Christmas delivery: the need for speed in Retail

by Ros Wells: Managing Partner for Retail and Leisure, Telefónica UK

The nights are getting longer and the days are feeling colder. While some of us are moping about thanks to post- holiday blues, it’s all systems go for retailers in the run up to Christmas. (Yes that’s right, Christmas talk already).

With the coldest summer in three years causing a dip in sales, retailers are turning their attention to Christmas, and crucially Black Friday, to close the gap and take advantage of almost record high consumer confidence. But, last year there were some issues. Mainly around getting orders delivered in time for Christmas with some being placed as late as December 23rd. So, having just celebrated the 2nd birthday of O2’s 4G network, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to reflect on the need for speed in Retail.

Last year, some retailers were reporting Christmas delivery delays of up to 2 weeks as they were just unprepared for the sheer volume of orders, especially online. This year, I think things might be different.  Retailers are more conscious of the ‘I want it now’ customer mentality and, as a result, have developed more effective delivery strategies. Gone are the days where people will accept waiting around at home for a ‘between 9-5’ delivery slot. Now customers want reliable delivery windows and an ongoing dialogue with the courier.

On the bright side, the availability of slots and speed of delivery has steadily increased. For most retailers, next day delivery has become a commonplace offering; Amazon has even launched a 1-hour fulfilment window in London. This is hardly surprising in a world where you can download a full HD movie to your smartphone using 4G in a matter of minutes.  This will continue as we move into 2016 with companies that are slow to adapt facing the risk of being left behind.

But let’s face it – there is still room for improvement. I’d love to see an app which lets me to follow the progress of my order in real-time. It could allow me to rearrange before a delivery is even attempted if I know that due to unforeseen circumstances I won’t be around to collect. To provide this kind of service, retailers must continue to focus on mobile optimisation and ensuring that their online infrastructure has the bandwidth to cope this Christmas. Especially as, during Black Friday 2014, mobile traffic accounted for 59.8% of all online traffic in the UK, and the number will surely increase this year.

Ultimately, if retailers want to continue to appeal to digitally savvy shoppers, they must recognise the need for speed. Currently, 40% of people will leave a web page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. By 2025 this will drop to just 1.5 seconds. Against that back drop, a 2-4 day Christmas delivery window seems extremely outdated and unprecedented demand will not be a valid excuse.

Visit our website to see how O2 is helping retailers meet the demands of digital consumer.