When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the world went into lockdown, shoppers were left with little choice but to turn to online shopping. Ecommerce business boomed, and just as retailers recovered from Christmas peak, sales rocketed to a 10-year high. Alongside the unexpected surge in sales, retailers had to deal with reduced staff numbers, social distancing measures, and delays in the supply chain. Many had no choice but to vastly extend delivery times or even stop selling altogether.

Covid19 isn’t going away anytime soon, which means an online Christmas is all but certain, and eCommerce businesses will have a peak like no other. Following that, they will be facing the end of the Brexit transition period a week after Christmas, and changes to cross border selling. So, with Covid, Peak and Brexit, everything is set for a perfect storm this peak season. With retailers needing to capitalise on online orders to build back sales after a difficult year, getting the delivery strategy right is vital to weather this storm.

Delivery excellence – getting the right mix of carriers

Carriers struggled during the pandemic with the sudden surge in businesses needing their parcels delivered. For many, this meant delayed deliveries and unhappy customers. With Christmas around the corner and strict Covid19 measures still in place, carrier capacity is likely to be extremely limited this year and many will be turning off services to protect their business. Retailers must work with multiple carriers in order to be able to switch them depending on their capacity and if any issues arise.

Picking the right mix of carriers will depend on your products and customers but having a wide breadth of services ensures you’re ready whatever happens. It’s also important to be sure your carriers are ready for Brexit. For example, there will be more product data needed on parcels going through customs and carriers must have the technology in place to handle it. With the Brexit transition period coming to an end within weeks, part of your Post-Brexit contingency plan should include checking what steps your carriers have taken to ensure you are one step ahead.

Sales-boosting delivery options at the checkout 

Another benefit of working with multiple carriers is ensuring that you can offer your customers different delivery options. This Christmas, customers ordering online will likely have specific needs for how they want to receive their parcel. Many people are still working from home, so they might not mind when their order arrives. Keyworkers or those unable to work from home, on the other hand, may prefer to nominate a day or use click and collect. And, of course, there are always those who wait until the very last minute, which means that next or same day is their only option. By working with multiple carriers, you can avoid a ‘one size fits all’ approach to delivery and ensure that you have different options ready for your customers. With 45% of customers likely to abandon a purchase if the right delivery options aren’t available, it’s more important than ever to get this right to secure the sale.

Don’t ignore returns, prioritise them 

Just as businesses recover from peak sales, they face National Returns Day on the 2nd January as consumers flock to return unwanted gifts. Returns is an important part of the consumer experience, with 78% now checking the returns policy before choosing where to shop.* Returns can be a headache for retailers, and can cost them up to 60bn a year! One of the main issues with returns is a lack of visibility for both the customer and the retailer. Improving your returns experience means you can better prepare and plan your returns and get resalable stock back onto your store quicker. When it comes to returns, it’s even more important that retailers are prepared for Brexit with the transition period ending just as returns will be happening. Having the right technology in place can help ensure that returns are fully compliant for Brexit, whilst also giving customers the best experience.

An affordable multi-carrier solution fit for uncertain times

The pandemic has shone a light on the lack of contingency planning within many ecommerce businesses. Those who were able to keep trading during the first pandemic were the ones who had the flexibility to adjust their business models according to demand. Retailers who don’t take on board the lessons of the pandemic, and ensure they have contingency planning in place, could end up struggling during peak season, or whatever unexpected events happen.

Having a multi carrier strategy is vital to being ready whatever happens. However, it does mean more work to manage all these carrier contracts, services and pick-ups. However, by working with a single multi-carrier partner you only have one relationship to maintain . This way you can be assured that your customers are getting the range of delivery services they require at the most competitive rates – helping you to step into uncertain times with more confidence.


*IMRG Consumer Home Delivery Review 2019-20

**IMRG returns review 2020

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