas, they expect the same rapid service”
Fall short, and – as the previous statistic suggests – firms risk disappointing and losing custom.
In a world of Amazon Prime and Argos Fast Track, drones and robots, consumers have become accustomed to next or same-day delivery and, Christmas or no Christmas, they expect the same rapid service.
McDonald dubs the expectation for delivery of orders placed on December 22 “the biggest surprise” from the research.
He says: “We’ll be monitoring that one closely three weeks from now to see how many shoppers really do leave it that late!”
Indeed, as Christmas Day falls on a Monday this year, many consumers will take advantage of the full shopping weekend, leaving gifting until the December 23 and even Christmas Eve.
Retailers will consequently have to exercise great patience this year and hope that the shoppers do, eventually, come.
What’s more, they’ll have to be doubly prepared to cope with the last-minute rush when they do.