Author: Remy Beljaars, key account manager international, PostNL
This article looks at the delivery preferences of Dutch and Belgian online shoppers to help you understand how to structure your offering when launching there.
International delivery within two business days
It’s not surprising that Dutch and Belgian consumers want fast delivery, and that longer delivery times will be a barrier to cross-border shopping, but what stands out is that Dutch shoppers have one of the shortest delivery window expectations in Europe. 32% of Dutch shoppers expect delivery in 1-2 business days, and 57% in 3-5 business days. Belgian shoppers are a little less demanding, with 15% looking for delivery within 1-2 business days, and 62% in 3-5.
The Dutch don’t just want to know that their goods are going to be delivered quickly, but also prefer to choose a timeslot and a notification by e-mail. A massive 83% confirmed this in the MetaPack – Delivering Consumers Choice Survey 2015. The majority of Dutch online shoppers make a cross-border purchase at least once a month, showing a real interest in shopping abroad. Keeping the short delivery window expectation in mind, they are happy to make a cross-border online purchase if the price is right, and preferably with no additional delivery cost.
Free delivery is preferred
Delivery costs can be a barrier to cross-border shopping, especially in the Netherlands. In the MetaPack Survey, 52% of Dutch shoppers expect free standard delivery, while 16% cited the additional cost of cross-border delivery as having put them off buying from a foreign retailer. The Dutch want to make an informed decision on purchasing from a foreign retailer, and therefore it’s of real importance to provide information on delivery costs, times, and options on each product page.
Home delivery is most popular
When it comes to delivery location, Belgian and Dutch shoppers prefer home delivery over click & collect or pick-up points. Delivery to a post office or a pick-up point is the second most popular delivery location. The Netherlands have a dense network of pick-up points ranging from small local shops to large nationwide supermarkets. A growing number of retailers are now offering their customers a choice of pick-up location tailored to their preferences.
Freedom of choice
In the Netherlands, the national post PostNL also offers delivery services on Sunday, and Same Day Delivery up to 10pm. Also, the customer (as shown below) can see and choose from local delivery locations using on their postcode or address. The delivery location can be close to home or work if this suits the consumer better. This way they will not miss the delivery, or they can simply pick it up at their own convenience. The example below is from bol.com, which provides a quick delivery service with pick-up points across the Netherlands. Same-day delivery is usually offered when the order is placed before a certain time, and the product is in-stock.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, neighbour delivery is common practice. When nobody is home, the driver can ask a neighbour to accept the parcel and hand it over to the recipient. The driver then leaves a note for the recipient informing them where they can pick up the parcel. Some retailers are already using this option in their online shop. Upon check-out, the customer can choose neighbour delivery, or specifically choose not to have it delivered to a neighbour.
According to the PostNord Ecommerce in Europe 2015 report, more than 50% of Dutch and Belgian online shoppers consider a simple return process important. On average, 36% of Dutch and 21% of Belgians returned an item in the last 12 months. Consumers expect returns to be free of charge, but do not have a distinct preference for a pre-printed label in the box or downloading a return label from a website. However, it is important that the return item can be easily dropped off at a local post office or shop. To take the hassle out of cross-border returns, online retailers can choose to use a third party to take care of international returns via a bespoke network of international and local return networks, with a wide variety of tracking and compensation options. See the full country guide for the options available in Netherlands and Belgium.
Dutch and Belgians are open to trying new methods of delivery. Innovations are being made to facilitate the high standards of these consumers. At major train stations, there are already Parcel Lockers where consumers can pick-up their parcels in stead of at a local shop or post office.
Building further on this idea, PostNL are currently testing 24/7 Parcel & Letter Points. An innovative letterbox which allows customers to send and receive mail and parcels at all times of day.
A positive delivery experience is key
The appeal of global brands, competitive pricing, or not being able to get the product in their home market make Dutch and Belgian shoppers open to shop across borders, and the majority of these online shoppers already do so. However, their likelihood of shopping across borders is heavily influenced by delivery options and delivery costs. Not providing the right delivery experience will turn these customers off. The importance of providing the right delivery experience is supported by a 2015 study which identified that 47% of Dutch online consumers would be unlikely to shop again with a certain retailer following a negative delivery experience, and 94% would shop again with that same retailer if the delivery experience is positive.