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Thanks in part to the snow, more than a quarter of customers received their orders late this Christmas, and almost half of those orders arrived two or more days late. 

This is one of the findings of a Christmas delivery survey of UK consumers carried out exclusively for Econsultancy by Toluna

Some highlights from the survey after the jump... 

Did you order any goods online in December? 

Did you order any goods online in December?

The majority (72.58%) of the 1,995 respondents to the survey had made a purchase online in December, so this group of 1,448 people were asked the following questions. 

Did retailers advise you of possible weather-related delays before you placed your order? 

Did retailers advise you of delays?

With the problems caused by the weather, as well as the usual Christmas rush, it was vital for retailers to keep customers informed about delivery times and managing expectations. 

Many retailers placed prominent messaging on their homepages to inform customers of delivery timescales and Christmas delivery cut-off dates, and this was a sensible way to deal with the issue. 

In addition, several retailers, including John Lewis and Amazon, stopped taking orders for Christmas earlier than they would otherwise have done. Better to do this than to fail to deliver. 

Though the majority were informed of weather issues, 26.8% of respondents to our survey were not advised by retailers of possible delays before making a purchase. 

Did your goods arrive on time? 

Did the order arrive on time?

According to the results, there were a lot of disappointed customers this Christmas, with 26.24% receiving orders late. This suggests that the weather did indeed have a significant impact on delivery. 

For comparison, 91% of retailers in Snow Valley's 2010 Online Retail Delivery Report managed to keep to the promised timescales. 

If the order was late, how many days late was it? 

How many days late was it?

While the majority (56.98%) of orders were just one day late, a significant percentage have clearly had a terrible experience with late deliveries. Almost 20% of respondents experience delays of more than a week on the orders, and many presumably failed to arrive in time for Christmas. 

If a retailer failed to deliver on time, would you shop with them again? 

Would you shop again?

With so many late deliveries, it's no surprise that almost 28% of respondents said that they would not shop again with a retailer that failed to deliver on time.

As the chart above shows (here's a larger version), the 16-34 age group were less likely to return to a retailer after delivery problems, while the over 55s were a little more forgiving (almost 20% would not shop with a retailer again). 

These stats reinforce the importance of delivery for online retailers. You can provide the best possible online experience, great products and prices, a smooth checkout, and excellent customer service, but this can all be undermined if goods arrive late, especially around Christmas. 

Retailers couldn't do too much about the weather conditions this Christmas, but they could make sure that customers were kept informed about delays, and that they could realistically deliver orders within the timescales given, thus managing customer expectations. 

Graham Charlton

Published 12 January, 2011 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 (6)

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Robert

I am still waiting for one item that I ordered at the beginning of December not the retailers fault but a courier company that I won't mention!

almost 6 years ago

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Victoria Archer, Ecommerce Operations Manager at Heal's

Delivery on time is one of the most important factors for us, and we made sure that all our customers were notified on the site, and after placing orders that there maybe a delay due to weather. Sadly we were seriously let down by our courier company for reasons other than the 'adverse weather' conditions during the run-up to xmas. We have now decided to work with different delivery company, and managed to swap contracts within a week of last order dates, ensuring the last few sales arrived just in time for xmas. 

Thankfully we have a great customer service team in place to appease any disappointed customers by phone and email.

almost 6 years ago

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AZ

I think customers are forgiving as it's happening during Christmas season, otherwise we may see a drop on the people willing to order again.

almost 6 years ago

Matt Clarke

Matt Clarke, Ecommerce Director at B2B

Interesting that 2.65% said their order was more than a month late, when it hasn't been a month since the last available delivery day before Christmas.

almost 6 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Matt, The survey asked if customers shopped online in December, so its possible that customers placed orders in the first week or so of the month.

almost 6 years ago

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Tim Leighton-Boyce

Another aspect of this is the effect of delays in handling returns on willingness to order again -- or in some cases having the funds to do so.

I know from personal experience than DHL stopped collecting returns for Amazon in my part of London after the snow hit at the start of December. I wasn't able to sort that out until after Christmas. 

Of course Amazon handled this all perfectly in the end.

But if I had been using a debit card or a credit card which was already maxed-out, I would have been unable to just go and buy something else and wait a month for the refund to come through. That kind of financial embarrassment could very well put someone off shopping on line again.

almost 6 years ago

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