How will the Royal Mail strikes affect online retailers?

With Royal Mail’s national strike action kicking off today, my thoughts have turned to the millions of e-tailers that must find a way to compensate for the reduced postal service over the next couple of days.

For most people, shopping online is all about convenience. If they don’t have time to venture onto the High Street, the internet now presents a fine alternative. But with the postal strikes threatening to discourage people from placing urgent orders online, particularly during the all-important run up to Christmas, what can e-tailers do to maintain sales revenues?

Make sure you have a plan B

Many companies have had to find alternative delivery options that will guarantee their customers the level of service that they have come to expect. An increase in delivery times – even by as little as a couple of days – is simply unacceptable for some shoppers, so many e-tailers are having to absorb the additional costs associated with using other carriers to reduce the impact on customers.

For these e-tailers, communicating that deliveries will be unaffected by the Royal Mail strike action clearly and confidently on their homepage might just salvage some of the sales that could have been lost over the next couple of days.

John Lewis has already issued a statement – and added a box to its homepage – to assure its customers that a “robust contingency plan” will ensure that its deliveries are entirely unaffected. I also received an email from Next this morning informing me that its next day delivery service will continue as normal.

These might be simple enough steps for established retailers like John Lewis and Next to take, but what about the rest of the online marketplace that simply can’t afford to absorb the extra overheads?

Communication is key

Informing customers fully about potentially significant delays to deliveries, and dealing with any concerns thoughtfully and efficiently, seems to be just about the only other option. Making information visible on the homepage and order pages could save customers a lot of worry – and should hopefully lead to fewer calls to customer helplines.

It is important that pay-per-click adverts are also amended if they contain delivery information so as not to mislead users who might specifically be looking for a prompt dispatch of their goods. If this step isn’t taken, bounce rates are likely to skyrocket as potential customers click through on paid adverts then immediately leave the site as they realise that the service isn’t what they are looking for.

It’s all about loyalty

Perhaps the next couple of days will enable e-tailers to truly assess whether they have managed to create such an enjoyable online experience that customers will keep coming back for more, even if they do have to wait an extra couple of days for their purchases to arrive. After all, building customer confidence and loyalty is vital to the success of any business – regardless of whether it operates online or offline.

If e-tailers have achieved these goals, then they should be able to comfortably ride out the next few days and indeed the entire Christmas period, regardless of further postal strikes. If not, then perhaps it’s time to talk to a web design agency that knows a thing or two about implementing measurable ecommerce solutions that will truly engage customers and generate more sales.

Isn’t that what every e-tailer wants for Christmas?