While free shipping remains important, consumers increasingly want convenience, including being able to pick up orders at local stores or lockers. Loyalty programs with shipping perks are popular, and many are concerned about how delivery choices affect the environment.

Michael Manlapas, U.S. vice president and general manager, MetaPack

Michael Manlapas, U.S. vice president and general manager, MetaPack

It’s no secret to readers of this article that merchants cannot afford to become complacent about the role that delivery management plays.  MetaPack research has shown that the delivery options consumers encounter determine whether or not they ultimately click on the “buy” button at checkout; half (50%) of the shoppers we surveyed about e-commerce delivery admitted to abandoning online shopping carts because the delivery choices available were unsatisfactory or did not meet their needs.

Today’s shrewd shoppers expect innovation and excellence across every channel they use and demand full control of their retail experience—and that includes where, when and how delivery happens.  From the choice of delivery options to the ease of the returns process, delivery impacts every stage of the buying journey.  If delivery expectations are not met, shoppers are unforgiving and won’t hesitate to shop elsewhere.

So how can retailers and brands support a positive delivery experience?  Following are some considerations, from the consumers’ point of view, to help drive success:

Convenience is Key

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54% of the over 3,500 consumers we surveyed in the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands and Italy said that delivery defines who they always shop with, and 60% admitted that they bought goods from one online merchant over another because the delivery options were more expedient for their needs.

Over one-third (35%) of shoppers said they were willing to pay for greater delivery convenience and speed when it suits them.

Convenience increasingly trumps all other factors for online shoppers.  82% of those surveyed opted for home delivery, but consumers also took advantage of options like collect in-store (44%), collection from a local pick-up point or shop (39%), and delivery to the workplace (19%) or a locker (11%).  Interestingly, 8% chose delivery via a personal concierge service. The more options that retailers and brands offer, the more likely that shoppers will pick them to suit their lifestyle.

Free Delivery is Important, but not Necessarily at the Risk of Convenience for Some Shoppers

Free delivery was the number one delivery consideration, with 59% of those surveyed saying that free delivery would determine which website they bought from.  In addition, 28% of shoppers would expect same-day delivery to be free.

But, over one-third (35%) of shoppers said they were willing to pay for greater delivery convenience and speed when it suits them.  Almost two-thirds (59%) told us their attitude to delivery cost (and/or speed of delivery) varies according to the value of the item they’re purchasing.

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Personalization is Increasing in Significance

It’s not just free shipping and convenience that’s of interest to shoppers—personalization is playing a growing role.  15% of consumers surveyed said they expect online providers to know who they are, and to schedule delivery in line with their usual or preferred arrangements.  And over a quarter (29%) said that getting their goods delivered wherever they are—and not at a fixed ZIP code—was now a top priority.

Delivery Loyalty Programs are Gaining Traction

79% of consumers surveyed said they want the e-commerce websites they shop with to offer a delivery loyalty program, so they can benefit from faster/free delivery.  Adding to that, 86% of these shoppers noted that this “VIP style” membership would incentivize them to shop more exclusively with e-commerce sites.

The Earth-Friendly Consumer has Specific Preferences

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A significant number of consumers are ethically motivated and concerned about how the decisions they make as shoppers impact society.  Given that over a quarter (27%) said that they cared a great deal about the environmental toll of their online deliveries, and 71% said they would like to have all of their online orders delivered in one go, a consolidated delivery approach by retailers and brands is likely to meet with overwhelming approval by consumers like these.

What Does the Future Hold?

For retailers and brands planning ahead, the “try-before-you-buy” trend is worth keeping in mind.  57% of shoppers we surveyed said they would be likely/very likely to use a try-before-you-buy service.  To capitalize on this budding opportunity, mastering fulfilment and returns agility—while achieving economies of scale—will be critical.

In the race for global domination, e-commerce giants Amazon and Alibaba are constantly exploring revolutionary new retail concepts and entering new markets.  For retail companies and brands, the competition to create value just keeps getting tougher.  Adding to that, consumer-centric relationships will require a like-minded supply chain and operating model.  Some shoppers will pay more for specific products, faster delivery, sustainable attributes or higher product quality.  Others will trade down to lower-cost products with none of those features.  Retailers will need to understand where they sit on that continuum.

Shoppers’ evolving demands will continue to shape delivery as we know it.  To effectively compete—and win—businesses will need to meet those needs now and in the future, with options that address convenience, cost and consumer desires. Based in the United Kingdom, MetaPack provides delivery-management software for online retailers. Stamps.com has announced plans to acquire MetaPack.

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