“Christmas is often viewed as a ‘make or break’ trading period for retailers that have an online/home delivery presence; careful planning and forethought is vital in order to maximise on the opportunities available during this time,” says Paul Doble, director at DX – an independent logistics and parcel distribution company to the retail market.
At all times of the year, retailers need to make sure that their online operations reflect the needs of today’s consumers. Flexible delivery options, for example, can really enhance the shopping experience, so retailers need to make it much easier for Customers to control this part of the ordering process.
At the same time, retailers’ websites need to offer detailed information on the different delivery options available. This information should include the fact that free-delivery may mean there is no item tracking or guaranteed time of delivery, whilst next-day delivery (at an added cost) often comes with a tracking service and an accurate window for delivery.
Customers should also be made aware that the cheapest delivery option isn’t always the best option for their needs and, during the busy Christmas period in particular, selecting the premium delivery option may suit them best in some cases.
Top three logistical priorities for retailers during the Christmas trading period.
Contingency planning There is no such thing as over-planning when it comes to the Christmas delivery season; with adverse weather – and snow in particular – making the UK’s roads dangerous (and at times impassable) during winter, it’s essential to have full-proof contingency planning in place that outlines how to communicate with the Customer if a delivery failure looks likely.
Key cut-off dates Customer expectations seem to rise with each passing year, and a lot of consumers still seem to think that ordering on 22nd December is somehow ‘not too close to Christmas’. It is the job of the retailers to educate their Customers about these cut-off dates, and to encourage Customers to consider the impact that bad weather could have on deliveries. When it comes to Christmas delivery times, this is not a time to be subtle: retailers should put a bright, bold banner at the very top of their homepage in order to highlight these issues very clearly.
Forecasting and capacity Throughout the busy Christmas trading season, retailers must try to forecast – and communicate to their logistics providers – the volumes that will need to be sent as accurately as possible. Retailers also need to appreciate how capacity issues will affect the logistics market, and should engage with their suppliers and partners early on in order to reserve the capacity that they’ll need for their business.