In 2020, retailers quickly pivoted to offer alternative delivery services like Curbside Pickup, in-store Click & Collect or pick-up and drop-off (PUDO) for the first time, to help facilitate social distancing. Shopping habits are hard to break, as evidenced by the fact that e-commerce sales have gone up and more or less stayed up. It’s not just sales volumes that have soared either – customer expectations have also risen across every conceivable aspect of the shopping experience. 

What do modern consumers want?

The consumer landscape has been changing throughout the COVID and post-COVID period, and shows no sign of stopping. Our research shows that 87 per cent of consumers said they would continue to shop online more post-COVID; yet 44 percent of Australians are now embracing flexible working conditions and are choosing to split their time between their home and office. As a result, the needs and expectations of Australian consumers have unsurprisingly become more fluid.

Triggered by the pandemic, the use of alternative collection points grew by a significant 25 percent in 2020. However, despite 61 percent of shoppers in Australia reporting that they’re keen to try new delivery options like PUDO, only 30 percent of shoppers have been able to access those new delivery options in the past year. 

Understanding these needs is vital, as with online shopping growth topping 57 percent in 2020, and 5 million households shopping online each month so far in 2021, there are huge opportunities at stake for retailers. Fulfilment experience – the final and most impactful touchpoint in the e-commerce journey – will determine where customers continue to shop. Doddle found that 35 percent of consumers have encountered issues with home delivery in the past 12 months and almost half of consumers state they have stopped shopping with a retailer because of a poor online returns experience. This shows how critical it is that retailers catch up to the expectations of their customers, but also highlights the specific areas they need to focus on.

Fast and free fulfilment

While cost is king when it comes to shoppers hitting the ‘order’ button, the time it takes to receive an order is a priority as well. Australian consumers want consistent access to fast, free shipping and free returns, as these are leading reasons for choosing to shop with retailers. However, when price is factored in, speed becomes a reduced concern, with 73 percent of shoppers in Australia are not willing to pay a premium for next day delivery.

Reasons to shop

It’s no secret that Australian consumers are motivated by convenience. Convenience drives many decisions, especially for those who are time-poor. Shoppers in Australia are embracing “trip-chaining” their activities to make visits more efficient. Their preferred locations for online order collections are Post offices (66%), supermarkets (44%) and shopping centres (32%). We could see demand for these options rise further, as nearly half of consumers are eager to use a pick-up point if they could collect their order faster than it could be delivered to home. Retailers are moving to meet these demands, assisted by the likes of Australia Post’s increasingly popular Collect and Return network, the largest PUDO service in Australia.

Sustainable mindset

Sustainable and eco-friendly options are continuing to gain traction as the preferred choice for consumers across the country, and Australians are being rewarded for it. We found that more than half of Australians find printer-less (55%) and package-less (65%) returns appealing. Enabling consumers to do their part in reducing waste can result in building and retaining their loyalty, which is five times cheaper than attracting new customers.

Supplying the demand

E-commerce growth across Australia is expected to continue as more consumers prioritise fulfilment that fits their on-the-go lifestyles, and brands accommodate these expectations. Retailers that are slow to provide consumers with preferred fulfilment options will be left with potentially un-recoupable ground to make back. By offering a variety of delivery methods and options, such as PUDO, retailers create an opportunity to continually win over consumers and stand out from their competitors.

Justin Dery is CEO for Asia Pacific at Doddle.