MetaPack ecommerce tips abound from Home Delivery Conference

Last week, I dropped by the Home Delivery Conference in London, hosted by MetaPack. As we all know, a day out of the office at an event can be painful, especially if content is weak. Fortunately, the content of this MetaPack event for online retailers and ecommerce companies was rammed full of the good stuff, attended by a 280 strong group.

Below is a bullet point summary of the key MetaPack event points, looking at it from the eyes of an online retailer or ecommerce company:

1. 40% of the room were users of MetaPack. Why? The MetaPack online software as a service portal is typically set up in less than 24 hours, holds 26 carriers that are chosen from to give you the best rate from about 600 home delivery services. Perfect for the small ecommerce companies who need choice. Great for the many big retailers selling online, giving their customers a choice. This became even more prevalent during the snow where their normal carriers could not deliver; enter stage right, MetaPack.

2. The CEO of Yodel, Jonathan Smith, said 'It's all about the doorstep experience'. From his eyes, yes. From the eyes of an online retailer, no, as it is all about the total shopping experience. Starting from browsing to delivery and on to tracking returns. He recognised that waiting in for a delivery is not the customer's favourite hobby (thank you), and therefore they do not always hang around as 'agreed'. This is where things started to hot up at the MetaPack event. I was now staying for the day.

3. Royal Mail next up. Expected bland 15 minutes without innovative ideas. Wrong. Vital statistics on ecommerce were shared such as peak trading week is closer to Christmas, where Click & Collect continues to drive sales. They hired 23,000 extra staff for Christmas period in UK, and delivered a total of 60 million items in December, many I am sure via the MetaPack system. Wow! They were deeply apologetic about the 275,000 that could not be delivered due to the weather. They advised online retailers and ecommerce companies to do early volume planning, choose carrier early and then have flexibility to move between carriers using MetaPack just in case. This is where MetaPack came up trumps filling this gap.

4. Royal Mail also said they were 'looking long and hard at returns', whereas DPD had came, saw and conquered this it seems with their IBRS (International Business Returns Service) for European collect & return service back to the UK. Again, integrated into MetaPack for many returns services making it easy. Checking their web sites, I find the Royal Mail service, but not the DPD offering.

5. There is a definite shift towards next day delivery and second class is declining for online retail shoppers. Free delivery is being used more now as an incentive for larger basket size by ecommerce companies. There was a figure of £50-£75 mentioned. We were reminded that all this is configurable in the MetaPack system. It was suggested that if your average basket size is £45, then make free delivery for £50 and above, of course being aware of what the other online retailers and ecommerce companies offer.

6. Many people including MetaPack stressed the importance of clearly showing delivery terms and conditions, plus pricing options before shoppers reach the end of the basket. This visibility on ecommerce company web sites has declined in the last 12 months which in turn has pushed up cart abandonment, with Tom Allason from Shutl claiming this is up to 2/3rds. Shutl does very rapid deliveries inside M25, contracting out to couriers. Perfect for if I order now and want delivery in 2 hours from now.

7. Royal Mail has just completed a trial of evening delivery slots with retailer House of Fraser. A big success. They are now investigating general demand with MetaPack to potentially offer this as a more widespread service.

8. Linked closely to the previously mentioned delivery terms and conditions, is the returns policy and having that clearly displayed on the online retailer web site. This is where I see a massive benefit for retailers that have multiple ways to interact with their customers. People are using the fancy term 'multi-channel retailing' for this. The retailers with high street presence can also sell online deliver to a local collection point at a time that is convenient to the customer. And then if the customer who shopped on the ecommerce site needs to return it they can do so at a retail store or a collect and return service, or even a local drop off point. Pay Point is offering points to collect and return items bought from online retailers. They have 23,000 points across the UK. Perfect.

9. From the point of view of having the items in stock, some retailers struggle to combine all their inventory into one available pond to fish from. This is not something that MetaPack offers, but companies like VendorNet are trying to offer real-time stock availability from stores. But it is the warehouse management systems that are really responsible for enabling ecommerce companies to take an order online, have it available in a store in London, ship to Cardiff, for collection at a local pick up point that suits the shopper. Slick, possible, but rare.

10. Back to the point about waiting in for a delivery being not a favourite pastime. The 'Predict' service from DPD delivered 97.6% of 32 million parcels within the 1 hour slot requested. Ocado style.

11. Collect+("attach a label, drop of the parcel, relax") at the PayPoint and corner shop locations makes online retailers' customers 17% more loyal. Again, integrated with MetaPack. No-brainer it seems.

12. Javelin, an ecommerce consultancy with 120 strong workforce dedicated to the online retail sector did the best presentation of the day. Top focus from them was international as the biggest opportunity, plus 'reserve and collect', especially for out of normal working hours. Halfords, bike and car accessories retailer in the UK, reports that 80% of its online sales are reserved and collected in store. Knock on saving is that they are needing less retail space.

13. Many of us like to add delivery instructions, such as 'go past the letter box, turn right, continue 200 yards and we are on the right'. Unfortunately, many of these instructions are ignored by the drivers that are delivering the order on behalf of the ecommerce company, if they ever get that far. MetaPack pops up again taking care of this. This is the even more important for returns as you are often left in the dark. Online retailers and ecommerce companies performing regular communication and reading the notes from the customer are outperforming competitors by making increasing customer satisfaction.

14. The final point was 'supplier direct', put forward by Patrick Wall, CEO of MetaPack. In other words, not having to hold stock of your own as an online retailer or ecommerce company. Instead, you take the order, send it over to the supplier who ships directly to your customer. Systems are there to cope with this, cutting time and cost out of the chain, ultimately benefiting all parties. Of course, you have to trust that your supplier can ship efficiently; something that definitely lacks.

My summary from the day was that, despite being organised by MetaPack, they were not shoving their solution down your throat. It was an industry meeting dedicated to the home delivery market, reinforcing the UK's dominant position worldwide in online retail and ecommerce.

Author: Jonathan Bellwood