Time to set standards

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What is standard delivery? It would be natural to assume that there is common understanding of the terms and costs. Certainly, it would be help to customers if there was an agreed definition.

But, as we head towards Christmas, a survey on online retailers’ web sites show a huge discrepancy between what one retailers regards as standard and what meets the criteria to a competitor.

It seems that while one retailer thinks £1.99 is an appropriate charge for standard delivery, another prefers £10. And delivery times can vary from 2-3 days to 3-5 days.

The survey was carried out by iForce, the multi-channel logistics specialist, which looked the web sites of more than 70 online retailers. It also found that: “Terms & Conditions relating to delivery were often found to be difficult to understand while key information on cut-off times for next day deliveries was frequently hidden in the detail or completely missing from the web sites.”

Of course, an upmarket retailer might argue that the service that it offers as standard is of a higher quality (and consequently price) than one at the pile-em-high-sell-em-cheap end of the market.

But what these figures suggest is that online retailers often do not give delivery the same priority as other aspects of their service.

That is highlighted by the fact that only 9.7 per cent of online retailers offer am/pm delivery options and just 6.9 per cent offering evening deliveries. In fact, iForce found that it was the grocery retailers that were generally the best for delivery options.

Next day delivery was offered by two thirds of those surveyed with the average charge equating to  £5.89 per order, but the survey found big discrepancies in order cut-off times  for next day delivery – any time between 1pm and 6pm.

Time and gain, delivery is shown up as the Achilles heel of online shopping – and iForce’s survey goes a long way to explaining why.

Perhaps it’s time for online retailers to have a go at standardising their delivery options so that customers have a better idea of what they are getting for their money.

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