Do the UK and Germany’s top 100 retailers differ in the quality of their post-purchase services? We conducted an in-depth analysis into their performance in the areas of checkout, shipping and returns and compared the results to see.
parcelLab’s UK and DE E-Commerce Shipping Studies analysed the top 100 online shops in each country in the areas of checkout, shipping and returns. The research highlighted the strengths and potential areas for improvement for retailers.
Conducted separately, the German E-Commerce Shipping Study was published at the end of 2018 and the UK in April 2019. After both sets of results were collected, we compared the results. What we found was interesting differences between the service offerings in each country.
Download ‘UK E-Commerce Shipping Study 2019’ here.
Download ‘German E-Commerce Shipping Study 2018’ here.
Whereas it is common for German retailers to display their partnered carriers on site, this is not the norm in the UK. As well as displaying them, 21% of German retailers allow the customer to select their preferred carrier. This is compared to only 6% of retailers in the UK.
These results are surprising when you consider that most consumers in both markets will have a preferred carrier. In fact, customers are likely to be willing to pay extra to use the carrier that they prefer. So why are retailers not offering this service to customers? The higher percentage in Germany suggests that this is a sign of things to come. Hopefully we will see UK retailers offering this soon.
In addition, it seems carriers in the UK are more reliable than those in Germany. During the test order stage of the study, 27% of the parcels ordered in Germany had delayed delivery. This is compared to only 8% of parcels in the UK.
The alternative delivery options offered in the UK and Germany differ greatly. Indeed, 79% of UK retailers offer in-store click & collect, whereas only 41% of German retailers do. This is interesting when you consider that when surveyed, 42% of consumers from France, Germany, the UK and Sweden had used click & collect in the last 12 months (Consumer Pulse, JDA).
The popularity of click & collect has certainly risen due to its convenience for customers. So, German retailers need to add this to their delivery offering to meet consumer demands.
Alternatively, a larger portion of German retailers offer collection from a parcel shop or locker (69%), compared to only 20% in the UK. However, the UK is certainly catching up with its European neighbours with plans to install more parcel lockers and shops such as Doddle in convenient locations. Therefore, we expect to see the number of UK retailers offering this service increase greatly in the next couple of years.
Another area where the UK and Germany differed greatly was in shipping and delivery options and services. UK retailers/carriers are much more likely to give customers an exact delivery date prediction at checkout (55% in UK vs 12% in DE). Additionally, UK retailers are more likely to offer express delivery options (72% in UK vs 40% in DE).
A larger percentage of UK retailers offer customers free shipping of some sort (65%) than in Germany (38%) – i.e. above a minimum order value. This is interesting when you consider that shipping costs have been found to be a major conversion killer.
Retailers from both the UK and Germany need to improve the shipping communication they provide their customers with. Only 9% of retailers in the UK and 15% in Germany send shipping updates themselves. The remaining majority leave these communications to the carrier or do not communicate at all. Indeed, an astonishing 53% of retailers in Germany do not communicate with their customers during shipping.
In addition, only 13% of retailers in the UK and 24% in Germany host the parcel track & trace page on their own site. This means that retailers in both countries are missing a huge opportunity to drive invaluable traffic back to their site.
This is particularly surprising when you consider that research shows that 70-80% of post-purchase messages are opened. In addition, personalised emails that direct customers to the online store result in 0.5-1% immediately making a new purchase. Therefore, it’s clear that by not doing so, retailers are missing out on a lot of potential business.
Both countries therefore have a long way to go to create post-purchase experiences similar to the ‘Prime’ experience customers have come to expect. So, as the e-commerce retail space grows more and more, those retailers that do not invest in the customer journey start to finish will be the ones left behind.
The UK and Germany again differ greatly when it comes to returns. Being able to return an online purchase in store is the norm in the UK, with 79% of retailers offering this service. On the other hand, only 10% of German retailers allow customers to do this.
Very few retailers in both countries have free returns; the UK boasts more retailers who do offer this (37% in the UK vs 10% in DE). This is interesting when you consider that over two-thirds of shoppers check an e-commerce website for its returns policy before making a purchase, according to the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study, and many would abandon their cart if free returns are not an option.
When it comes to returning the customers money, UK retailers perform significantly better than German retailers. Indeed, 73% of UK retailers reimbursed the money within 3 days, compared to only 29% in Germany. In addition, 63% of UK retailers gave a time frame for remittance to the customer, compared to only 31% in Germany.
With returns such a hot topic at the moment, it will be interesting to see how e-commerce stores create sustainable returns policies that meet customer demands.
So, what can we take away from these findings? Essentially, they show that both the UK and Germany have a long way to go to make customer centricity a top priority during post-purchase. Currently, the focus is simply on getting parcels to customers as cheaply and efficiently as possible. Sadly, ensuring convenience for the customer is neglected, perhaps more so in Germany with more limited delivery options.
What’s more, retailers are neglecting opportunities in their post-purchase communications to show their customers they care through detailed and personalised messages on the status of their delivery. As such, retailers from both countries could be doing more to strengthen customer relationships and build loyalty.
As retailers become more defined by their brand and customer service, rather than their products, the need for a holistic customer journey is more important than ever. To stay ahead of their competitors, retailers from both the UK and Germany should therefore focus their attention on strategies for building customer loyalty through above average customer experiences, from checkout right through to returns.
To find out how parcelLab can help you create better customer experiences, get in touch here.