Social media is placing online retailers under the microscope when ordering and delivery services disappoint

Christmas is big business for online retailers. During the 2013 festive period, online shopping reached a new record, with estimated online purchases accounting for almost 20% of retail sales, compared with about 15% in 2012. The seasonal peak placed huge demands on the mailing and delivery services of online retailers and thousands of online orders failed to arrive on time due to high demand.

For online retailers, bad news can travel fast when delivery failings occur. Our research shows that nearly two thirds of consumers cite poor delivery standards as the worst thing that can go wrong with online shopping and that almost a quarter (23.5%) of respondents said that they had already used social media to complain about these services. By doing so, consumers are immediately broadcasting this message to followers/friends and potentially isolating online retailers from a raft of potential customers they haven’t yet engaged with. To avoid this it is critical that a secure and efficient infrastructure is in place to ensure goods get to consumers in time.

Convenience geared towards the consumer is also key. For example, House of Fraser conveniently list their full range of delivery options and related costs and this means that this information is easily accessible and customers are less likely to abandon shopping carts when delivery charges are applied. A recent study by eDigital Research and IMRG, found that 77% of online shoppers have abandoned their basket in the past year with 53% citing unacceptably high delivery costs as the main reason for bailing out.

When delivering goods cross-border, online retailers must be aware that import taxes and duties vary from country to country. The European Union allows for the free movement of goods so most shipments can be dispatched to other member states of the EU without special customs documentation. However, there are exceptions such as exports to special EU territories (the Channel Islands, for example), and retailers need to be aware not only of the exceptions, but of any future changes to the regulations to ensure they are not caught out.

When it comes to exporting goods outside the EU – to third countries, as they are known – businesses need to ensure that they have the appropriate licenses and that they 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.

In addition to working out how items will be delivered, it’s also vital to consider how you might get them back, should the need arise. A good returns system is something that many companies can forget to implement. If customers find it difficult to return goods, it’s likely that they may look to a competitor next time.

Excellent fulfilment and delivery are key to customer satisfaction. Therefore it is critical that a secure and efficient infrastructure is in place to ensure goods get to consumers at the specified time. For forward-thinking companies, there are tangible gains when outsourcing the delivery and fulfilment processes as opposed to taking on the task in-house. The outsourced option allows companies to harness the expertise that a specialist partner can bring. The best partners have well-established relationships with carriers across the globe and are able to flexibly match the right delivery service to a particular job.

Indeed, an expert partner will have advanced specialist knowledge to point companies to delivery solutions that are specifically geared towards enhancing the consumer experience, thus mitigating the likelihood for negative social media comments in the first place. Such solutions offer maximum choice and convenience to the consumer in terms of delivery options, and can provide total end-to-end visibility of the delivery process including proof of delivery at the point of handover.

Seasonal peaks place huge demands on online retailers and today’s consumers expect excellent customer service. Social media makes it very easy for disgruntled customers to spread their dissatisfaction, potentially damaging company reputation. Expert partners can help to ensure that distribution solutions not only meet customer expectations but serve to enhance the shopping experience. And just as social media can quickly spread the bad news, so the opposite is true. Consistently delight customers, and the good news can travel fast.



Paul Galpin, P2P Mailing

Paul Galpin is the Managing Director of mailing and distribution solutions provider P2P Mailing.


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