If you build it, they will come

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It sounds obvious: if you provide better delivery services, more people with shop online. Now there is research to back that up.

The 2014 Parcel Deliveries Usage and Attitude Survey by Hermes canvassed the views of 4,000 consumers in the Germany, France and the UK. Three quarters of them said that the delivery services being used by retailers are improving all the time. Not only that, in all three countries there was a clear indication that consumers expect to do more of their shopping online in the future.

There have been a couple of other surveys recently that tend to support this. A forecast by Barclays suggest that online shopping will rise by 29 per cent between now and 2018, with 70 per cent of shoppers seeking more innovative and rapid delivery options.

And an IMRG-Capgemini eRetail Sales Index is anticipating 17 per cent growth in online shopping for 2014. It says that 21 per cent of this year’s retail spend will be online, with an estimated value of £107bn, a year-on-year increase of £16bn.

It’s also clear that the range of delivery options is expanding. Amazon has just launched a same-day service in collaboration with Smiths News. This enables customers who order before 11.45 am, to collect goods from a local shop from 4pm.

The service, known as Pass my Parcel, is available at more than 500 newsagents and convenience stores. And it has the added advantage that Smiths can improve the utilisation of its newspaper delivery fleet.

John Lewis has launched a “click & commute” service at St Pancras in London. Last month also saw the launch of Doddle, the collection and returns joint venture between Network Rail and entrepreneur Lloyd Dorfman.

Not only that, UPS expanded its UK home delivery options with the My Choice service, which offer advance delivery notifications, and the ability to re-route packages to another address or reschedule deliveries for a future date before a UPS driver makes a delivery.

And both Hermes and FedEx have launched enhanced returns options. This reflects the fact that returns can no longer be regarded as an afterthought in home delivery, but must be seen as central to a competitive online offer.

The growth of online retail can reasonably be regarded as a logistics success. But Christmas is coming, and failure to get Santa down the chimney on time is a service failure of a different order of magnitude from normal. Expectations are going to be higher than ever this year.

Malory Davies FCILT,

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