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Peter Rowlands, Editor

Your comments are welcome, and may be added to the blog. Click 'Email us' after any relevant item.

Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of
Spice Court Publications

The carrier conundrum

Just as parcels carriers are getting really good at home deliveries, retailers are pushing click and collect for all it’s worth. Should we be concerned?
This personal view from the editor is taken from our feature article on home delivery solutions in summer 2014

When it comes to home shopping delivery, there’s a massive contradiction at the heart of it.

The delivery options offered by carriers are better now than they’ve ever been before. Late pickup, Saturday delivery, Sunday delivery, delivery alerting, re-delivery on a different day, safe-place delivery – whatever you want, these days you can probably get it.

The reason is simple; traditional parcel volumes are shrinking, and after years of doubt and even denial, carriers now see that home shopping really is their future. So they want to do it right.

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Ignore me - I’m not here

From Checking out column issue 68 – Summer 2014

Everybody, it seems, wants to be somewhere else. On the train, in the street, in the shops, at a concert, in the park, in a restaurant, at the football ground – wherever people find themselves, they’re either talking on the phone or checking their texts and emails on their smartphone – and often wearing headphones, too. No one wants to be "in the moment", assuming they even know what the current moment is, because they’re too busy being in some other moment.

But what is that other moment? If they’re not here, where are they? Well, if they’re talking on the phone, they’re presumably conjuring up the moment – visualising the person they’re talking to from their assembled memories, while at the same time gathering new input to make up a kind of hybrid reality. Ditto if they’re reading or sending a message.

If they’re looking at images or watching video, then they don’t even have the chore of recall or invention – the other moment is delivered to them ready-made.

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Home shopping: don't let headline statistics mislead you

From Opinion column issue 68 – Summer 2014

More than ten per cent of online retailers are now believed to be doing half their business through mobile consumer devices; and click and collect, already popular, is predicted to see a further big surge in the coming years.

Such factoids make nice headline statistics, and are usually provided in good faith by responsible researchers; but they can easily get hijacked by people with their own agendas. For instance, what proportion of mobile purchases are made on smartphones, and what proportion on tablet computers? They’re not the same thing at all.

If you’re buying online with a phone, you’re quite likely to be doing it in a public place, and relying on your phone provider’s 3G data network to provide internet access – which introduces a range of connectivity and security issues.

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Sleepwalking to extinction?

From Opinion column issue 66 – Summer 2013

Everyone in the home shopping business knows that click and collect is one of its fastest-growing sectors, but even so, it might come as a surprise to know that according to some pundits, within a few years it will account for more than half of all home shopping.

Really? If so, why? Interestingly, the sometimes complex rationalisations currently being put forward really boil down to just two possible scenarios.

One: Nobody really wanted home delivery in the first place. The past ten years of home shopping growth have been a mirage, a deception. Actually we all love going to the shops, and now we’re voting with our feet. Home delivery – who needs it?

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Must I keep on and on paying?

From Editor's Rant column issue 66 – Summer 2013

Does your business’s primary IT system sit on your own computer system – yours to keep and cherish forever? Or do you hire it from a third-party provider on a pay-as-you-go basis? If the latter, does this put you at a disadvantage?

Well, in one sense probably not. You assume you’ll still be in business tomorrow, and just as much able to pay your monthly software rental fee as you are now. Meanwhile, you’re spared the initial capital cost.

In which case you may not have much sympathy with users of graphic design software from Adobe. But perhaps you should. The company has just introduced a mandatory pay-as-you-go system for everybody who wants future versions of its software, and this has rung alarm bells worldwide.

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Home is where the heart is

From Opinion column issue 65 – Early spring 2013

Is home shopping killing the high street? For most of the twelve years in which we’ve been publishing F&E magazine we’ve rubbished that idea. Home shopping was just a single-figure percentage of all shopping, we’ve always argued, so how could it be blamed for the kind of decline that the high street has experienced for many years?

Well, home shopping represents more than 10 per cent of all shopping now. Even the British Retail Consortium, with its more conservative method of calculation, puts it at almost that proportion. What’s more, some estimates suggest it could reach 20 per cent within the next four years, and ultimately up to 50 per cent.

OK, so let’s face it – home shopping is scarcely helping the high street’s cause – and that’s putting it mildly. The question is, what should be done about it? Retailers can’t make home shopping more difficult for consumers, because that’s manifestly what they want. So how can they make high-street shopping more appealing?

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Social media - ignore it at your peril

From Opinion column issue 64 – Autumn 2012

There’s a new democracy at large, and one could be forgiven for sometimes thinking it’s the democracy of the loudest voice – or at least of the most vociferous grumbler.

What else are we to make of the many threads of complaint about home deliveries that litter the internet and the Twittersphere? Spend an hour reading some of these and you could easily start to believe UK carriers were innately incapable of completing a single delivery effectively.

But you’d be wrong. Admittedly, more than ten per cent of home deliveries fail at the first attempt, according to a new IMRG; but that means about 90 per cent are succeeding. How many of these do we hear about on the internet?

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