Outlook for eCommerce delivery technology

Outlook for eCommerce delivery technology

man leaning over computer and parcels working

From analytics to automation: what’s the outlook for delivery technology?

Technology moves so fast and much of it we now take for granted, for example mobile phones, Bluetooth earpieces and universal translators.

It might be some time before packages can be beamed straight into our homes by a transporter, but the way we ship and receive goods is going to be unrecognisable in a couple of years. And resistance is futile!

From drones leaving packages in customers’ gardens to autonomous vans making deliveries, technology is going to transform the despatch world. Although these ideas are still some way from becoming reality, other technologies are already having a big impact on how deliveries are logged, assigned, labelled and tracked. And it’s having an even bigger impact on the efficiency, accuracy and agility of shipping services.

woman in a warehouse checking her systems on a computer

Harnessing the power of automation and analytics

So what are the top trends and technologies that can make a difference to your business? First up, automation. A lot of despatch processes and workflows are already subject to a degree of automation. For example, Luxury Legs uses GFS Selector to automate the printing of parcel labels across all its sales channels and carriers. This has helped to cut despatch time by 50% and free up valuable resource.

But this is just the first chapter in the automation story – things are about to get even smarter. Worldwide spending on AI and process automation is expected to top $15.4 billion by 2021, with robots playing an increasingly important role in warehouse and logistics operations.

As more processes become automated, the easier it becomes to capture data at every stage of the customer experience. And that’s where the next trend comes in: analytics. Industry experts predict that worldwide revenue for big data and business analytics solutions will top $274.3 billion by 2022.

Analytics equal insights, and insights drive innovation and improvement, which will be increasingly important as merchants ship to more customers across more borders.

Mamas & Papas has already witnessed first-hand the power of analytics. By using GFS Reportor, it has been able to tap into key analytics, such as parcel volumes, geographical split and carrier performance, to help ensure performance levels are met. As a result, it’s seen a 10% increase in customer satisfaction and a 15% increase in the speed of despatch.

Multi-carrier eCommerce technology with a one-time integration

woman online shopping at home surrounded by parcels

Giving delivery a personal touch

Richer analytics can not only help optimise internal processes but also personalise customer experiences. Consumers increasingly want to be treated as an individual at every stage of the buying cycle – and that includes delivery. More than 70% of customers expect you to understand their needs and expectations and more than 60% expect you to adapt based on their actions and behaviour.

Personalisation has already started to influence the shipping process. Let’s look at Mamas & Papas again: it uses GFS Checkout’s intelligent rules engine to personalise the delivery options presented to its customers based on the size of their order and their location.

For a retailer to remain competitive, this type of personalisation needs to be delivered at scale and at speed. Around 70% of customers use multiple channels to start and complete a single transaction. To ensure they receive a unified eCommerce experience, personalisation needs to be an omnichannel affair.

Access to 1000+ service options with our multi-carrier services

scanning parcels

Maximum innovation for minimum investment

Delivery technologies and trends are evolving all the time, which means today’s brainchild could be tomorrow’s white elephant. As a result, developing and maintaining IT solutions and skills in-house can prove costly and risky.

By partnering with a specialist solutions provider, retailers can tap into the latest despatch innovations without having to make any capital investment.

Delivery contingency when you need it most

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Why not find out more about how GFS can help you leverage the latest delivery technologies?

2022-03-24T15:38:16+00:00December 4th, 2020|

Christmas with Covid – What can we anticipate from Peak 2020?

Christmas with Covid – What can we anticipate from Peak 2020?

un-wrapping a christmas parcel

Amazon has rung the bell! Peak has officially begun – But what does peak during a pandemic look like?

Amazon Prime Day has officially kicked off Peak 2020, but it’s safe to say that this year it will be unlike any other.

The Coronavirus pandemic has led to unprecedented eCommerce growth with consumers now buying more online than ever. This volume uplift looks set to continue, with UK online spending expected to reach £73.4bn by the end of 2020 (+18.1% post-Covid), and it’s estimated Black Friday will be 14% bigger than the last.

These are big figures, especially when retailers and carriers have been managing peak-level volumes throughout the year already. So, could we be seeing a “peak on top of peak”?

But while Covid has helped some businesses thrive, 2020 also saw some of our favourite retailers and brands sadly collapse into administration. It’s also thought that almost 3 million people will be unemployed by Christmas, so consumers may well be more reluctant to spend.

So, are retailers set for a bumper Q4 or will Covid steal Christmas?

online shopping at Christmas

The busiest peak ever?

We think so, yes. Although consumer confidence could be shaky, online will rule supreme as local lockdowns and social distancing continue to keep people away from the high street.

At GFS, our customers have consistently seen an increase of +50% in volume compared to the same period last year – and there appear to be no signs of this slowing down.

Each year peak sets new highs but it feels as though the peak will be turned all the way “up to 11” this year.

This may sound like a dream from a profit perspective, but it could quickly turn into a nightmare if retailers are operationally unprepared to fulfil these kinds of volumes, amid the unpredictability of peak and the uncertainty of a global pandemic.

The sudden impact of Covid exposed some major weaknesses in eCommerce business supply chains, and really highlighted the importance of having flexibility and contingency to adapt at short notice. Any retailers that haven’t taken heed will only continue to stumble through peak in crisis mode, leaving themselves vulnerable and exposed to risk.

The delivery mistakes retailers make at peak

delivery man un-packing his van

Watch out for rigorous carrier measures

So sales may not be a problem, but getting orders delivered to customers in the way and time they want will be more of a challenge.

It is worth noting that carriers have invested millions in expanding their networks this year, opening more depots, procuring more vehicles and hiring more staff to ensure they are match-fit and ready to support what looks set to be a particularly challenging peak.

But – and it’s a big but – carriers are reporting that their anticipated volume forecasts have been supercharged by 5 years, so this peak, carriers are going to be really strict in how they manage volumes through their network.

This means you should be prepared for:

  • Capped parcel volumes
  • Zero flexibility around capacity and collection times
  • Restricted availability of premium services
  • Late collection times but also more failed collections – if overcapacity carriers will simply cancel collections at short notice

It’s critical that your forecasts are as accurate as possible to lock in the right capacity with your carriers, BUT we also know that things don’t always go to plan. So, it’s also vitally important to have access to multiple carriers, to give yourself a ‘Plan B’ if things go wrong.

Your Peak Delivery Checklist 

person online shopping at Christmas

Super savvy shoppers

While consumers were reasonably understanding of the challenges that retailers faced throughout lockdown, 9 months later they’re not going to be so forgiving – especially as we head closer to Christmas when timing is everything.

Now consumers are expecting to be able to order and receive their delivery when they expect it – virtual queuing and 10-day lead times are just not going to cut it. After all, retailers have had all that time to prepare and fix any operational, technological and logistical issues that were highlighted by Covid – right?

Actually, in a recent study carried out by Brightpearl, 54% of retailers have not made any changes to their fulfilment model since the pandemic.

This Christmas, it won’t just be a battle for the best products or most attractive promotions, but the most reliable delivery. With the spotlight firmly on customer service, combined with the huge hike in parcel volumes, this will naturally result in more inbound customer service queries, which will need to be resolved quickly to minimise any impact on the customer experience and on CS team workloads.

Peak is a time when brand loyalty is really put to the test, and at a time when the patience of the general public is wearing thin. Delivering on your promises will be a key differentiator that will not only win new business but solidify repeat custom through peak and into the New Year.

Multi-carrier eCommerce technology with a one-time integration

scanning in a returned parcel

Beating the January blues – Returns

2nd January is National Returns Day, the day that sees 72% more returns than on an average day in December.

Often businesses forget about returns because the focus is on peak. But with 78% of consumers looking at the returns process before choosing where to shop, they are hugely important. With more people buying online, we can expect to see more returns than ever come January 2021.

An online paperless returns portal is the best way to get visibility of all your inbound returns so they’re easier, faster and more cost-effective to process.

team working together

2020 is set to be the most challenging peak yet – are you ready?

Peak is likely to throw up a lot of surprises, and at GFS we love surprises!

We’ve been protecting peak for retailers for the last 20 years, and we actually look forward to it every year because it’s when GFS really comes into its own and when customers are reminded of why they chose us.

“Our only regret after experiencing our first peak with GFS was that we had not done this 10-years earlier!” hampers.com

This year, we’ve invested heavily in increasing our capacity and ramping up our operation. We’ve opened new depots, added new global suppliers and even expanded into Europe with GFS Europe, to give us more coverage than ever before.

If you need a delivery partner that’s got your back this peak, contact us now to talk about how we can support you – But you’ll need to act fast, the countdown to peak has already begun…

Access to 1000+ service options with our multi-carrier services

Talk to us 


2023-09-01T13:57:45+00:00October 10th, 2020|

What exactly is a Managed Multi-Carrier Parcel Service?

What exactly is a Managed Multi-Carrier Parcel Service?

parcels being delivered

There is no one carrier that can do it all. With ever-changing customer expectations, varying global capabilities, and the need for flexibility and contingency, a multi-carrier delivery strategy is essential for eCommerce today.

But managing multiple different carriers is not easy – which is where Managed Multi-Carrier Services come in.

Multi-Carrier Parcel Management: How does it work?

Traditionally, multiple carriers mean multiple contracts, invoices and technology systems which can be complex and time-consuming.

Managed Multi-Carrier Services keep it simple by providing access to a whole range of carriers and services all in one place. This means you get the breadth and flexibility of multiple carriers, without the hassle of managing each individual supplier.

One invoice, one technology platform, one point of contact gives you everything you need for shipping, labelling, tracking, reporting and more.

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Did you Know?

According to retail market data insight leader Retail Economics and GFS’ consumer and retailer research in 2023 (‘Battling Basket Abandonment’ whitepaper, 2023), two-third of consumers (66%) would like to see retailers offer a better choice of delivery options at online checkouts.

Based on the most frequent online shoppers, a highly profitable demographic that buys online at least once a week, five delivery options should be the minimum benchmark for retailers.

The current delivery options offered by many online retailers are somewhat limited considering consumers’ growing expectations and vast possibilities in today’s delivery landscape.

The research shows UK retail businesses offer customers 3.5 delivery options on average, while online-only retailers offer even fewer, with only 2.8 delivery options on average.

Regardless of online or multichannel, most retailers fail to provide the breadth of delivery options required to meet customer expectations.

Retailers offer 3.5 delivery options on average. Only a third of businesses offer 5 or more delivery options to customers – the benchmark set by online shoppers

Source: GFS, Retail Economics

5 Ways Multi-carrier Management Can Help You Sell More

Managed Multi-Carrier Parcel Services can help:

  • Offer customers choice from a wide range of delivery options
  • Save time and boost operational efficiency
  • Utilise different carriers at different times for greater flexibility and risk mitigation
  • Access tailored expertise and bespoke specialist delivery solutions
  • Expand into new international markets faster and easier

Who’s it for?

Multi-carrier Parcel Management benefits any business that has big ambitions to grow, or perhaps one that has already experienced rapid growth, as well as any business that ships internationally (or wants to), or that sells across multiple sales channels. Simplifying delivery through a multi-carrier management partner can help streamline internal processes, and free up time and resource to focus on maximising sales and international expansion.

See how a Premier League Football Club
achieved a 600% increase in parcel volumes

Masterclass Replay: Master Customer-Centric Delivery and Reduce Cart Abandonment

GFS Managed Multi-Carrier Services

GFS offers single access to a whopping 1000+ services across multiple carriers, countries and channels for UK, Europe and Rest of the World (ROW) shipments in 220+ countries.

As the UK’s first and leading managed multi-carrier service, GFS ships over 30 million parcels a year, and as one of the biggest buyers of carriage in th UK, we offer competitive rates and optimise costs for retailers.

GFS’ proprietary Enterprise Carrier Management technology, top-notch expertise, and pro-active support give you the flexibility to grow and scale your business.

With GFS it’s one partner, one contract, and one IT integration offering a world of limitless possibilities.
Delivery doesn’t have to be complicated. You just have to see it differently.

Find out about GFS Managed Multi-Carrier Services

2024-06-10T13:52:53+00:00October 6th, 2020|

4 things we can learn from Covid19 to prepare supply chains for post-Brexit

4 things we can learn from Covid19 to prepare supply chains for post-Brexit

man in warehouse

Businesses have been bracing themselves for Brexit for 4 years but this year the countdown to Brexit became very real – and then of course 2020 threw us an even bigger curveball.

The Coronavirus pandemic has really tested the resilience of retailer supply chains, as a dramatic spike in orders followed a sharp decline in supply. In May, online sales hit a 10-year high and were up 24% on the same month in 2019 (IMRG Capgemini Retail Index 2020). Retailers were left with a bottleneck of delays as they struggled to fulfil demand and maintain stock levels. This exposed some key weaknesses in business supply chains, with the importance of contingency and agility shifting sharply into focus.

As the world gets to grips with the ‘new normal’, what can we learn from the impact of Covid19 and how can we apply these key learnings to supply chain strategies now as the Brexit transition period comes to a hard stop on 31st December 2020.

handshake in a warehouse

1. Diversify suppliers

One of the biggest learnings we can take from the Covid situation this year, is to spread out potential risk as much as possible, and not to keep “all your eggs in one basket”, especially when it comes to suppliers.

Many retailers rely on “The Factory of the World” to source their products, but when the virus first appeared in China, the country swiftly closed its borders, leaving stock levels hanging in the balance for many retailers.

Do you have suppliers in the EU? We don’t know what will happen when border-free trade ends on 31st December. It’s unlikely there will be a complete halt on supply, but there will be some significant changes to customs and import/export duties, which could lead to longer transit times and potentially higher costs.

Diversifying your network of suppliers will help spread and reduce the risk, so that if you come up against any problems importing stock from Europe, you can quickly pivot and order stock from alternative UK-based or international suppliers.

two warehouse workers organising work

2. Relocate warehousing and fulfilment

Just as there may be delays and costs importing goods from the EU, the same will apply when shipping orders out to your EU customers.

If you have a large customer-base in the EU, or have plans to expand to Europe, shipping from the UK will incur more complex customs processes and duties, which could result in longer transit times, delays, or worse, return to sender.

Moving part of your fulfilment operation to the EU could help you avoid the cost and complexity of border controls, customs documentation and Duties altogether. This means your suppliers can deliver to your EU warehouse or fulfilment centre, and you can deliver from this location directly to your EU customers for faster shipping and a more seamless delivery experience. This will reduce the risk of delays and costs, as well as provide a base to continue growing your business in EU countries.

If this is not for you, there are a number of things you can do now to reduce the risk of border control issues from the UK, such as using Paperless Trade and getting a Duty Deferment account – check out our Brexit Checklist for a full list of everything you can do now to minimise disruption to delivery and returns from January 2021.

Move your fulfilment to the EU

delivery van

3. Protect Final Mile Delivery

Contingency means giving yourself flexibility and agility to adapt to change.

At the beginning of lockdown, carriers were overwhelmed, running over-capacity most days, and if this happens, it means they can stop collections and refuse parcels. This is not uncommon, and we see this often during peak sales periods like Christmas. On the other hand, we’ve even seen major carriers go into administration at crucial times of the year.

If you rely on a single carrier, and this carrier comes up against any problems, your parcels can’t go anywhere, which just creates a traffic jam of customer orders that creates a cycle of delays. The trick is to have multiple carriers at your fingertips so you can easily switch if you need to. An added bonus of this is that you can use each carrier to your advantage and tailor delivery to each customer, product and destination to strike the right balance between service and cost-efficiency, which also gives the customer the best possible delivery experience and helps you manage costs.

Delivery contingency when you need it most

scanning in a return

4. Improve Returns Efficiency

As lockdown boosted home delivery, this has inevitably also led to an increase in returns.

But returns have a direct impact on the bottom line – in fact they cost UK retailers a whopping £60bn a year! (ZigZag, 2020)

Post-Brexit, EU returns could be subjected to additional customs and duties requirements, which would create even more complexity and cost for businesses.

With 89% of consumers checking the returns policy before making a purchase (UPS – “Pulse of the Online Shopper), retailers can’t afford to leave returns to chance. But retailers will need to manage the customer experience with operational cost – and this all comes down to efficiency.

A paperless returns portal (like GFS Global Returns Pro) can help you electronically generate the required customs declarations for duty relief on cross-border returns , to ensure cross-border returns are as swift and seamless as possible for customers, and that you don’t pay duties twice.

Alternatively, if you choose to relocate your fulfilment operation to Europe, you could avoid the dreaded red tape altogether.

Returns management made simple 

shopkeeper sorting out delivery

2020 will be the year when retailers face the perfect storm

eCommerce has boomed as social distancing moves consumers away from the high street, and soon we’ll be heading towards peak AND Brexit at the same time.

Both Peak and Brexit will throw up a lot of unknowns. We don’t know what social distancing measures will still be in place over Christmas, or how consumer confidence will be impacted.

Forecasting and planning can only take you so far, which is why it is vital to focus on mitigating potential risk and having contingency plans in place.

Now is a critical time to strike the right balance between protecting the bottom line and the customer experience.

Here at GFS, we have been prepping for Brexit for the last 4 years, working closely with our carriers and customers to understand how the industry is evolving to future-proof against Brexit and how we can help retailers.

That’s why we have set up GFS Europe, to help businesses move their operations into Europe easily as contingency in response to Brexit. As part of this new service, we are now offering warehousing and fulfilment services, as well as collections, deliveries and returns from/to anywhere in Europe.

Talk to us about GFS Europe

2022-03-24T16:54:10+00:00September 21st, 2020|

Webinar – Delivery in a post-Brexit world with Avalara and GFS

Webinar – Delivery in a post-Brexit world with Avalara and GFS

We talk to Avalara in this webinar about the practicalities of shipping to the EU post-Brexit and the issues that might arise for businesses.

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Your post-Brexit survival guide

Multi-carrier delivery and fulfilment from the EU


2023-05-17T14:57:34+00:00September 15th, 2020|

Webinar – Cracking the SME Returns Challenge with Tamebay, GFS and Zigzag Global

Webinar – Cracking the SME Returns Challenge with Tamebay, GFS and Zigzag Global

Along with Tamebay and Zig Zag global, we discuss how SME’s can tackle eCommerce returns and present an exclusive preview of GFS Global Returns.

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Global returns management made simple

Multi-carrier eCommerce Technology

Contact us – we’re here to help!

2023-05-17T15:07:45+00:00September 3rd, 2020|

Contactless Delivery – The New Norm

Lockdown restrictions are slowly being lifted but carriers are still taking extra care to deliver as safely as possible.

You probably already know that contactless delivery has become the norm, so parcels no longer need to be signed for, and drivers and customers can keep their distance to reduce the spread of infection. But proof of delivery is still a must to protect the bottom line and the customer experience – lost parcels cost a lot of time and money and are immensely frustrating for consumers.

But different carriers are carrying out contactless deliveries in different ways, and it’s important to know what your customers can expect from their delivery, and what your POD should now look like.

It’s the same with every carrier – isn’t it?

Yes and no – there are nuances across all carriers. So we spoke to the UK’s top 3 biggest carriers to understand what ‘contactless delivery’ means to them so you have a full understanding of how parcels are actually being delivered in this way and, what the experience is for your customers.


  • All drivers must take a photo of every parcel at point of delivery
  • Customers receive an email with their delivery slot and instructions for delivery:

“We won’t ask you to sign for your parcel, we’ll take a photo of it instead in your open doorway, as proof it has been delivered. If you’re self-isolating, leave a signed note telling us where to put your parcel.”

  • If the customer is not home, the driver will take a photo of the parcel in the customer’s chosen safe place
  • The customer will be emailed the photo of their parcel once delivery has taken place


  • Drivers can sign for deliveries on behalf of customers
  • Drivers are not required to take a photo of the parcel but have the option to when selecting the safe place option “Deliver to household” (only available for standard parcels, not light or large parcels)
  • From September, it will be mandatory for drivers to select “Deliver to household” with option for photo


  • Drivers can either leave parcels at the doorstep or knock and wait for the customer to acknowledge receipt of delivery
  • Deliveries are recorded as “Covid19 Unable To Sign”
  • If proof of delivery is required, the driver will record the name of the person who takes the parcel
  • If the customer is not at home, Yodel will make two further attempts to deliver
  • Yodel is planning to introduce photo PODs by Q2 in 2021

It is the responsibility of our trusted carriers to provide drivers with the equipment and processes to deliver correctly and safely, so it’s great that carriers have adapted to make sure they can still capture a POD without the need for a physical signature.

But, what’s next for delivery?

It wouldn’t be surprising if carriers choose to adopt some of these changes permanently. A photo offers better transparency and more accurate proof of delivery than a signature, which can be ambiguous and illegible. It can also help customers locate parcels left in a safe place more easily.

And at GFS, we are strong believers that visibility of delivery is the key to getting delivery right first time, every time.

That’s why we spend every day pro-actively tracking and monitoring parcels. Our Customer Care team actively look for delivery issues so they can solve them before they affect the customer, and our multi-carrier tracking portal GFS Seeker offers traceability of all parcels – even across 50+ carriers and 200+ countries.

Having accessibility and transparency of data really is what powers delivery accuracy and efficiency, no matter what happens.

Why not see how we ensure retailers have a delivery contingency plan – even during times of uncertainty and rapid change? Watch the video!

2021-08-23T16:03:04+00:00September 3rd, 2020|

Press Release: GFS Global Returns Pro

GFS levels the playing field with GFS Global Returns Pro

London, 17 August 2020: After reviewing the reverse logistics market, GFS has selected ZigZag’s cutting edge technology to launch their new returns solution, GFS Global Returns Pro. GFS powers delivery for fast-expanding B2B and B2C eCommerce retailers worldwide, providing multi-carrier services, technology and expertise to manage the entire logistical process from checkout to doorstep. GFS Global Returns Pro, specifically aimed at SMEs and larger online retailers, packages together the global technology platform with 200+ multi-carrier services, plus expertise from GFS, into a single solution. It gives customers a fast and easy way to request a return in less than a minute, and enables retailers to cut the cost of returns by up to 40%. The portal can also be deployed in just 1-2 days with a simple flat monthly fee.

Neil Cotty, CEO for GFS comments: “Until now, only the largest global retailers have had access to the tools and resources to master the returns challenge. GFS Global Returns Pro will level the playing field by offering small and larger retailers a fast and affordable solution to simplify returns and give customers a high-end returns experience without the high-end cost.”

GFS Global Returns Pro is launching at the perfect time. Online retailers continue to battle rising return rates of over 50% and cost the UK more than £60bn per year. Returns also cause a huge dent in the bottom line because stock becomes tied up and handling costs are high. Returns have also become a high priority for the consumer too. According to recent research by UPS, 79% of consumers check the returns policy before making a final purchase decision, leading to 1 in 2 purchases being abandoned at checkout because they did not like the retailer’s returns policy. In recent months, lockdown has caused a sharp shift from high street to online shopping as many are left with no option but to shop online – and as online spending grows, so does the problem of returns.

Neil Cotty, CEO for GFS continues: “This is a strategic development for us. The addition of Global Returns Pro to the GFS portfolio means that we can now offer an unrivalled global outbound and inbound solution that makes it both fast and simple for eCommerce businesses to expand internationally.”

Hundreds of online retailers rely on GFS to deliver over 30 million parcels every year and is the behind-the-scenes global delivery partner for a number of the world’s fastest-growing eCommerce brands.

Al Gerrie, Co-Founder and CEO, of ZigZag Global comments:

“GFS is a well-respected eCommerce provider for some of the most exciting retailers in the industry. ZigZag is delighted that GFS has decided to use our technology to power their new returns solution. Customers from a long list of promising retailers already using GFS for their outbound logistics, will now be able to take advantage of our hassle-free  returns portal for faster refunds, creating satisfied and loyal customers.”

About ZigZag Global

ZigZag Global is a SaaS platform helping retailers to manage returns globally.

The ZigZag platform connects retailers to a global network of 220 warehouses and more than 200 carrier services in over 130 countries – all from a single integration. ZigZag uses predictive analytics to understand the most cost-effective and energy-efficient route to work out if a retailer should hold and resell returned products in local markets or bring them back via consolidation.

ZigZag’s mission is to deliver the best technology and service to transform the returns experience globally. Our mission is to reduce the cost, waste and friction associated with returns, boost customer loyalty and make retailers more profitable and sustainable.

Contact ZigZag:  hello@zigzag.global – +44 203 286 8223

About GFS

As the pioneer of Enterprise Carrier Management (ECM), GFS has been behind the success of some of the fastest growing brands since 2001, providing unique and affordable shipping solutions that optimise delivery from checkout to doorstep. Managing over 30 million parcels a year, our history and presence makes us the trusted partner of hundreds of online retailers, and our continual innovation ensures we anticipate the needs of our customers and stay at the forefront of the industry.

Contact Bobbie Ttooulis: bobbie.ttooulis@gfsdeliver.com +44 (0)7342 885 886

2023-09-01T14:09:20+00:00August 17th, 2020|

Overcoming the eCommerce Returns Challenge

It’s estimated that in 5-10 years, consumers will be shopping online more than they do in stores. This is probably not surprising, given that in 2019 the UK had more empty shops than ever before , while eCommerce continues to grow at around 20% each year – and this trend has only accelerated in recent months as lockdown left shoppers with no choice but to buy online.

But as eCommerce continues to flourish, so too does one of retail’s biggest bugbears – RETURNS.

There’s no getting around it, returns are massively important to consumers. In fact, 78% of all consumers look at the returns policy before making a purchase and 42% of shoppers have returned something in the last 6 months . And this makes sense, a good returns service gives customers the confidence to buy a product they haven’t physically seen, touched or tried on, and if consumers are unsure about a returns policy they’re unlikely to take a risk and will shop elsewhere.

But returns can have a huge impact on the bottom line, which is why it’s critical to balance the customer experience, with the cost and operational impact.

The operational challenge

Returns cost UK retailers a whopping £60bn a year, and when 35% of shoppers deliberately over-order, returns can seriously affect the bottom line .

The problem is that typically retailers have little visibility or control around what’s being returned, why, and when. Consumers can send back a return, and retailers don’t know what products will be returned, the condition they’ll be or the cost of delivery – until the return has already happened.

This makes it difficult to plan and manage the reverse supply chain, and retailers often end up playing ‘catch up’ with their returns. This means it can take time to get resaleable goods back in stock for other customers to buy, so retailers miss out on future sales.

These challenges around returns are amplified when it comes to international returns. Customs documentation, Duties & Taxes, as well as differences in local customer expectations and preferences, can make returns a very complex and expensive endeavour.

The customer experience challenge

Returns can have a direct impact on conversion rates and repeat purchases, especially as consumers now expect the same convenience with returns as they do with delivery, with next day and even same day delivery continuing to grow in popularity.

Whether it’s the returns policy on the website, or a previous returns experience, returns are a key deciding factor when a consumer is choosing where to shop.

What’s important to consumers when it comes to returns?

  • How long do they have to submit a return – how quickly do they have to decide?
  • The range of options on offer – are they convenient? Can they drop a parcel at their preferred store location or can they arrange a courier collection?
  • How much will it cost?
  • Can they exchange for a different size or colour?
  • How quickly will they receive a refund?
  • How do I know if my parcel has been received – what if it gets lost? Consumers say tracking and receipt of return is the most important aspect of the returns process .

Above all, returns need to be easy, convenient – and fast. Customers need peace of mind that they can easily return goods and get their money back quickly.

This is what will give them the confidence to buy, even if they’re not sure about a product, and this trust can convert a first-time customer into a loyal customer.

The international challenge

Returns are even more critical to your international customers – especially when buying online from overseas already feels like a bit of a risk. But the challenges around returns are magnified when it comes to cross-border logistics.

Every country has its own preferences and expectations when it comes to shopping online, delivery and returns – so it’s important to tailor your returns to each local market.

For example:

  • Germany has a real ‘returns culture’ – up to 70% of fashion purchases are returned
  • More than half of consumers in France choose to drop a return at a Drop Off location
  • Parcel lockers are more popular in China than any other nation
  • The Spanish and Chinese are most likely to abandon a cart if the returns policy is unsatisfactory
    (IMRG Returns Review 2020)

With cross-border returns, also comes the added challenge of Duties and Taxes. 68% of all consumers worldwide check to see if there will be any additional taxes to be paid . Using a DDP (Duty Paid) option is a way to remove this sales barrier, but this can be more time-consuming and costly for retailers – with many choosing to leave it up to the consumer to resolve themselves, which doesn’t make for a positive shopping experience.

Returns can no longer be an after-thought

Choice, flexibility, convenience, speed, visibility – this is what shoppers expect from a returns service, and this is mostly because this is what they get when shopping with a Tier 1 retailer. But businesses like these have huge budgets, sophisticated technology, robust infrastructures and access to an endless number of services – something that is out of reach for many growing businesses. It’s vital, therefore, that businesses find affordable solutions to deliver a returns solution that can compete and provide a flexible and seamless full-loop outbound and inbound shopping experience.

That’s why GFS is launching Global Returns Pro, the first choice for expanding eCommerce businesses wanting a fast and affordable solution to simplify global returns and give customers a high-end experience, without the high-end cost.

Click here to find out more and take advantage of our early-bird launch offer!

i – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49349703

ii – https://www.statista.com/statistics/288487/forecast-of-global-b2c-e-commerce-growth/

iii – GFS/IMRG Consumer Home Delivery Report 2019/20

iv – ZigZag 2020

v – ZigZag 2020

vi – GFS/IMRG Consumer Home Delivery Report 2019/20

vii – IMRG Returns Review 2020

2023-09-01T14:16:17+00:00July 2nd, 2020|

GFS and Tamebay Webinar – Coronavirus: Getting back to work

GFS and Tamebay Webinar – Coronavirus: Getting back to work

GFS Group Marketing Director, Bobbie Ttooulis joined Tamebay to walk you through the impact of the past few months, how the high street has changed, probably forever, and how you can win and be successful as the rest of the year unfolds.

If you are having trouble viewing the video, please allow all browser cookies or watch on YouTube

1000+ Delivery Services in one place

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Contact us – we’re here to help!

2023-09-18T12:36:55+00:00June 23rd, 2020|

The New Normal: What impact will COVID-19 have on eCommerce and delivery?

As more businesses begin to re-open their doors, life is edging its way back to some kind of normal, but the reality is we don’t know what “normal” will look like in 1 month, 6 months or even 12 months’ time – what we do know is that businesses are likely to feel the impact of COVID-19 for quite some time.

It’s clear that eCommerce has experienced a surge in demand. As the country battened down the hatches back in March, consumer habits shifted dramatically, with 37% of us shopping online more than ever before*.

In fact, eCommerce sales soared to a massive 10-year high, as consumers were forced to do the majority of their shopping online for the first time ever.

How Did Retailers Cope?

The hike in demand put many retailers in a delicate situation, having to balance unplanned peak-level order volumes, with social distancing in the warehouse, as well as delays in the supply chain and carrier capacity issues. 

Many businesses either had to reduce staff numbers quickly or pause trading altogether. Even household names like Next and TK Maxx took the decision to completely cease selling online until they could guarantee the safety of their staff – a completely unprecedented move.

Even retailers that were able to continue “business as usual” were forced to advise delays of up to 10 days or more for delivery – timeframes that have really been unheard of in the UK this side of the 21st Century.

Some companies looked for inventive ways to continue to connect with customers and recreate the in-store shopping experience. John Lewis launched a ‘virtual services’ hub so that shoppers could book one-on-one video appointments with retail experts, who could help with setting up nurseries, interior design and personal styling. Curry’s PC World launched a video service so they can help online customers make informed choices when buying electronics. Retailers who didn’t sell online before also turned to delivering to keep their businesses afloat.

The businesses that have managed to maintain consistent service levels and sales, have been those that allowed for some flexibility to pivot their business model and adapt to change quickly.

What’s the outlook for eCommerce Post-COVID?

We saw shops open on 15th June and thousands of shoppers rushed back to the high street, with mile-long queues and waiting times of up to 2 hours. But let’s not jump to conclusions. While people may be quite happy queuing in sunshine at the moment – will they do the same in the rain? The likelihood is the novelty will wear off quickly!

While many jumped at the chance to get out and hit the high street, others are still more apprehensive. We also can’t forget that many people will be recovering financially from being on furlough and may be nervous to spend – May saw a slight dip in the rate of growth for eCommerce compared to April (96% vs 83%), perhaps down to the fact that shoppers stopped panic buying and became more cautious of their spending. But these are still massive numbers regardless.

eCommerce has been growing steadily for the last 3 years, hovering at around +20% YoY. The COVID crisis has simply accelerated the rate of growth ahead of time, a trend that we see continuing as consumer habits have shifted.

We will probably find that key verticals traditionally considered as instore purchases, such as food, flowers and wine, health and beauty, may find that shoppers continue to buy online which could result in a permanent shift of business model for sectors such as these.

And as retail continues to lean online, e-fulfilment will become a core focus, with many businesses re-prioritising the purpose of their store estates and delivery strategy – especially considering that the value and importance of delivery has now been brought front of mind.

As Andy Mulcahy, Strategy and Insight Director at IMRG said recently: “We are also starting to see a differential by retail tier, with mid-market losing out to budget retailers, a trend to watch as consumers seek value for money in uncertainty, however, on the other hand we are likely to see consumers looking for brand trust and quality. This can result in a squeeze in the mid-tier where appealing to both needs has been traditionally harder to balance. Retailers will need to listen to their customers, and find new ways to become increasingly transparent, flexible and innovative in order to navigate the rocky and uncertain road ahead.”

How Can Retailers Adapt For The Future?

Whatever happens, it’s clear that we are in a constant state of flux and uncertainty – making it difficult for businesses to plan and forecast as they typically would. And soon we’ll be facing PEAK and BREXIT. Logically the businesses that have the flexibility and agility to react fast, with a focus on contingency and cost control will be the ones most likely to not only survive, but thrive.

This is no different to how businesses should be looking at delivery. Delivery is one of the most important parts of the customer experience and multi-carrier delivery not only gives retailers the ability to switch carriers, but also strike the right balance between performance, service and cost. By expanding delivery, it makes it possible to offer customers wider choice of delivery and service consistency – which will especially be important in this competitive climate. While customers may have been more tolerant over the last few months – don’t be fooled, a good customer experience will always be a huge sales motivator.

At GFS, we give retailers flexibility and contingency by offering single access to the widest range of global multi-carrier services for delivery and returns with a seamless customer experience – no matter what happens.

Make sure you always have a Plan B – Watch this video to find out how!

Or contact us to see how GFS can help prepare your eCommerce business for every eventuality.

2023-09-01T14:23:23+00:00June 19th, 2020|

International eCommerce Shipping: Costs, Carriers and Ensuring Customer Satisfaction

eCommerce allows business to expand beyond their physical stores and opening hours to sell anywhere, at any time. Bypass geographic limitations and reach customers no matter where they live. Shipping internationally enables access to larger markets and bigger profits, making it a high priority for many businesses. So, how can you get your product from A to B even when crossing borders?

How Much Does eCommerce International Shipping Cost?

There are many different considerations when it comes to shipping internationally and the cost can be affected by many different aspects.

Where you are shipping to and what you are shipping.

Generally, the further away you are shipping to, the higher the cost, but different countries also have different cross border laws that you need to consider. These also can depend on what products you are shipping, with varying rates of taxes and duties on those products affecting cost. It’s important to decide what countries you want to sell into and learn their requirements for different products. Find out:

• What kind of duties and taxes are involved?
• How does their customs work?
• What kind of paperwork will be required for the parcel to ship easily with no delays for the customer?

Size and weight of the parcel

Size and weight obviously will affect the cost of the parcel being shipped. You can help reduce costs for this by cutting down on product packaging that affects its dimensions and ensuring your packaging is streamlined.

The carrier you use

Different carriers obviously come with different costs and you will want to go with the most reliable service at the best price. However, with international delivery it can be a bit more complicated. Some carriers will have the highest shipping rate in one country, but the lowest shipping rate in another. Also one carrier might be cheaper for heavy items, but might not be the cheapest for smaller packages.

Multi-carrier Ecommerce Shipping

Due to the differing rates from different carriers, the cheapest way to do international eCommerce delivery is to use multiple carriers. You can take advantage of reduced prices for shipping smaller items or choose different carriers based on the best local service of that country.

It also means that you can offer more choice to your customers. International shipping is always going to take longer than domestic, and sometimes this can be off putting for customers. However, giving them the option of paying more for a faster service, or saving money if they’re willing to wait longer can help ensure a sale. This has been proven to increase satisfaction in customers buying from you, as well as reducing the chance of cart abandonment.

Ensuring A Good Customer Experience when Shipping Internationally

Keeping customers happy means making sure your international delivery is quick and efficient. Even when buying from a different country, customers want that instant gratification from buying, and any delays or issues that come up can affect their satisfaction with the service. That’s why it’s so important to get the paperwork right to avoid unnecessary delays. A commercial invoice and an export packing list are almost always necessary for your packages, although the requirements vary country to country. Duties and taxes also need to be paid on time to avoid hold ups at customs.

Transparency on costs and tracking

Although sometimes delays are unavoidable, what you can avoid is keeping your customers in the dark. That’s why parcel tracking and good customer service is so important. Sometimes customers will want to check the status of their package or ensure it’s on its way. Giving them transparency can be the difference between a positive and a negative experience and change the possibility of repeat sales.
Ensure your website also displays full information on shipping either on an international shipping page or on each product, detailing which countries you ship to, how long it is likely to take and if they can track orders.

Tracking and full transparency not only increases customer satisfaction but also saves you time handling refund requests for customers unsure where their package is or dealing with questions.

Calculating Duties and Taxes for International Ecommerce Delivery

Calculating the different costs of duties and taxes for different countries can seem like a real headache, as well as ensuring it’s added to the products during the checkout process. Our technology gives you a simple solution. Our GFS Checkout widget easily integrates onto your website and calculates the duties and taxes for you, gives you the choice of including it in the total price or showing it as separate additional cost, as well as giving the customer the option of paying it now, or when the parcel arrives. Find out more about integrating GFS Checkout.

An International eCommerce Delivery Service

It is possible to manage all the requirements of international eCommerce shipping in-house. However, with a global delivery partner like GFS, you can take the hassle out of international delivery. With access to 50+ carriers across 220+ countries, we can ensure you get the best rates and the best local service. As well as a choice of services, you will also have an Account Manager for on-hand support, and pro-active parcel tracking and carrier management with our GFS customer care team. Find out more about our eCommerce International Shipping.

2023-09-01T14:24:03+00:00May 20th, 2020|
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