Customer experience is the retail ‘holy grail’ – the all-important goal that retailers must achieve to be successful. I’m not telling you anything new there. I’ve written about customer experience on numerous occasions this year – citing it as one of the top four priorities for retailers in 2021.

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Recent discussions with retailers, as well as my own shopping experiences, have highlighted a specific aspect of the online customer experience – delivery options.  Many retailers put a great deal of time and effort into creating a great customer experience on their eCommerce site, but less thought into what happens after the customer has clicked on ‘buy’. Of course the customer’s experience in your online store is important – we know that shoppers find online shopping better for product information, and they love convenience of being able to browse without leaving their home. But buying the goods is only one half of the equation – for cust

Online shopping has a far wider range of delivery possibilities than traditional brick and mortar, and research and global trends point to the importance of these for customer experience. Customers are more demanding than ever – they want their goods faster, and they want a wider choice of how to get them. According to Salecycle, speed, rather than price, is the driving factor for some shoppers, with 77% willing to pay for expedited shipping, and 63% saying that delivery speed is an important online shopping consideration. The same report tells us that 41% of shoppers have bought items with same day delivery, and that convenience of location is also key, with 30% of all online orders being collected from somewhere other than the retail store.

Of course, click and collect/BOPIS has been popular for some time, but the pandemic has seen it soar. At one large US retailer, Click and Collect/BOPIS orders grew by 70% yty in 2020. Orders for same day delivery grew by 300%, but the biggest leap of all was in curbside pickup, where orders grew by a massive 600%.

The key to a positive online customer experience when it comes to delivery and collection seems to be that one size doesn’t fit all – choice is important. One footwear retailer, for example, offers no less than seven options.  Customers want this breadth of choice, and they need to see these options clearly when they’re making their purchase decision.

The top 7

So what are the options if retailers are going to improve customer experience when shopping online – I’d sum up the primary considerations as:

  • ‘Standard’ free delivery to home
  • Delivery to a pickup point – this is essential for digital only retailers, but also a great option for brick and mortar stores too. Partnerships with, say, convenience stores and petrol stations can give a wider choice of locations than retailers offer through their store network.

  • Same day and/or next day delivery – customers are willing to pay for this option.

  • Choose your day delivery

  • Curbside delivery – the key is to make it a smooth process. Retailers need to ensure there is adequate signage and a designated area where the goods are delivered to the car.

  • Rapid click and collect/BOPIS – having the goods ready to pick up within 30 minutes of the customer placing their order. With speed of the essence, communication of order status by text message, clear signage and a dedicated parking area enhances the experience.

The retail technology to implement it

Once you’ve decided on the options you will offer, you need to ensure that you have the right technology in place to enable it. You’ll need a state-of-the art eCommerce site, well designed, and with clear product and delivery information, and a smooth checkout process. Do ensure that your eCommerce solution has an integrated ability to offer a wide range of delivery options, and in particular BOPIS/Click and Collect, or Curbside Pickup.  Finally, you’ll need flawless inventory management and a single view of your stock pool. With one large US retailer fulfilling 95% of all orders from within brick and mortar stores, rather than a distribution centre, you can see why visibility across your entire operation is essential.

We’ve seen a massive move to online shopping over the last 18 months, and there’s been a lot of focus on the online customer experience. But we must remember that the transaction doesn’t stop at the screen, and that customer experience is also determined by the range, ease and flexibility of delivery options.

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