Today’s digital consumers are placing ever greater demands on e-commerce providers to "get delivery right" or lose their business. Indeed, delivery is now a key differentiating factor that has a significant impact on consumer online purchasing decisions.
According to the findings of the recent MetaPack 2016 State of E-Commerce Delivery Consumer Research Report, 61 percent of shoppers purchased goods from one online merchant over another because the delivery options on one offer better suited their needs.
What’s more, almost half (45 percent) confessed to abandoning online shopping baskets because of unsatisfactory delivery options, with slow delivery or lack of flexibility being the top issues to frustrate shoppers.
Fast Evolving Expectations
Consumer expectations are subtly changing, with more choice, more speed and greater convenience featuring high on the agenda.
One-third (33 percent) of online shoppers used a nominated day delivery service option to ensure they could choose the date/time slot for their delivery. And over a quarter (28 percent) say that in the future they expect deliveries to be personally connected to them — and not a fixed postcode. A growing number of shoppers (46 percent) also want the freedom to make "on the fly" changes to their delivery after placing an order online.
Consumer hunger for same-day delivery is escalating. Consider that usage of the service has doubled in the last 12 months. Furthermore, 47 percent of consumers in metropolitan areas say they now expect online merchants to offer a one-hour delivery service.
It all adds up to additional complexity for online merchants, which will need to progress their delivery capabilities in relation to speed, flexibility and reliability in order to remain relevant and competitive. As the research confirms, the price for getting delivery wrong is high: Today’s consumers won’t tolerate delivery promises that aren’t met, with over one-third (38 percent) saying they would never shop with an online merchant or brand again following a negative delivery experience.
Returns Are the Next Differentiation Battleground
Returning or exchanging products purchased online is a regular occurrence for 88 percent of shoppers, so it’s no surprise their decision to buy is increasingly influenced by the returns options on offer.
Indeed, almost half (49 percent) of the shoppers surveyed confirm an online merchant’s returns policy had deterred them from making a purchase, with 43 percent complaining it's often difficult to find information on the returns process on an e-commerce website.
What’s also clear is that online consumers increasingly expect to encounter free and easy returns, as well as a choice of pick-up or drop-off methods to return goods.
Delivery Preferences Differ
Consumers in different geographic markets have very specific expectations when it comes to e-commerce delivery and returns options.
So, while weekend delivery services appeal to 34 percent of U.S. and U.K. shoppers, this option was less attractive for French (13 percent) and Italian (14 percent) consumers. And while buy online/pick up in-store topped the list for U.K. (68 percent) shoppers, delivery to a local shop or pick-up point was the popular choice for 76 percent of French shoppers. Yet in Germany, 31 percent of shoppers preferred delivery to locker.
When it came to return preferences, drop off at a retailer’s store proved most popular with U.S. (44 percent) and U.K. (46 percent) shoppers, while drop off at a parcel point (PUDO) was the top choice for French (50 percent) and Dutch (47 percent) consumers.
The online delivery landscape is evolving fast, and the race for faster delivery times is clearly on. As delivery becomes ever more customer-centric, online merchants will need to manage a growing number of delivery options and consumer interactions, including "on the fly" change requests.
Offering delivery and return options localized to the expectations of consumers in specific geographic markets is critical, especially for international merchants looking to compete with online pure-plays like Amazon.com. Delivery is no longer a cookie-cutter "one size fits all" exercise.
Michael Manlapas is U.S. vice president and general manager of MetaPack, a provider of delivery management technology to enterprise retailers and retail delivery partners across the world.
Michael Manlapas is U.S. vice president and general manager of MetaPack. With 20 years of experience with enterprise software focused on retail operation, his responsibilities at MetaPack include overseeing the staff and day-to-day functions of the organization in the U.S.