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Online retailers continued to improve their performance in terms of delivery last year, with an increase in the speed of delivery, and a greater range of options on offer for customers. 

John Lewis picked up Snow Valley's Golden Chariot award for all round delivery excellence, though the 2011 Online Retail Delivery Report did still find some room for improvement.

Some highlights from the report...

Award winners

John Lewis picked up the main award for its all round service, which included swift fulfilment, a speedy response to customer enquiries, and flexible delivery options, such as being able to place orders for next-day delivery up to 7pm. 

Other winners:

  • Thanks its handling of returns, TopShop picked up the Best Cross-channel Service award. 
  • Kiddicare sends SMS messages to customers when a delivery is due, allowing them to reschedule if they need to. This helped the retailer win the Best Customer Service award. 
  • Jo Malone picked up the Best Brand Experience award, thanks to it use of emails, packaging and free gifts to make its delivery stand out. 
  • ASOS won the award for Best International Delivery.

Delivery options

Providing a range of delivery options allows retailers to appeal to customers who need to specify a particular date, deliver to a different address, or who simply want their items as quickly as possible. 

This year's report found that 69% of retailers studied provided a choice of delivery options, with 34% of retailers offering two choices; standard delivery and an express option. 

More retailers are now offering next-day delivery, which is a great way to appeal to the 'want it now' mentality. 59% of retailers now offer this express option, compared with 55% last year. 

17% of retailers offered nominated day delivery, up from 14% last year, while 12% offered a specific delivery slot, down slightly from the previous year.

One development which is a potential game changer for online retailers is same day delivery, something for which Shutl won the Econsultancy Innovation in E-commerce award recently.

9% of retailers offered same day, compared to 4% last year, though at the moment this kind of option is limited to London postcodes. 

Delivery information on websites

Retailers seem to be getting better at displaying delivery charges, a key piece of information for customers. 

34% showed delivery charges on the product page, 43% on the shopping basket, while just 21% waited for customers to enter the checkout before revealing this information - down from 30% last year. 

Email customer service

Poor email customer service is a common theme in e-commerce surveys and benchmark reports, and it's an area that needs to be improved. 

While 37% were able to respond to emails about delivery the same day, 16% didn't even respond at all. 

email response

Success rates

While retailers faced a challenge over Christmas thanks to the snow, there was a slight increase in the speed of delivery. 48% of orders arrived within two days, up from 46% last year. 

In our Christmas delivery survey, we found that 26% of orders placed in December arrived late, but the overall performance of retailers in the Snow Valley report was much better. 

The Snow Valley survey was carried out before the snow which affected many Christmas deliveries, and found that 81% of orders arrived within the timescales given by retailers, though this has dropped from 91% in the 2010 report.

Graham Charlton

Published 24 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+

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