Apparel retailers launching free delivery en masse by the New Year in bid to win back shoppers, finds Brightpearl

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Apparel retailers are launching a range of new online services as a response to Covid-19 and in a bid to lure shoppers to make more online orders.

New research from Brightpearl.com reveals a huge increase in the numbers of apparel merchants planning to offer free delivery on their websites and introduce free returns, all within the next six months.

Online fashion firms are most likely to launch free delivery, with 38% planning to offer the service by early next year.  One in five (22%) brands surveyed will also introduce free returns within the same timeframe.

Apparel retailers are also racing to offer curbside pickup for online orders by the New Year, with a quarter (25%) of brands scrambling for new ways to get products into shoppers’ hands besides shipping it, which can be expensive and may not arrive quickly enough for shoppers. 

The results come from a new survey of 1,000 retailers by Brightpearl, which provides digital operations solutions for some of the biggest retail brands across the United States. 

“It’s important to address convenience in the last mile of the customer journey,” says Derek O’Carroll, CEO, Brightpearl. “Though absorbing the costs of both delivery and returns is not without risk for retailers,  especially those operating on fine margins in the current climate, it could also be an effective way to expand their customer base.”

With the coronavirus pandemic emerging as an existential threat to the nation’s businesses – more than 100,000 firms have gone bankrupt since March.

However, and more positively, 54% of US firms noted that their online sales were higher than pre-crisis. On average, online sales are up by 42%. 

Brightpearl’s survey found that all US retailers are now quickly boosting their online services in response to Covid and to capture more online wallet spend. 

Four in ten brands (40%) are offering free delivery as the most popular option, 33% are launching a  website and a quarter will be offering curbside pick up and same day delivery within the next six months.

Two-thirds of retailers (64%) now offer click and collect in store functionality – a big increase since the crisis started.

“It’s admirable that so many brands are offering new services to benefit customers”,  says O’Carroll, “But one of the most damaging things they can do is promise a service that they don’t have the capability to deliver.” 

Brigtpearl’s study reveals that 61% of consumers have experienced issues buying from brands online within the past 12 months alone, with the majority of these problems related to issues with delivery and returns.

“Too many online companies offer options they can’t fully support,” said O’Carroll. “They end up letting down customers who are understandably upset about not receiving items on time, products not being delivered where they should be, or poor communications after their purchase. 

“Before thinking of introducing new services to woo customers, retailers must ensure they have the right infrastructure in place to deliver an optimal shopping experience at all ends of the buying journey. In the current climate it’s as essential to focus on retaining customers as much as winning them in the first place,” adds O’Carroll.