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Deliveries top etailers’ Christmas list

As competition for Christmas spend hots up, retailers that fail to offer transparent and flexible delivery options for online purchases could miss out, according to new research.

Half of the 2,000 UK shoppers (49%) surveyed by supply chain management software provider Manhattan Associates said they would do more of their Christmas shopping online if there were better fulfilment options, such as Sunday services, click-and-collect and faster processing times.

A quarter said they had been let down by a Christmas delivery service in the past and have boycotted the offending retailer ever since.

Separate research by software provider OrderDynamics, which last month conducted a mystery shopping exercise with 43 well-known high street fashion retailers, found many were failing to offer the delivery options shoppers wanted, such as a named delivery date or the option to view the nearest store with a product in stock.

“The battle for customer loyalty is no longer won on the variety or quality of products, but on the speed of delivery and number of fulfilment options,” said Craig Sears-Black, UK managing director of Manhattan Associates.

But he warned that inventory visibility is critical for these types of services. “The surge of online orders around Christmas forces retailers to either set early deadlines for orders, or kill profitability by committing to expensive fulfilment options.”

On Wednesday, House of Fraser introduced an early morning pre-9am delivery service with a 7pm order cut-off for a fee of £8. The service is for UK mainland customers and offers a two-hour delivery window based around standard working hours. It is available on purchases made online, via mobile and at in-store terminals.

Parcel delivery firm DPD, which works with retailers such as Asos.com, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer, launched nationwide Sunday deliveries in June. Marketing director Tim Jones said: “We will run Sunday deliveries right through the peak period, allowing us to handle the increase in volume in December.”  

Asos, Amazon, New Look, TM Lewin and Hawes & Curtis are among those to have signed up to Doddle, a click-and-collect service that will have 30 stores based near train stations and other transport hubs by Christmas. The service launched an iOS mobile app on Tuesday, which means shoppers can arrange to pick up or return packages using their smartphones. It is also developing an android app.

“There has been a proliferation of all sorts of different [delivery] models this year and it is clear that one solution will not fit all,” said Peter Louden, chief operating officer of Doddle. “It is about offering multiple options to suit varied lifestyles.”

James Timberlake, head of marketing at logistics operator DX, agreed: “If you say you can deliver in a very tight time frame but then fail, you have to wonder if it is worth it for the damage it does to the brand.”

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