The 12 delivery tips of Christmas

The Christmas season is big business for retailers. Indeed UK consumers spent over £3.3bn over the four day Black Friday weekend this year alone. However, these seasonal demands also bring a unique set of delivery changes. Last year several big name retailers experienced delivery problems with big reputational knock-on effects. 

But here’s how to stay on top of your deliveries this season.

1. Get flexible

Traditionally, offering a sole, standard delivery service may have been sufficient but as the retail landscape has evolved so too has the consumer. Today consumers want more than one option of how they receive their goods. The key with any delivery option is to offer convenience around the consumer. For example, parcel collection shops are now a common sight across major railway stations in the UK. 

2. Think trackable

Not only do consumers want the option of how they receive their goods but crucially when they received their goods too. With trackable delivery the timing of each stage in the delivery process is recorded enabling the item to be traced at any point from despatch to door. In this way, any processing delays can be easily identified and dealt with.

3. Avoid overpromising and under delivering 

Seasonal peaks place huge demands on delivery volumes. It is key that retailers manage their customers’ expectations from the outset in terms of setting the delivery aims. It is far better to perhaps extend the delivery commitment in the build up to Christmas by 24/48 hours for Standard Deliveries, than over promise and under deliver.

4. Remember returns

Retailers that ignore the returns process do so at their peril. Research by Harris Interactive shows that 85 per cent of customers say they will stop buying from a retailer if the returns process is a hassle and, conversely, 95 per cent will return to the same catalogue or internet retailer if the process is convenient. The returns system needs to be easy to implement. This involves being scaleable so that as the business grows the system can keep pace with increased traffic.

5. Acknowledge new buying platforms

With the development of buying platforms on Twitter and Pinterest it is important that retailers not only keep up to date with these latest innovations but also to judge which ones might fit their business and how the delivery and fulfilment process will be affected.

6. Get savvy with social media 

In the age of social media, customers are just one click away from giving retailers a public dressing down should delivery standards not meet their expectations. This can have huge reputational knock-on effects. Our research shows almost a quarter (23.5 per cent) of respondents said that they had already used social media to complain about delivery services. To minimise these unwanted outcomes it is critical that retailers are quick to respond to customer queries on social media, should they arise, and brief them through any delivery processes.

7. Manage multiple purchases 

With an online spend of £21.6bn during the Christmas period in 2014; retailers must be prepared for the prospect of multiple purchases per consumer on their sites. By leaving a specific time window after an order is placed and before the fulfilment process starts it gives customers the chance to go back and purchase other items during the day, these can be incorporated into one package. This is not only convenient for the customer but it also reduces shipping costs.

8. Be cost conscious

When it comes to the cost of cross-border delivery – what are the related costs? And how can these be minimised? The key is to identify the most cost effective distributor for each territory an negotiate competitive prices with the postal operators. 

9. Consider regulatory compliance 

When delivering cross-border retailers need to be aware of regulatory compliance to ensure they are not caught out. For example when exporting goods outside of the EU – retailers need to have the appropriate licenses and make export declarations through the National Export System (NES). VAT, import taxes and duties in the destination country need to be paid and of course these vary from country to country.

10. Know your markets

The territories that a retailer is looking to target will also impact the delivery solutions offered, since consumers in different territories can have vastly different expectations. For example in Scandinavia pick up points are the preferred form of delivery due to the widely dispersed population.  

11. The importance of reputation 

The better the retailer serves their customer, the more likely the customer will remain loyal. Customers don’t like delayed or unsuccessful deliveries, and in the competitive retail market customers can easily defect if they are unimpressed with the service they receive.

12. Engage with a third party expert 

There are a host of delivery factors that retailers must consider in order to avoid a Christmas crash. A third-party expert with the necessary knowledge, contacts and expertise, can help retailers develop a delivery system that is flexible and efficient, tailored to the particular requirements of the business and equipped to deal with the challenges of the festive season and well beyond.

Paul Galpin is managing director P2P Mailing.

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