Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Delivering info about deliveries

When I searched for "Royal Mail" and "strike" this afternoon, Google News delivered "about" 2,368 news stories as results. (I love how Google News won't pin itself down to a specific number of stories but instead feels the need to qualify the number with "about".) A sampling of the headlines: "Royal Mail national strike would cause havoc with Christmas post" (The Telegraph); "Firms' fears over post strike threat" (Scunthorpe Telegraph); "Prepare for disruption" (Burton Mail); "The last post" (The Independent).

I figured that lots of direct sellers would be responding to the fearsome headlines with messages on their websites reassuring customers that even in the case of a national strike, their orders would be delivered on time.

Once again, I figured wrong.

Of the 20 ecommerce sites, both b-to-b and b-to-c, I visited, only four had some sort of disclaimer on their home page.

Office supplies cataloguer/retailer Staples placed its message front and centre, just below its logo: "Your order will not be affected by any Royal Mail strike action. For your peace of mind, remember that your order is NOT delivered by Royal Mail and will continue to be delivered next day as usual."

On the other three websites, the messages appeared below the fold. Even so, they were difficult to miss. Fashion etailer Asos went with a bold albeit somewhat ungrammatical "Royal Mail Strikes Delivery Unaffected". Fellow apparel merchant Cotton Traders, which caters to an older audience, posted a genteel "For complete confidence your order will be delivered by private courier". And general merchandiser Littlewoods tied its message to a reminder that "Standard delivery is free on all orders. Don't forget... our deliveries are not affected by any postal strikes".

So of my informal survey, 20 percent of the websites were addressing what is undoubtedly a concern of many consumers. As for the other 16 websites, several of them (, Marks & Spencer, and Liberty) prominently promoted free shipping offers, but they didn't reassure shoppers that the orders would actually arrive. For the others, it was business as usual.

Some of these companies may still be scrambling for delivery alternatives and therefore can't promise uninterrupted service. But department store John Lewis issued a statement this week stating that it has switched its parcel deliveries to other carriers--so why not post this info on its website?

Maybe John Lewis and some of the others are afraid that by mentioning the strikes on their sites, they're planting a fear in the minds of consumers and that therefore the less said the better. Or maybe they feel it's too early to start pounding the message.

A former editor of mine said that when writing a feature or a presentation, you should "tell the audience what you're going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them". In other words, you can't repeat your message too early or too often. For consumers who are already a bit hesitant about parting with their hard-earned money, it's not too early to reassure them that they'll actually receive the merchandise they've opted to spring for.--SC

No comments:

Post a Comment