Online retail order volumes slow before 'Golden Quarter'


Online retail parcel delivery order volumes were up +6.4% year-on-year (YoY) in September, according to the latest data from the IMRG MetaPack UK Delivery Index. This is the lowest year-on-year rate in 2018 so far and, although order volumes typically decline month-on-month around this time of year, the rate of decline has been a bit sharper for the past two months than last year; between July and August it was -7.5% (in 2017 it was -3.4%) and between August and September it was -15.1% (in 2017 it was -12%).
Andrew Starkey, head of e-logistics, IMRG: “Looking at the order-volume trend line over the past few years, the declining month-on-month growth between July and August and August and September is expected. It has been a bit sharper this year, though not overwhelmingly so; does this suggest that shoppers have been holding off a bit and we’ll be heading for a big Black Friday and Christmas peak trading period, or could it be a reflection that people are perhaps not finding themselves with much disposable income and, given all the uncertainty around the UK economy at the moment, will retailers have to work even harder to hit their targets during the Golden Quarter this year?
There was a record percentage of orders sent using next-day delivery in September: 55% of UK-delivered orders used that service option. Next-day delivery services are often used to drive sales and retain customer loyalty, but retailers’ abilities to fulfil the increasing volume of time-sensitive orders will be an important factor in how industry performs over 2018’s final quarter and, in particular, during the Black Friday peak, when order volumes are significantly higher than other times of year.
The percentage of orders arriving on-time has declined over the past 18 months or so, now established around the 90% mark for much of the year – a few years ago, before next-day was accounting for such a large share of orders, this rate was closer to 94%. If an increasing number of ‘guaranteed’ next-day orders are being delivered outside the promised time window, customer experience will be impacted accordingly.
Maria Dahlquist Canton, global marketing director, MetaPack: “Peak will put retailer and carrier systems to the test when it comes to supporting services such as next-day delivery, which are clearly popular as our index shows. However, if they use the sophisticated delivery planning tools that most have at their disposal, this should mean that they can meet customer expectations even if volumes rise sharply as we expect.”