By Jonathan Bellwood, Founder, Peoplevox

Although the Christmas rush is now over, eCommerce retailers will have noticed the impact of increased purchasing from consumers on their systems, processes and infrastructure. As such, retailers should be asking themselves how they can ensure they offer the best possible service to customers and what they can improve.

One of the ways to drive sales is to offer the best and most flexible delivery options to consumers. Many customers will have taken advantage of express delivery options over the Christmas period and will be getting used to being offered them, if you don’t have them now is the time to be thinking of offering them. Having flexible delivery times makes it possible get into the good books of your customers – and if these are new services they will help improve things for the big shopping days this year.

As newer warehouse management and delivery solutions have become available, it is now possible for online retailers to fulfil orders that are placed later than ever before.

The bigger picture is that purchasing behaviours are continually evolving, meaning retailers need to do more to stand out such as providing late cut off times and flexible delivery options to allow items to be delivered as soon as possible. A report by Mintel found that: “There has been a shift in the shopping behaviour of young consumers aged 16-24 and they are increasingly buying more clothes online than in-store. Recent developments such as a 10pm cut-off time for next day delivery, has helped the fashion retailer stand out from its competitors.”

Although the research focused on the fashion industry this is sure to be a more general trend and corresponds with our own findings, showing that pushing the cut off time every hour past 2pm has a positive impact on sales and helps retailers to stand out. This is equally true with the cut off time being pushed past working hours which helps to capture more people for next day delivery though this is something which few companies can do due to courier restrictions.

Once couriers do start to offer better delivery solutions it will be important to have a warehouse management system in place that can ensure orders are packed swiftly once they are received. In conjunction with such a delivery partner eCommerce retailers will be able to reap maximum sales from their operations. Online retailers can only be as strong as their weakest link, and it is essential that warehouse processes can keep up with demand.

Another option that could help retailers is offering a Sunday delivery option. Recent research commissioned by Barclays’ Transport & Logistics and Retail banking sector teams found that 36% of firms were considering adding a Sunday delivery option as a future service improvement, move sure to be welcomed by consumers as 70% would like to have deliveries on that day. Indeed Sunday deliveries would make a lot of sense given that roads are quietest, allowing for more deliveries to be made. The flexibility this would give consumers is also sure to be welcomed as many office workers are at home on Saturday and Sunday. This means consumers could order on a Saturday with the view of receiving the items on Sunday.

Sunday deliveries aren’t the only option that retailers can use to appease customers’ needs. Amazon recently announced that they would be offering same-day pick up services for any orders placed before 11.45AM. Shrewd retailers could benefit from offering the same turn-around to their customers giving them even greater flexibility in delivery options. This is especially true as there’s no reason that other eCommerce companies who perhaps don’t have Amazon’s financial and logistical might can’t do the same. It would only require them to optimise their picking methods to allow them to capitalise on offering such services.

In more general terms, retailers need to start thinking about when their customers are going to be shopping online and how to make the cut-off time as late as possible for next day delivery. This shouldn’t even require extra shifts at warehouses. Warehouse management systems are run most efficiently with 2 shifts, using 3 shifts at peak times. Another way to stay ahead of the curve is to choose Sunday picking over Saturday picking as this minimises the Monday rush due to orders received on Sunday.

eCommerce retailers should be thinking about how they can gain a competitive edge by providing better delivery services. With the right systems and delivery partners in place, retailers should be able to boost sales by giving customers the delivery options they want.