Online customers expect a first-class delivery service and many won’t spend without one. So what are retailers doing to satisfy shoppers?

Why are people talking about it?

Service and convenience are becoming central to retailers’ online delivery strategies. Argos picked up on this last week with its same-day delivery service trial for Check & Reserve customers in central London. Consumers can receive their purchase via courier within 90 minutes and prices start at £4.95.

What options are now available?

According to a report by IMRG/Snow Valley, more retailers now offer three tiers of delivery - economy, which is free and can take up to six days; standard, costing about £3.99 and taking about three days; premium, which includes same-day, next-day, Saturday and specified date, and costs up to £20.

What is most important to online shoppers?

The Royal Mail Home Shopping Trend Watching Report, published in 2009, found transactions that are dropped at the checkout stage cost the UK online retail industry £2.7bn per year. Issues with delivery account for two-thirds of abandoned purchases. Of those, 52% cited delivery charges as a problem, 31% the speed of arrival and 18% said options didn’t suit them.

However, Andrew Starkey, consultant at e-retail industry body IMRG, says offering options that are appropriate to the purchase will become increasingly important as retailers look to differentiate.

How is the industry tackling the high cost of failed purchases?

Bad online customer service is usually due to a lack of focus from the retailer, according to Starkey. “Some retailers know what they want to do but their supply chain is not geared up to it,” he said.

Failure to offer consumers the correct information about delivery options is also a major issue. IMRG launched the Internet Delivery Is Safe (IDIS) Gold Standard, a benchmark for delivery excellence, in May. Retailers have to meet a 16-point charter, including offering delivery information on the homepage, to gain accreditation.

How are parcel carriers and retailers working more closely to improve services?

Argos launched its service with same-day delivery start-up Shutl, which allows shoppers to choose two options - now (within 90 minutes) or later (within an hour delivery window of their choice). It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Delivery service DPD, which handles deliveries for Dixons, offers one-hour time slots, which it will confirm by text on the day. If the slot is no longer convenient, customers can reply to rearrange.