Weather has a big impact on retailers – and not just in dictating sales. The UK’s weather has always been unpredictable and, as we saw from the floods last Christmas, it seems to be getting even more so. Although many retailers are considering the impact this has on their marketing campaigns and stock levels, the effect on e-commerce deliveries can be even more significant.
Christmas 2013 saw the biggest increase in online shopping in the last four years – a trend that shows no sign of abating. The resulting spike in orders puts pressure on logistics departments to meet delivery demand for the big day.
Last year our busiest day at CitySprint was the 19th December, a day later than the previous year. Research by eDigital and IMRG confirms that customers are confident leaving their orders even later, with 47% of customers happy to order online with less than a week to go to Christmas, up 13% from last year.
Add extreme weather to the mix and Christmas delivery can be Russian roulette for the unprepared retailer.
To mitigate risk, retailers need to work closely with distribution partners to develop a plan that takes every eventuality into consideration. This means analysing data from previous years and sales predictions for the current one. It also means allowing for the highest volume of deliveries at a time when weather will cause the greatest delays.
So what does this mean for retailers? We are lucky in the UK to have a diverse and innovative retail ecosystem, but the stiff competition this brings presents a challenge for retailers looking to get a foothold over their rivals. Recent research shows that customers blame failed deliveries on retailers rather than couriers, and the stakes are particularly high at Christmas. To protect their reputation and keep the trust of their customers, retailers must partner with a reliable courier.
Retailers can also set themselves apart from competitors by offering a range of flexible delivery options. Today’s customers are particularly busy at Christmas and become frustrated when presented with a “sorry we missed you” card for an important delivery. There can be no “one size fits all” approach; the customer must be able to decide how and when they receive their order.
As a result, any distribution network that a retailer partners with should be able to adapt to their customers’ busy Christmas schedule. Retailers need the strength of a network that is capable of delivering record volumes of parcels in a given area, combined with significant flexibility. Furthermore, couriers must to have systems in place to allow for severe weather and last minute orders as well as a strong track record and a reputation for reliability.
We are seeing customers’ delivery expectations increase at the same time as volumes, making this Christmas the biggest challenge distribution companies have ever faced. For this reason retailers can’t gamble with their delivery partners and distributors can’t gamble with the weather. Retailers should accept nothing less than this level of foresight and ensure that their reputation is safe this Christmas.