Change has been the only constant since lockdowns and restrictions came into effect in 2020. The consumer we once knew now has a totally different lifestyle and their habits continue to adapt to the “new normal”. With that, their expectations are not as they once were when it comes to all stages of the CX - in particular, the last mile. So, is next-day delivery still a key differentiator for brands? Well, yes and no. Whilst many retailers feel a growing pressure to compete with giants like Amazon, it would seem that consumers reserve expectations of automatic fulfilment for these players. Smaller online retailers can therefore breathe a sigh of relief - that is, so long as they provide a flexible experience with plenty of options.

So, what factors are influencing consumer expectations?

Change in understanding since the pandemic

Pre-pandemic, speed of fulfilment was high up on the check-out agenda for consumers as they were willing to up to 4 days for standard deliveries. After times of crisis, consumers have become much more patient and are willing to go up to approximately 6 days for standard delivery so long as they are well informed and delays are well communicated.

7 days a week service

With store closures in 2020, consumers turned to eCommerce for all their needs and wants - but this increase in demand put fulfilment services under a lot of strain and eventually business days were not enough to keep up with the influx of orders. Retailers who work with Royal Mail and other delivery services who roll out weekend deliveries can now better keep up with demand and ensure that deliveries are out within the expected timeframe.

Desire to shop with local businesses. 

Consumers are now keener to support local businesses than ever before. About 45% of them stated that they would prefer to buy online from local retailers than eCommerce giants or marketplaces. Those who have been shopping with local retailers during the pandemic intend to keep that practice up as life normalises. We recently ran a poll on our social channels asking: “Are you, the consumer, willing to forfeit next day delivery to shop with local businesses?” 87% of respondents said yes. That’s not to say that local businesses are not in a position to provide this service, but does indicate that the pressure may not be as severe as retailers believe.

How to manage delivery expectations 

Deliver with tracking and on-time

As we have learned from the last year, transparency is key. Now that consumers have relaxed their expectations on standard delivery, retailers need to ensure they can deliver on time. It’s not enough to simply offer this service for free as 1 in 3 consumers will discontinue service with a brand after just 1 bad experience. With same-day or next-day delivery, you may run the risk of under-delivering and jeopardising the quality of the package. Do what you say you will and do it well. Simple. Consumers also get the most involved in their orders between confirmed orders and delivered packages. 97% of online shoppers expect the ability to monitor their orders throughout every step of the shipping process - preferably by SMS or email.


Unexpected shipping costs are the number one cause of cart abandonment - therefore, a free option is a must. We’ll discuss the value of offering options in general below but to provide the best possible CX you need to throw a free method of fulfilment into the check-out mix. Free delivery can be a major headache for retailers, however, it can be used to drive conversions as 72% of online shoppers will add more products to reach a minimum spend threshold for free delivery.

More options

One more time for the people at the back - CONSUMERS LOVE OPTIONS. One of the main reasons a shopper chooses one online store over another is flexible fulfilment. Today, this is not confined to next-day deliveries or even click and collect. Retailers are now moving to offer consumers a choice of date and time for their delivery - could prove to be a good move.

So what have we learned? 

While you might feel the pressure to provide speedy delivery, take a step back and give your consumer the benefit of the doubt. While consumer expectations are high in terms of CX, the new shopper is now more understanding with a different set of priorities. In essence, the smaller the retailers, the better the consideration given. Unless you are a retail giant, it does not make sense to sacrifice the quality of your service for speed of delivery. By maintaining good communications, transparency and the right delivery options, there’s no reason you can’t keep your customers returning to your online store again and again.