New research finds the online consumer increasingly driven by convenience, cost and customer service.

The online retail environment increasingly has an ‘open all hours’ mentality with savvy Internet shoppers wanting to be in complete control and make buying decisions based on flexible and convenient delivery solutions, according to the third annual industry research from home delivery specialist Hermes. The 2012 Parcel Deliveries Usage and Attitude Survey found that four in ten consumers were now significantly influenced by the availability of a broad range of delivery options – such as to home, safe place, neighbour, ParcelShop, store or place of work – when choosing a retailer online.

Speaking about the survey, Carole Woodhead, CEO of Hermes commented: “Consumers can now shop whenever they want, so expect delivery options to match their buying habits and fit with their increasingly busy lifestyles. They are wanting high levels of service at all times and failure to meet these expectations can potentially damage the reputation of the retailer and the strength of their relationship with the customer.”

The research shows that there is no longer much variation in the most suitable time or day to receive a parcel, although there is a slight preference for a Saturday delivery or early evening between 5-7pm on weekdays, suggesting that more than ever the consumer wants a delivery service that is tailored to their precise circumstances. In fact, in the past two years there has been a 25 per cent increase in respondents stating that the afternoon between midday and 5pm is a convenient time for deliveries.

However, 90 per cent of respondents in full-time employment did say they would find evening deliveries appealing if offered by a retailer, whilst 58 per cent of those living in urban areas would find it appealing if a retailer offered to make deliveries to a ParcelShop. There has also been a rise in people preferring for deliveries to be left with a neighbour or in a safe place when not at home, with an increase of 28 per cent and 43 per cent respectively since the research began in 2010.

Also, it seems that convenience is now a far greater consideration over speed of delivery for the online consumer. The findings show that only 13 per cent of respondents thought that guaranteed next-day was very important when selecting a shipping option, with only 6 per cent saying they always made a decision on the basis of how quickly an order is delivered. In contrast, almost half claimed that the availability of a specified day option was very important in the decision making process.

Despite the demand for greater choice and flexibility, there is little or no appetite from the consumer to pay for any premium delivery options. Whilst 55 per cent recognise that they are shopping online more to reduce fuel and parking costs associated with shopping on the high-street, they are generally reluctant to pass this saving on to an online retailer to cover delivery, increasingly expecting services to be offered free of charge.

In particular, half of the respondents are unwilling to pay more than £1.00 for guaranteed next day delivery, increasing to more than six in ten for a specific day service. Furthermore, when asked at what level of expenditure did they expect a delivery to be free of charge, 17 per cent thought that even with orders under £10.00 delivery should be free, whilst a further 40 per cent said somewhere between £10.00 and £30.00.

Meanwhile, the research highlighted the increasing importance of effective customer service to resolve any delivery issues. It suggested there was a need to respond to an enquiry almost immediately with 58 per cent of consumers saying they wanted a reply within an hour and 60 per cent expecting any problem to be resolved first time. Failure to do so posed considerable risk to the retailer with 69 per cent claiming that a bad customer experience would have a very negative effect on their decision to use a particular website again.

Email and telephone still remain the preferred communication method for customer enquiries, but the findings do suggest an increasing role in the future for emerging online channels such as webchat. Furthermore, retailers and carriers alike will need to consider the potential impact of social media because almost one in four consumers would tell people about a bad delivery experience using Facebook and one in ten via an online forum.

“The delivery expectations of the consumer are higher than ever and the findings of the survey underline the importance for carriers and retailers to work together to develop highly flexible, responsive and efficient solutions that meet the precise needs of the Internet shopper. The consumer is shopping online because of the convenience and savings that can be made, so the delivery needs to reflect these motives,” concludes Carole Woodhead.

The Parcel Deliveries Usage and Attitude Survey is conducted amongst 1,000 people that had taken deliveries from online retailers at least three times in the preceding three months. Now in its third year, the research tracks trends in end-user purchasing habits, delivery requirements and attitudes to existing services and needs.


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