For a long time free delivery was used by online retailers as a way to attract new customers. It still is, to an extent. But for several years, the idea of asking customers to pay for delivery was an alien idea.
The tension between free and paid-for delivery has lessened somewhat in the course of the last two years, and it is now increasingly common for customers to pay for next-day or nominated-day delivery. The logic here is simple - customers want the convenience of knowing when their item will be delivered, so that they won’t miss it, which means they’ll pay for certainty.
Consequently, there is a new tension in town; it’s no longer free vs paid-for, it’s fast vs convenient. Next-day is only convenient as a home delivery option if there will be someone at home on the next day.
But even that is starting to change.
As you may have read in this week’s Milkman newsletter, “51% of retailers indicate they offer same-day delivery, up from 16% last year, and within two years, 65% plan to offer this service,” according to the 2017 Digital Commerce Benchmark Survey, from Boston Retail Partners.
Furthermore, “46% of shoppers say that convenience and personalisation of fulfillment are key factors in influencing their online buying decisions,” according to a survey of 2,000 UK adults conducted by OnePoll, on behalf of Sorted, also featured in the newsletter.
When nominated-day delivery was the new battleground, and convenience was the new war cry, there was a widely held view that speed was no longer important. It was a view I accepted, too. But the growth in same-day delivery - both in terms of demand from customers and availability from retailers and fulfillment partners - has reframed the issue.
If you know where you are today, and most of us do, same-day delivery is the perfect hybrid of speed and convenience. The challenge will probably come in meeting demand, though.
The shift from a standard 3-to-5 day delivery service to next-day requires a lot of grit and determination, hard work and investment. You have to be more efficient to avoid unwanted costs, and of course you have to process and execute everything far quicker.
The move to same-day is not on the same improvement continuum, however. It requires a lot more than greater efficiency. Grit and determination will be more important than ever. Because if you base your delivery business on same-day it means greeting each day with a blank order book and a heart filled with hope. Or dread. Probably a mixture of the two.
But the reality is that once the likes of Amazon start making same-day delivery seem like an everyday reality, not offering it is going to make you look like you’re lagging behind. Perception and expectation are powerful forces.
And the online shopping public are already expressing views based on those Amazon-influenced perceptions of what a fast, convenient delivery service should be. Not everyone is going to rush to get on the same-day bandwagon. But to opt out needs to be a conscious decision based on a strategy of providing excellent service and understanding what you do best, not on a tacit admission of failure.
So, what’s it to be same-day, same-old same-old, or something different?