Royal Mail Sunday deliveries: Consumer demand became too hard to ignore

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Royal Mail’s announcement on March 12 to trial Sunday parcel services for large retailers will be welcomed by consumers and businesses alike.

The company said it delivered an “unprecedented” amount of parcels in 2020, including a record 496 million in the Christmas quarter to December 27 – 30% higher than the same period in 2019.

A number of currently unknown large retail brands will begin trialling the new Sunday parcel service across the UK, and talk is already ongoing with other retailers about expanding the service.

Royal Mail initially trialled a similar service back in 2014. But having decided against rolling out the service back then, demand now seems to have grown significantly – so much so that it was becoming difficult to ignore.

Research carried out by Royal Mail showed that 25% of its customers wanted Sunday deliveries. Separate research showed 23% of UK consumers were willing to pay extra in shipping costs if they had the option for weekend deliveries.

So, what does the move mean for UK consumers, online retailers and Royal Mail?

Keeping up with the card transactions
There’s no doubt that e-commerce stores have done well during the pandemic – online sales grew by 46% in 2020 compared with the previous year, the strongest increase since 2008.

Delivery services on the other hand have been severely disrupted, with consumers left feeling frustrated by delays. A whopping 66% of EU consumers faced delivery delays during the first lockdown, with an average delay of around two days.

During a national lockdown, some consumers have had no choice but to order online, with many wanting, or indeed needing, deliveries to turn up within a certain time.

Either out of boredom or necessity as physical stores closed to the public, consumers turned to e-commerce, with sales reaching record levels.

But the pandemic mixed with Brexit border challenges acted as a two-pronged attack that hit logistical services hard. Delivery services have been disrupted by long delays as staff contracted coronavirus or self-isolated, while Brexit border changes have caused confusion among retailers, delivery companies and consumers.

Yet as consumer expectations skyrocketed during the pandemic, delivery services – out of no fault of their own – struggled to keep up with demand. Our patience has thinned, as we’ve become used to a 24/7 society where we can get anything, anywhere, at any time. Just under two-thirds (61%) of consumers say flexibility in delivery slots is an important factor in purchasing from one store over another, according to Metapack.

The maximum time a UK consumer is willing to wait is around four days, and as stated above, just shy of a quarter (23%) are willing to pay extra for weekend deliveries. It’s for this reason that many companies are looking to automate as much of the last mile of the delivery process that they can; to be able to deal with the mountains of parcels that risk being delayed; and to provide a delivery experience that has become paramount for business and customer engagement.

From the retailer’s point of view, flexibility is key here. Retailers can help improve customer experience and loyalty if they can offer various carrier options to match the customer’s preference, for example based on the product or in response to the carrier’s performance record.

The benefit that the delivery provider offers to the consumer is increased visibility and traceability. Providing real-time tracking information and proactively contacting customers who are likely to be affected by delays have become vital components of the delivery service and in keeping customers happy and informed.

Signed, sealed, delivered
The need for additional, more convenient delivery services that revolve around the consumer has been heard. Plus, with demand for instant or next-day delivery benefiting the likes of DPD, DHL, Hermes and Amazon, it was only a matter of time before Royal Mail got involved.

We can no longer wait for Monday to roll around for deliveries, so in light of changing and challenging consumer demands, Royal Mail has delivered a smart move.

In our latest e-commerce market research report, E-commerce Delivery Compass 2020/2021, Royal Mail was by far the delivery company of preference with 40% of UK consumers choosing it as their most preferred ahead of DPD (18%), DHL (12%) and Hermes (10%). Sunday deliveries will help the company keep pace with its online competitors while opening up opportunities further down the line for more retailers to take advantage of the service.

Around 41% of consumers will simply leave an e-commerce site if the delivery time is too long, so Sunday deliveries may well help increase online sales, customer experience and brand loyalty for those online retailers involved.

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About Author

Rob van den Heuvel, CEO and co-founder of Sendcloud, is a young, self-made entrepreneur. After quickly spotting opportunities in the European parcel shipping market, he launched Sendcloud in 2012 with two business partners, with the SaaS company now active in eight countries. During his student days, Rob took his first steps into the world of e-commerce by building his own online store with his talent for trading, and he has gained years of experience through this in the fields of logistics, retail and e-commerce. Rob runs Sendcloud out of Eindhoven, Netherlands.

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