Oculus Rift move over … get fulfilment sorted first

November 13, 2014 4:07 pm

Oculus Rift move over … get fulfilment sorted first

Forget technologies like iBeacon and Oculus Rift, speakers at the 2014 Internet Retailing Conference were focused on more practical forms of innovation, notably around delivery and collection services. B&Q, Zalando, House of Fraser, John Lewis, Tesco and M&S all had something to say about this area.

Mark Lewis of John Lewis explained why it’s just as important as ever to be thinking about the delivery options made available to customers:

“Customers are finding that their online bit of their experience is pretty good now, but actually what happens after you leave the site or after you click the button to buy, is perhaps a bigger driver of how you feel about the overall experience.”

Click & Collect

35% of UK online shoppers now use click & collect, making the UK the biggest user of the service. Tesco’s Simon Belsham shared some confident predictions of how this figure is set to more than double in the next three years. Tesco are expanding the locations customers can collect from far beyond their store network, such as tube stations. In the future, they’re also looking at unconventional locations such as schools – their fulfilment plan is ultimately driven by what people want and what customers need.

John Lewis have also expanded their locations for click and collect. What started off as a trial in to see if customers would like being able to collect their online orders in store, has now grown to include collection points at Waitrose supermarkets. Click & collect now accounts for over half of all online John Lewis orders. Similar to Tesco’s tube station pick up, John Lewis have recognised the potential of a ‘Click & commute’ concept, opening a small store, aimed at commuters through St Pancras.

House of Fraser is another retailer which has launched new ways for customers to buy and collect their orders. New ‘Stockless stores’ in Caffé Nero shops allow customers to not only collect their products from the coffee shop, but also to browse products on iPads and order there and then. The thinking behind this is very much centred on changing customer needs – House of Fraser recognised the growing café culture and the increasing number of customers shopping on the go on mobile devices, and so brought the two together to increase their brand presence in areas without a House of Fraser branch.


Consumers are ultimately looking for convenience when it comes to ordering online, and whilst more and more of us are opting to collect on our way home from work, for a lot of people, home delivery is still preferred, at least when it’s done properly.

B&Q’s Mike Durbridge talked about the ‘Speed and convenience see-saw’. This is the idea that B&Q customers have different delivery needs depending on what it is they’re buying. Things like power tools tend to be ordered when there’s a project that needs completing immediately, whereas with considered purchases like new doors or tiling, speed is less important, and customers want these items at a time that suits them. This is why as a rule, B&Q deliver items as soon as they can, but give users the option to change the delivery date to a day that’s more convenient for them.


House of Fraser offer a wide range of delivery options, now including same-day delivery within the M25, for the same price as next day or nominated day delivery, and next evening delivery for an added cost. Providing this level of choice shows a good understanding of how the needs of customers can differ when it comes to how they want to receive their products.

Fulfilment innovation - House of Fraser delivery

Creating a tailored delivery experience

The idea behind offering countless delivery and collection options is to tailor the purchase experience to individual customers’ needs, so it’s important to keep track of what those needs are and how to give customers what they want.

Zalando have the challenge of catering to customers all over Europe, with different cultures and expectations of how ecommerce should work. This includes how customers want to pay. Customers in countries less accustomed to ecommerce can distrust online payment systems and be wary of delivery services. This is why Zalando give users in some countries, such as Italy, the option to pay with cash on delivery. This is a great example of how retailers can take into account individual customer needs in all aspects of the transactional journey, though to receiving the package. This focus on the customer may account for Zalando being the biggest B2C ecommerce site in Italy.

The challenge which arises with all of this choice and added convenience is how to display these options to users in a way which is easy to understand and differentiate. How do you help users to work out which of the many options is actually best for them? As we can see from the examples of the B&Q checkout, extra options mean extra screens, and that means more possibility for users to get lost and abandon their basket. The importance of understanding user needs and expectations are just as important when designing the online experience as it is when looking for inspiration for innovation. That’s why it’s so important to test any new features with real users, to gain even more insight into optimising the entire shopping experience.