Christmas delivery: are online retailers managing customer expectations?

Thanks to a greater choice of delivery options, e-commerce sites are now able to keep selling closer to Christmas day, but are they being upfront about delivery times? 

If, like me, shoppers have left their Christmas shopping to the last minute, then it’s important for etailers to manage expectations and be clear whether or not orders will arrive on time. 

This information can make the difference between making the sale or not, so how well are retailers communicating this to customers? 

Why is this important? 

Customers have to be sure that items will arrive in time for Christmas, otherwise many will not bother to place an order, and instead head for the high street, or a competitor. 

Of course, retailers can’t always account for the vagueries of the UK postal system, or the weather, but assuming a fair wind, they can make sure that customers know whether or not their order will arrive before Christmas. 

This can also be a sales driver. If you can offer a speedier delivery service than your competitors, then you’re at an advantage. Likewise, if you can offer reserve and collect, you can allow customers to place orders right up to the last minute. 

There’s also the power of urgency. If a shoppers sees a message which tells them this is the last day for Christmas delivery, this will concentrate the mind and push them towards a purchase decision. 

It’s also good customer service to manage expectations. Shoppers will apppreciate clear information. Even if you can’t deliver in time for Christmas, it’s better to be clear about this than risk losing customers. 

This leads me on to the next point: don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Even if the failed delivery is out of the retailer’s control, customers will blame them, not the courier or the Post Office. 

M&S

A prominent message on the homepage makes the cut off points for the various delivery options nice and clear. This is reinforced throughout the site via a ‘promo strip‘ under the main navigation. 

Amazon

Amazon’s message is also prominent, advising customers that there are five days left to order: 

It links to more detailed information on the different delivery options. It’s impressive that, even if you leave it till 9:30 on Christmas Eve, you can still save your bacon, if you live in a city that is… 

Tesco

There is some very prominent delivery information on Tesco’s homepage:

However, this is presented as part of the carousel, and is just one of five rotating displays. This means it’s easily missed. 

You can find out via footer links, but it should be reinforced on product and shopping basket pages. Indeed, a late delivery date, and the ability to click and collect can be a big sales driver, so Tesco is missing a trick here. 

Argos

As with Tesco, while the information on last delivery dates is there, it’s easily missed. It’s in one of eight boxes on the homepage, at least half of which are below the fold. 

John Lewis

John Lewis has added a clear message to the homepage, showing a summary of last delivery dates:

House of Fraser

The homepage doesn’t provide any clues on last delivery dates: 

However, there is some clear information on the product pages: 

No imformation on Christmas delivery

Other sites, however, offer no solid information, leaving customers guessing as to whether or not their orders will arrive. 

Boden, for example, offers no specific information about Christmas delivery. Delivery timescales are mentioned on the shopping basket page, but this is just the standard all year round info. 

As a customer, you’re left wondering whether Boden has taken Christmas into account. Are items sent via Royal Mail? Will it arrive before Christmas? 

This means you’re taking a risk in placing an order. Boden could have avoided this with some simple and clear messaging. 

There are a variety of different approaches to this issue from retailers. I’d favour a clear message on the homepage and reminders on product and checkout pages as this leaves no room for doubt. 

Some of the examples here, such as Argos, are perhaps too subtle and could be missed. Also, clear information can mean more sales, as customers are confident their orders will arrive.

The key is to keep customers informed and manage expectations about delivery timescales.

Also, it’s important not to make promises you can’t keep. It’s better not to offer late Christmas delivery at all than to let customers down.

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Christmas delivery: are online retailers managing customer expectations?

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