Ten ways to delight the customer

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Some of the cleverest technology in the supply chain is going into multi-channel retailing. But at the end of the process someone has to deliver the goods to the customer’s home. And that last few feet is where the biggest problems lie.

Getting the right delivery options for every customer is not easy and the progress of retailers has been tracked by Snow Valley, the provider of e-commerce services. In its latest study it has come up with ten trends:

* Three service levels for delivery. Retailers have been offering standard and premium services – the next stage will be the “super saver” service – a free or low-cost option that takes longer than the standard.

* There will be more Saturday, nominated day, time of day options. Snow Valley found that only 26 per cent of retailers surveyed currently have a Saturday delivery and the premium price might offset the cost of a super saver option.

* Delivery charges will be shown upfront. 28 per cent of the retailers in the research this year put the delivery charge clearly on each product page, compared to only 15 per cent back in 2006.

* Order deadlines will get later. Ten per cent of the retailers in this year’s research could accept orders after 5pm for next-day delivery and the proportion continues to grow.

* More detailed online order tracking. Some 84 per cent of retailers offered this in 2009, compared to 59 per cent in 2005.

* Further growth of multi-channel delivery. The growth of “reserve and collect” or “order online for delivery instore” has been notable over the past few years.

* More delivery loyalty schemes. Snow Valley highlight the Amazon Prime scheme which allows a customer to pay £49 per year and get free next-day delivery on every order they place. Ocado and ASOS Premier have also taken up the idea.

* Growth in the number of services supporting delivery to an alternative address, such as a local post office or shop.

* More use of text messaging in order tracking. Snow Valley only found five retailers doing this but argues that it is really useful to someone waiting for a delivery.

* More retailers to deliver overseas Some 42 per cent of the retailers had a strict UK only delivery policy but Snow Valley expects more to test testing the waters by accepting online orders from overseas in 2010.

Patrick Wall, chief executive of MetaPack  which sponsored the report said: “Along with the trends highlighted in the report, MetaPack have noticed a further three. Joined up customer service; the same last mile customer experience regardless of which carriers are used. Better returns; making it easier for customers to return items. And finally that smaller e-retailers are falling behind their larger counterparts in the race for delivery excellence, which they say need not be the case.”

What is apparent from this research is that no-one has yet found a perfect way of ensuring that goods end up in the customer’s hands at exactly the right moment and at exactly the right costs.

What does seem possible is a way to offer customers an increasingly wide range of options at least one of which will suit their individual needs.

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