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Study: European retailers still struggle to deliver convenience options

Despite shoppers’ high customer service demands, express and same-day deliveries are not commonplace among European retailers.

Worse, only half of retailers offer an express delivery option, and a paltry 6% offer same day delivery, according to the “E-Delivery Index 2017.” The report from Radial highlights the hidden customer service failings of retailers across the U.K., Italy, Germany and Spain.

Retailers are now operating in the “Age of Immediacy,” a factor that has made delivery and returns convenience a top priority. In terms of delivery choices, many retailers have caught on to the advantages of offering flexible options, with 2.7 options available, on average. The U.K. firmly leads the way with 4.4 delivery options.

However, charges on any of these options will soon be a deterrent to today’s entitled customer. Currently, 79% of retailers offer free standard home delivery, and 95% offer free click & collect as an alternative to paid postal service.

Click & collect remains popular across all countries, with 95% of retailers offering the service, as it not only provides accessibility for the customer but also enables retailers to benefit from the additional footfall of driving customers to stores. Despite the obvious cost and flexibility advantages, few retailers are utilizing in-store stock to service consumer orders.

This was indicated by the closely matching local average speeds of standard home delivery at 3.1 days, and click & collect with 3.2 days. Utilizing in-store stock will not only cater to the immediacy that many customers desire, but would also drive significant cost reductions in serving such orders, the report said.

“For European retailers today, a ubiquitous omnichannel offering is simply not the reality,” said Ben Willis, managing director international at Radial. “These findings are a proof point that today’s retailers need to reassess their customer experience strategy to look at the bigger picture.”

Alternatively, delivery options now extend beyond click & collect, with on average 34% of retailers also offering convenience stores. This is a serious competitive issue for non-local retailers with 70% failing to provide this option.

A much-underestimated aspect of the customer journey is consumer convenience and costliness of returns. Brands offer a satisfactory selection of, on average, 1.9 return options; however, they are lacking in offering in-store return options.

With only 52% of retailers providing this free avenue to consumers, the research suggests that retailers are placing immediate profits above long-term revenue. The in-store return method offers a significant opportunity to cut down the cost of returns by promoting exchanges and refunds and assimilating in-store returns directly into store inventory.

“The ubiquity of online and mobile commerce means that brand competition has reached previously unimaginable levels and is threatening to destroy customer loyalty altogether,” Willis said.

“The likes of Amazon have created consumer expectation for a whole new level of customer experience — and this needs to be considered when it comes to delivery and returns,” he added. “For retailers to deliver a true omnichannel experience they need to consider how they engage with customers beyond the point of purchase, priorities delivery and returns that meets the needs for customers – ensuring repeat business.”

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