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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. 


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'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... 


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. 


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.

Graham Charlton

Published 19 December, 2012 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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Anna Lewis

Anna Lewis, Google Analytics Analyst at Koozai

I disagree that Amazon are doing enough, I've just realised something I ordered two weeks ago won't be here until January so when looking for a replacement item I clicked on several that said 'order by xx to get it by Thursday 20th', however, many of these items do not have the same message on the product page and some even ship from Hong Kong making it impossible!

It's taught me to look very carefully as I've now ordered two presents too late, even though they would have come on time if they were sold by Amazon. I won't be buying things not sold by Amazon themselves again!

I switched to Modelzone who are doing free next day delivery if you order by 2pm, which I think is great. Let's just hope it turns up tomorrow!

almost 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Anna - I've ordered a few things in the past few days from Amazon and delivery has been OK, so I've based my opinion on that.

I guess the message only applies to items sold by Amazon directly and warehoused in the UK?

almost 4 years ago

Anna Lewis

Anna Lewis, Google Analytics Analyst at Koozai

@Graham yeah I think it applies to those sold directly by Amazon, it's my fault for not checking really, but I think the message is misleading.

Apologies if it sounded like I said I completely disagree with you, I don't, I just think Amazon could be doing more to help people like me who don't read all the details!

I like what they're doing with Christmas eve deliveries, and even saying you can buy vouchers for instant presents on Christmas day, it's nice to see them helping people who might be panicking!

almost 4 years ago

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

The ASOS delivery service for pre-Christmas is particularly impressive, you can order up to midnight on Sunday for delivery on Christmas eve.

On a slightly different note, at Schuh we've seen a massive increase in the uptake of the 'check & reserve store stock' facility over the past couple of weeks, especially from mobile devices. I'd recommend this to anyone who was looking to improve their fulfilment proposition.

almost 4 years ago

Laura Phillips

Laura Phillips, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

My experience this Christmas of Amazon sellers (not Amazon themselves) hasn't been great so far. All four of my Christmas deliveries seem to be arriving beyond the designated period (4 different sellers, 3 have arrived so far), and the only one with tracking is the only one left to arrive & tracking information is never available...

Having clear delivery information is imperative this time of year, not having it is a major oversight. Of course as you say companies can't account for the postal system, but I wish some companies that give a 'before Christmas' delivery date would try harder to stick to it.

I have, however, been very impressed with Lipsy (order before 9pm for next day delivery), Very (order before 10pm for next day delivery) and M&S click & collect (order and item will be sent to nearest store if you choose it to) - all of which I have used in the last 5 days.

In each case I'd left something until the very last minute and the fact I could order so late and get the items so quickly was the sole selling point, very impressive!

almost 4 years ago

John Waghorn

John Waghorn, Content Marketer at Koozai Ltd

I think it definitely makes an impression if a company can’t deliver the goods you’ve ordered in time for Christmas. Chances are you would go to an alternative seller if they messed up and the festive season is a time when companies really have to prove themselves. I’ve never had any problems with Amazon personally and I’m a frequent user of the site, but as Stuart points out, ASOS seem to be pretty spot on with their business model. I think if you allow yourself enough time, you should get your items in time. Last minute shopping is bound to cause a few glitches now and again.

almost 4 years ago

Natalie Green

Natalie Green, PR Officer at Postcode Anywhere

Delivery has always been the Achilles heel of online shopping, with failed deliveries proving to be a major bugbear for buyers and sellers alike. I would agree with the examples you’ve made Graham, it seems that retailers, their website and delivery processes are still falling short in areas such as specific day, time slot, and evening delivery options. It’s important to remember that you could be selling the best products known to man but if your delivery doesn't cut it, the customer simply won’t come back.

almost 4 years ago

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