Deliveries and fulfilment for online sales
When you choose a delivery solution, you should consider the size of your company, your product characteristics, whether you operate only domestically or cross-border, your business model and your customers' needs and preferences.
Make sure, also, that you are familiar with national and EU requirements on the rights of your customers and the rules that apply to specific categories of products you'll be shipping across Europe.
Online shoppers expect to be able to choose from multiple flexible delivery options. Important features include:
- the point of delivery, which include home delivery, delivery at work and delivery at the customer's chosen address. Additional options can include delivering to local stores or parcel stations, which can offer customers the option to collect their package outside of opening hours
- the delivery time, which ranges from non-express delivery (2-3 days domestically), to guaranteed express services that the customer can pay a premium for. These can be time-definite, including next-day or Saturday delivery
- the cost of delivery, which can either be paid by your customer or integrated into the list price of your goods, if you are able to negotiate a discounted rate with a parcel services provider of your choice. Standard rates for intra-European packages can inform your choice.
- convenience of return, which should be user-friendly and easy for your customer. Options include picking up the parcel directly from your customer, providing a return label, dropping off a package at a pre-determined point, or directly at your physical shop
Take into consideration that there may be national variations in customers' preferred delivery options and acceptable transit times. Contact the e-commerce association in your own country or the destination country to check local practice.
You can propose different delivery options to your customers. You should indicate precisely the costs of each delivery service. Do not forget to indicate clearly if delivery costs are included in any quote you make.
Make sure you inform your customers before they place the order about the delivery conditions (including return procedure and cost of returning the goods). You will bear the cost of returning the goods if you don't properly inform your customers about the return procedure.
Depending on the weight, size, volumes (individually and in number) and destination of the packages you ship, you can find the suitable operator for your needs:
- National Postal Operators (NPOs), who can offer cross-border services through their network with the NPO of the destination country, or other subsidiaries of its own
- Global integrators, who can offer an integrated network for international cross-border delivery. Typically, they offer time-defined delivery: either express delivery (24-28 hours) or deferred delivery (4-5 days)
- Couriers, who can be useful for expedited and secure delivery, usually guaranteeing tracking of the items and day- and time-certain delivery, with a focus on same-day and (cross-border) next-day deliveries of light parcels (<10kg). Some of them operate only in urban areas
Specialised delivery service operators can offer you better prices, a broader range of services and higher quality, as well as reliability of delivery services:
- parcel brokers offer you low delivery prices, by either buying delivery slots in bulk from several NPOs, integrators or couriers and reselling them
- parcel and courier consolidators prepare and collect parcels and packets (products below 2 kg with a similar size of a letter). By consolidating large volumes from many small senders, the consolidator obtains larger discounts from the delivery operator
- logistics fulfilment centres provide an end-to-end service, including storing the goods, picking and packing the orders and providing customer service and return management
- software solution providers support e-logistics and e-fulfilment and thus improve the efficiency and quality of the services. They can offer solutions for electronic document interchange, tracking, labelling, integration of several delivery operators, personalisation of deliveries, and push-notifications to recipients
Find out more about parcel services in the EU, including a tool to help you find a suitable service and price for your cross-border shipments.
Additional services to a delivery
You are required to offer a delivery timeframe that is no longer than 30 days after the purchase unless otherwise specified. You are responsible for any delays and damaged items in transit. To find out more about what your customers can expect here.
Complying with product delivery requirements
Depending on the type of goods and services that you sell online, EU regulations apply in many different areas:
- If you sell electrical or electronic equipment, you must enable your customers to return waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). Read more about WEEE.
- If you ship food products, there are specific food safety requirements and mandatory food information must be provided to consumers.
- Non-food products are also covered by EU and national labelling requirements (such as CE marking for toys and electronic appliances, energy labels, footwear, textile products, detergents and cosmetics, etc.). Find out more about labels and markings.
Delivery obligations towards your customers
Other than meeting the agreed delivery timeframe, you are also responsible for any losses and damages of the goods before they physically reach your customers.
Additionally, you are directly responsible for any complaints from customers, including those related to the delivery of the items.
You normally settle delivery-related complaints with the delivery operator with whom you have a contractual agreement (no matter how many subcontractors the operator has worked with) to find a satisfactory solution for your customer.
If your delivery operator cannot offer a satisfactory solution, it can be useful to use out-of-court dispute resolution mechanisms or other European judicial procedures.
If you have used a universal service provider, you can also contact the relevant national public complaints authority for additional assistance and guidance.