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UK vs Germany – which provides the best online delivery experience?

Some 27 per cent of UK retailers and 53 per cent of German retailers fail to provide the customer with any communication during the delivery period. For those that do communicate, only 9 per cent in the UK and 15 per cent in Germany provide this communication themselves, with the remainder relying on the carrier to update their customer during shipping.

These were some of the key findings from recent in-depth studies carried out by post-purchase communications specialist parcelLab that indicate that the UK and Germany’s top 100 largest online retailers fail to meet the expectation of online shoppers, potentially damaging loyalty and revenues.

The research, carried out separately in the UK and Germany, involved placing orders with all 100 online shops in both countries, from beauty and household retailers like Boots and Lidl to clothing outlets like Asos and s.Oliver, and technology sellers like Currys PC World and MediaMarkt. The services offered before and after checkout were then documented in a full report for each country. In order to see how the UK and Germany differ, parcelLab created a comparison infographic of the two reports.

In the area of shipping, the 100 UK retailers surveyed outperformed Germany’s, with 65 per cent offering free shipping in the UK, compared with only 38 per cent in Germany. In addition, express delivery was offered by more UK retailers (72 per cent) than German (40 per cent) and in-store collection was also more popular in the UK. On the other hand, the popularity of parcel shops and lockers is much higher in Germany, with 69 per cent of retailers offering collection from these, compared to 20 per cent in the UK.

Another area where the two countries differ is in the transparency and selection of carriers. Whereas in Germany it is common practice for retailers to display their partnered carriers on-site, only 38 per cent of the 100 UK retailers do this. In addition, the research found that German retailers are more likely to allow customers to choose their preferred carrier, with 21 per cent of the 100 retailers offering this, compared to only 7 per cent in the UK.

“This is surprising when you consider that most customers when asked will have a preferred carrier provider who, for example, allows them to provide additional delivery information” said parcelLab’s Tobias Buxhoidt. “Indeed, certain carriers hold prestige in different countries and a partnership with them can set retailers apart from their competitors.”

When it comes to returns, the comparison found that retailers from the two countries differ greatly again. In the UK it is common practice to allow customers to return an item purchased online in store (79 per cent), however in Germany only 10 per cent of retailers offered this. On the other hand, German retailers are more likely to offer free returns (90 per cent), compared to 61 per cent in the UK.

“These differences in returns policies are interesting, especially when you consider that research shows that customers actively check the returns policy before purchasing. As such, a restrictive policy can prevent consumers from buying” added Tobias.

Overall, the studies found that retailers from both the UK and Germany have a long way to go to provide the ‘Prime’ experience that customers have come to expect.

“Retailers in both the UK and Germany are not providing personalised post-purchase experiences for their customers, meaning that they are potentially losing loyal customers as a result of sub-par after sales support” said Tobias. “When you consider that 70-80 per cent of shipping communications are opened, leaving communication of this part of the journey to the carrier is a missed opportunity for retailers from the UK and Germany. By taking control and creating personalised experiences, retailers will be able to include up-selling items and offers that could lead to the customer making an immediate new purchase” added Tobias.

“If retailers in the UK and Germany want to stand out from their competitors, they need to focus more attention on the post-purchase customer journey” Tobias concluded. 

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