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21st October 2009 |  Written by Guy Levine

Post Strikes Hit eCommerce In A Big Way

I own a Digital Marketing company. I am sitting at my desk needing to buy my two year old a snow white costume for a fancy dress party she is going to at the weekend, but I’m busy. I would normally buy online but the post is screwed up. Do I take the risk of it not arriving and facing a whole lot of grief while having to explain to my darling daughter (and wife) that the only costume I can make from house hold bits at short notice is Worzel Gummidge or break the online habit and hit the high-street?

I don’t believe this is an uncommon dilemma!

Surveys of shoppers and research from eTailers are reporting scary figures suggesting that if a company does not deliver when promised, just over 90% of people will never buy again. With stats like this, is it a wonder that eTailers are starting to move away from the once dominant Royal Mail.

Scooter wear brand and online store Armadillo Scooter Wear sell their products world wide. They have noticed however, a rise in enquires about high street stockists of their product since strike talks started. Tim Hebden, company director says “When people order our product, they often do it because they need it for something. The weather might be getting colder so they need a new jacket. Having to wait an uncertain number of days is unacceptable. That’s why we moved to a courier service quite some time ago.”

All over the country eTailers are facing uncertainty about how the upcoming post strike will affect their business. It all comes down to the big promise of online; Order it now and have it tomorrow. It’s just how it has always been marketed.

There is always a choice for the consumer. It is believed that Royal Mail is responsible for delivering around 50% of all items bought online. Most eCommerce stores which sell postable goods offer the 1st class post service as their standard. So can eCommerce stores just push the faster delivery options and bypass Royal Mail?
Online, there are three main drivers for sales. Having a big choice, having better prices and having a convenience factor. The challenge is playing with the two ultimate variables, convenience and price. If the eTailer has to increase their prices and possibly change their delivery times, will the customer put up with this, or will they just head to the high street?

A growing proportion of people are already shopping on the high street and then buying online at the cheapest store. Will these strike actions encourage this, action as another arrow through the heart of high street retail?

So what can the eTailer do to stop a mad rush of angry customers hitting the customer support line and complaining about late deliveries?

  1. Make it apparent you know what’s going on. The best way to overcome any buying objections is to bring them up first.
  2. Decide on your strategy. Are you going to offer free courier delivery on all products over a certain value to guarantee people get them on time?
  3. Can you build a promotion around the strike? 50% off all delivery rates this week? Free next day delivery on all orders over £100. It is a reason to communicate with clients, and online, that generates sales. Offers tied in with ‘real’ events tend to work best.
  4. Know that this is going to happen and prepare for it. If you have a customer support number prepare for increased calls. Now is the time to turn one off sales into customers for life. Do a good job when times are tough and people will love you forever.
  5. Manage your online reputation. Disgruntled customers can tell all their friends in minutes via Facebook or Twitter. They can also sing your praises. It might well be worth going that extra mile!

Your Comments

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  2. Hi Guy
    It’s a very common misconception that the Royal Mail strike means that businesses have no options when it comes to parcel deliveries.

    The Royal Mail strike only affects letters.

    Packages and parcels can still go via parcel force, business post, DHL or what ever parcel provider the business chooses.

    Royal Mail prices are heavily subsidised, customers pay because of their volume and not the weight or distance travelled like many modern commercial operations. This means they make money because they have a huge amount of letters going through their systems. The packages go via Parcel Force.

    Small businesses like the ones you mention would send by the cheapest method possible, so the chances are they already using a different courier. It would be cheaper to send a neatly packaged jacket via Parcel2Go than Royal Mail and many retailers know this.

  3. Thanks for the comment Sarah – as you say we believed it would affect parcels too! Seems like we can go back to Amazon!

  4. Go Back? We never left! ;-)

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