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More online retailers are now beginning to offer more flexibility in their delivery options, such as next-day and Saturday delivery.
However, a lot of online retailers still have some way to go to offer the kind of flexibility that online shoppers would like.
Just 14.4% of etailers offered the choice of a specific delivery date, while only 15% provided customers with the option of a specified time slot, many of which were grocery retailers.
Offering to deliver items on a particular days can be a compelling prospect for customers, who may be either be impatient to get hold of their purchases, or else have work commitments that mean they cannot wait in all day for delivery.
Providing more flexibility around delivery gives etailers the chance to appeal to more potential customers, and can also be a persuasive sales tool.
Interestingly, more of the (larger) retailers on the Hitwise Hot 100 list offered flexible delivery options. 36% offered a specific time slot, while 53% provided a Saturday delivery option, though there are options for smaller multichannel retailers, such as the recently launched Shutl.
One trend spotted by the report was that, since more etailers are now offering free delivery to appeal to more cost-conscious shoppers, and subsidising this with the more expensive premium options like next day and named day delivery.
When reviewing e-commerce sites, one thing I often pick out is the lack of clear delivery information that is provided to customers.
The cost of delivery, as well as the different options available, is something that forms part of the customer's purchase decision, so this should be easy to access.
According to the report, all but one of the retailers studied included a link to the delivery information on the homepage, though links weren't always clearly labelled, with many retailers placing this information under a 'help' link, where customers could easily miss it.
More retailers than last year are placing delivery charges on product pages, with 34.9% placing the charge or a link to it on the product page, while 32.5% showed this information on the shopping basket summary page.
However, 30.1% wait until customers have entered the checkout process before supplying this information, though this figure dropped to 16.7% for the retailers from the Hitwise Hot 100 list.
The report sets out possible reasons for this; not wanting to deter customers early in the process, needing to know full order details before calculating charges, and waiting until the customer choose one of the delivery options.
The first approach is unwise, as people will just drop out later in the process if they feel that the charges are too steep, while with the latter two approaches, retailers are taking the risk that customers will not get as far as the checkout in the first place, especially if they have to register or fill in too many details before the charges are shown.
Far better to set out the various charges for different delivery times and product types, so the customer knows what to expect earlier in the process, and is less likely to bail before reaching the checkout.