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Post strikes hit ecommerce hard

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Do I take the risk of it not arriving and facing a whole lot of grief while having to explain to my darling daughter (and wife) that the only costume I can make from household bits at short notice is Worzel Gummidge? Or do I break the online habit and hit the high street?

Surveys of shoppers and research from etailers are reporting scary figures, suggesting that if a company does not deliver when promised, just over 90 per cent of people will never buy again. With stats like this, is it any wonder that etailers are starting to move away from the once dominant Royal Mail?

Scooterwear brand and online store Armadillo Scooter Wear sell their products worldwide. Since strike talks started, they’ve noticed a rise in enquires about high-street stockists of their products. Tim Hebden, company director, says: “When people order our product, they often do it because they need it for something. The weather might be getting colder so they need a new jacket. Having to wait an uncertain number of days is unacceptable. That’s why we moved to a courier service quite some time ago.”

Royal Mail is allegedly responsible for delivering around 50 per cent of all items bought online. Most ecommerce stores selling postable goods offer the first-class post service as their standard. So can ecommerce stores just push the faster delivery options and bypass Royal Mail?

Online, there are three main drivers for sales. Having a big choice, having better prices and having the convenience factor. The challenge is playing with the two ultimate variables, convenience and price. If the etailer has to increase its prices and possibly change its delivery times, this may just put the customer off for good.

So what can the etailer do to stop a mad rush of angry customers hitting the customer support line and complaining about late deliveries?

1. Make it apparent you know what’s going on. The best way to overcome any buying objections is to bring them up first.

2. Decide on your strategy. Are you going to offer free courier delivery on all products over a certain value to guarantee people get them on time?

3. Can you build a promotion around the strike? Fifty per cent off all delivery rates this week? Free next-day delivery on all orders over £100? It is a reason to communicate with clients, and online, that generates sales. Offers tied in with "real" events tend to work best.

4. Know that this is going to happen and prepare for it. If you have a customer support number, prepare for increased calls. Now is the time to turn one-off sales into customers for life. Do a good job when times are tough and people will love you forever.

5. Manage your online reputation. Disgruntled customers can tell all their friends in minutes via Facebook or Twitter. They can also sing your praises. It might well be worth going that extra mile!Guy Levine runs a digital marketing company. Read more of his articles here.Related articles:Royal Mail strike: a "suicide act"

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