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With shopping on the high street often a nightmare of crowded stores, overfilled car parks and pricey petrol, the online equivalent is more appealing than ever for UK consumers. But etailers need to be careful as small details like delivery costs are still slowing the progress of uptake.

Back in 2008, a survey conducted by PayPal and comScore indicated that 43% of shoppers abandon their shopping carts because of unexpectedly high delivery charges. Meanwhile, 61% of online shoppers, according to Forrester Research, prefer to shop with retailers that offer free delivery.

Three years on and you can bet these stats will be even higher.


I recently finished a book called “Delivering Happiness”, the story of Zappos owner Tony Hsieh and the firm's meteoric rise from start-up to $1bn turnover in 10 years.

Throughout, he pushes what Zappos call the WOW service. The idea is that by building a business around details like responding to customer service emails within an hour, treating suppliers as you would like to be treated and making customers your ‘God’, you can get a leap on the competition.

It’s full of exemplary ‘little’ ideas, but here are some of my favourites:

  • New customer perks - Upgrading every new customer’s first order to next day delivery as a “welcome” gift to ensure the first experience makes them want more.
  • Stock warehouses adjacent to dispatch warehouse - so that orders can be placed and delivered in a mere 8 hours or less. 
  • Free delivery and free returns – making people more likely to buy more products at once, with the understanding that there are no consequences if they aren’t suitable.

Average order value 

These are all small changes that make a big difference, but just because they are small, it doesn’t mean they haven’t been thoroughly thought through. When it comes to free delivery, for example, it’s definitely worth investigating all the options and whether the benefits stack up. 

To make free delivery work, there are a number of things to consider, for example: 

  • Will people actually buy more knowing they are saving on delivery cost?
  • After looking look into your product margins, ss a minimum spend an option?
  • What minimum spend level encourages the most purchases?
  • What about a sliding scale based on the number of items with free over a certain amount?

It’s vital to try different systems to see what really works for your customers.

Little things that make a big difference

All this just goes to show that often it is the little details that make all the difference and ecommerce is no different in this respect.

Offering free delivery or responding to customer emails within an hour will clearly have a financial impact but the brand loyalty benefits should outweigh the costs.

What little things can your business do to improve success?

Ben Staveley

Published 16 May, 2011 by Ben Staveley

Ben Staveley is Head of E-commerce at dotCommerce and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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