Inside the shipping strategies of 5 successful retailers

How the global pandemic changed retailers' approach to delivery

With the meteoric rise of online shopping in the wake of COVID-19, there has never been a more important time for retailers to look at their offerings around postage and shipping. 

From social distancing and contactless click and collect, to dealing with unprecedented delays on a strained delivery system, many retailers have had to overhaul the way they get their product into the hands of their customers.  

So, in the lead-up to the busy Christmas shopping period, we asked five well-known e-commerce brands to divulge their shipping secrets in the era of COVID. 

Country Road on using ‘dark stores’ and introducing frictionless click and collect

When the pandemic hit and stores were forced to close, Country Road immediately adapted, turning empty shops into ‘dark stores’ where they could fulfil the large volumes of incoming online orders.

 “We also used strip stores [those on streets, rather than in malls], including those found on shopping strips in [Victoria’s] Brighton and Camberwell, into places where customers could have contactless click and collect,” says Matt Jones, head of digital. 

In the coming weeks, Country Road will also trial SocialQ’s “shop-by-appointment” booking and queue management platform at its Chadstone superstore. This, says Jones, will not only offer customers a seamless click-and-collect experience, but a frictionless process for exchanges and returns. 

“There’s still a bit of nervousness out there about being around crowds, so we wanted our customers to have the most frictionless and convenient experience possible,” he says.

“With SocialQ, if a customer wants to exchange an item for a different size or style, they can book it in and we’ll locate the item from existing stock and have it there waiting for them.” 

“There’s still a bit of nervousness out there about being around crowds, so we wanted our customers to have the most frictionless and convenient experience possible”

- Matt Jones, Country Road

Overall, Jones says the brand has been fortunate to avoid the delivery delays experienced by many retailers, thanks to its premium service with StarTrack couriers.

Country Road’s shipping strategy at a glance:

Standard shipping:  Free standard delivery on orders over $50; $10 fee for orders under $50

Express shipping: Flat-rate fee of $15 for same-day delivery in Australian metro areas 

Returns: Free online returns, 60 days (extended from 30 days since COVID)

Courier: StarTrack

Tech: Trialling SocialQ

Bing Lee on being a click-and-collect pioneer and launching curbside pick-up  

Bing Lee, which was founded in 1957, is one of Australia’s oldest electronics stores. But that didn’t stop it being among the first to adopt click and collect – and the retail chain has since taken this offering to the next level. 

“Bing Lee is the only major electrical retailer in NSW to offer ‘scheduled click and collect’,” says head of e-commerce, Nigel Price.

“It’s a fantastic service that enables customers to have selected items that are out of stock transferred to their favourite Bing Lee store, in which they choose the date and time for collection.”

“Bing Lee is the only major electrical retailer in NSW to offer scheduled click and collect”

- Nigel Price, Bing Lee head of ecommerce

Since COVID-19 altered the retail landscape, Bing Lee has also launched a contactless shopping experience. This includes curbside pick-up, where a staff member brings an order to the customer’s vehicle. 

The retailer, which uses Zendesk software for online orders and customer service, has also extended its cut-off times for next-day delivery. 

Bing Lee’s shipping strategy at a glance: 

Standard shipping:  Flat-rate shipping on many items (otherwise calculated by nominated delivery address and weight)

Express shipping: Next-day delivery available on large appliances within Bing Lee delivery areas

Returns: Defective products can be returned to any Bing Lee store

Courier: Australia Post and dedicated Bing Lee delivery trucks

Tech: Zendesk 

Sass + Co. Body on launching free shipping on all of its products. 

Melbourne-based vegan skincare label Sass + Co. Body took a double hit due to COVID-19, with its new eco packaging being held up overseas and their local manufacturer delaying production to concentrate on making hand sanitiser. 

“COVID has caused some ups and downs with the business,” says founder Colette Tattoli, who started the plant-based label in 2018. “I was all set to launch a new facial range when the pandemic hit, and I had to cancel the usual promo party and photo shoot due to the restrictions.

“Then I found out that my packaging would be held up in China for months and my manufacturer in the next suburb was going to focus on producing hand sanitiser – so us smaller labels got bumped.” 

“I found out that my packaging would be held up in China for months”

- Colette Tattoli, Sass + Co.

So, Tattoli looked at new ways of keeping her business healthy, including offering free postage on all products. Although this cuts into her margins, she believes it will deliver dividends by driving sales and building customer loyalty.

Sass + Co. Body’s shipping strategy a glance: 

Standard shipping:  Free shipping on all orders in Australia, and free shipping to NZ for orders over $100

Express shipping:  Free express shipping on orders over $50 in Australia

Returns: No returns accepted

Courier: Australia Post

Tech: Shopify

Banish on drop-shipping and offering free postage 

With its focus on sustainable and eco-friendly household and beauty products, online store Banish is on a mission to eliminate waste.  

“All Banish products are packed without any plastic – this means no bubble wrap, plastic post satchels, plastic air fill, or sticky tape,” says founder Lottie Dalziel, who started the company in 2018. “We sell products that help you reduce your waste, so it would be redundant if our packaging included plastic.”  

Dalziel, who uses the Shopify sales platform and a drop-shipping method where each brand sends directly to the consumer, says their commitment to free shipping (for orders over $100) has at times been tough on the bottom line.

Fortunately, COVID-19 has fuelled demand for eco-friendly household products, and average order size has increased. Like many retailers, Banish has been affected by delivery hold-ups. “We’ve communicated with our customers that there will be delays.”

Banish’s shipping strategy at a glance:

Standard shipping:  Free shipping on all orders over $100

Express shipping: No express shipping (due to plastic used on packaging)

Returns: 28-day returns policy for an e-credit

Courier: Sendle and Australia Post

Tech: Shopify

Auguste on same-day dispatch and personal touches

There’s nothing worse than purchasing a new piece of clothing, only to be slugged by expensive shipping fees, believes Ebony Eagles, the founder and creative director of Auguste

That’s why the Byron Bay fashion label has long offered free and express shipping, eco-friendly packaging and handwritten notes “to show our customers how much they mean to us”, says Eagles. 

Although Auguste has been largely unaffected by the delays plaguing some retailers, the brand extended its same-day dispatch time and customer care hours, and “worked around the clock” to get as many parcels out as possible.  

Auguste’s shipping strategy a glance: 

Standard shipping: Free express shipping within Australia and New Zealand on orders over $50 ($10 flat-rate shipping for orders under $50)

Express shipping: Free express shipping on orders over $50

Returns: 30-day returns policy 

Courier: DHL, Australia Post and TNT

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Written by
Leanne Archer
Leanne Archer is a journalist and chief sub-editor who has worked on newspapers and magazines including marie claire Australia and Stellar.
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