Great expectations – delivery and returns in 2017

By Dan Wilson March 3, 2017 - 7:58 am

In this guest post from Royal Mail, the growing expectations of British online shoppers go under the microscope.

People love what you’re selling — but how quickly can you deliver? And do you understand which delivery options your customers prefer? Along with great products at competitive prices, success in online marketplaces demands efficient delivery and no-quibble returns. With 24% of customers prepared to abandon their basket if delivery isn’t fast enough, how can you deliver to their expectations?

New standards are fast becoming the norm
Convenience drives sales, and customers now expect convenient delivery to go hand in hand with well-designed online shopping experiences. The likes of Amazon and Argos have led the way with on-demand delivery — when customers can get their items in a specified one or two-hour window. So now’s the time to review what delivery options you offer. How quickly are customers getting their orders from you? And, critically, how does this compare with what your competitors offer? All other things being equal (and they often tend to be with online marketplace selling) delivery speed increasingly defines competitive advantage.

Fulfilled by Amazon or not fulfilled by Amazon?
The online marketplaces themselves are keenly aware of the competitive space that delivery has become. That’s why services such as Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) are gaining increasing popularity. They meet customer demand for speedier service, as well as taking care of warehousing and delivery for you. It all comes at a price though — and you may feel Amazon already does well enough out of you. So you might decide only to use Fulfilment by Amazon for high-value items, where the cost represents a smaller proportion of your overall margin.

Moving to same-day or next-day
If you decide that you should be offering same-day or next-day delivery as standard, take it gently. You could announce your new delivery options and find these trigger a rush of new orders. So start out by only offering a limited selection of goods with faster delivery. That way you can build your capacity for meeting orders faster, without the risk of disappointing customers if you get knocked down in the rush.

Test shipping offers along with product offers
Many online sellers use well-established offer techniques to drive demand — such as sale prices, discounts, or buy-one-get-one-free. Once you’ve got faster delivery options in place, try using shipping offers as an incentive. You might choose to have a “free shipping weekend” for instance, or free shipping on orders over a certain value. One report from Comscore finds 61% of customers “somewhat likely” to abandon their orders if free shipping is not offered – while the same report sees free shipping boost average order value by around 30%.

Significant returns
All sorted? Not quite. 69% of online buyers say they’re unlikely to shop with retailers who charge for returns. Just as same-day or next-day are increasingly the norm for delivery, pre-paid returns are now expected. As well as being cost-free, online buyers look for convenience in making returns. And that’s where Royal Mail comes in. We have the largest network of drop-off points across the UK, including over 11,500 Post Office® branches, so it’s easier than ever for your customers to return an item. Putting pre-paid returns in place, and working with our network, means you can give customers more of the convenience they value.

Developing and implementing a comprehensive delivery and returns strategy marks you out as a serious marketplace seller. Amazon, eBay and the like will note what you offer and you’ll get a higher ranking as a result. Critically, customers will be able to see that you offer the service they want, making your goods more attractive than ever.

The returns network
Royal Mail handles returns for hundreds of businesses and thousands of customers every day. In 2017 we’ll extend our drop-off network to include over 11,500 Post Offices, along with 1200 Royal Mail Delivery and Customer Enquiry points. That’ll make ours the largest network in the UK — and the most convenient for your customers.

Want to discover more marketplace selling trends for 2017? Download the full report for free here.

  • Sarah
    5 years ago

    Sellers that have their own fulfillment services aren’t high in rankings on Amazon, only FBA sellers made it to the first page.

  • Richard Cassidy
    5 years ago

    FBA = lose control of your brand

    PRIME = next day delivery for goods in the basket but two day delivery when you checkout


    ROYAL MAIL = organization who promise the earth for Tracked 24 delivery but who are completely incapable of resolving a delay

Featured in this article from the Tamebay Guide – companies that can help you grow and manage your business.


Amazon started as online book store and has grown to be the worlds largest online retailer.


eBay’s mission is to be the world’s favourite destination for discovering great value and unique selection

Royal Mail

Royal Mail is the leading provider of postal and parcel delivery services in the UK. We deliver to over 230 countries and territories worldwide.

See More Companies >

Recent Comments

13 hours ago
Alan Paterson: @ r, not ridiculous if you are trying to make a point. I am just...
20 hours ago
Jonty: @Alan. Yes agree a very long post from r. But a truthful example of the ridiculous...
20 hours ago
r: we agree ,a ridiculously long post A simple copy and paste of ebays item specific list And...
22 hours ago
Alan Paterson: @r long post you make illustrating item specifics. i know what they are and why...