How Booktopia delivers on expectations

The data in Australia Post’s new report, The Delivery Experience: Getting it right. Why it matters. And how data can help, indicates delivery certainty matters more to online shoppers than speed – particularly when they’re buying books. Booktopia’s Wayne Baskin shares how Australia’s leading online book retailer is delivering on expectations, and the many levers it pulls to ensure the best possible delivery experience.

Key points

  • Setting the right delivery date expectations can lead to better customer satisfaction.
  • Booktopia provides delivery certainty before customers check out, and has found in-stock items are more likely to sell because they are ready to send.
  • Automated cut-to-fit packaging has also improved the delivery experience for Booktopia – and reduced environmental impact.

When customers buy books online, they want to know when they’ll receive their order. And according to Booktopia Deputy CEO and CTO Wayne Baskin, having that certainty is more important than the speed of delivery.

This insight has seen the ASX-listed online bookselling leader invest $12million in fulfilment automation1, while also focusing its attention on inbound supply chain controls.

“We’ve learned over many years that certainty is more important than same-day delivery for books,” explains Wayne. “So we tell people the delivery timeframe before they buy, and give them the ability to enter their postcode to get a more accurate estimate for delivery.”

Setting the right expectations

Booktopia’s experience aligns with Australia Post data, which also found 60% of customers value certainty of the timing of a delivery over speed.2 In this new report, Australia Post data suggests getting the delivery date right can have a positive impact on receiver Net Promoter Score (NPS) – even if the order is delayed.

Customers do prioritise delivery speed in certain purchase categories. For example, 42% of fashion shoppers choose a faster delivery speed – yet when it comes to buying books, as a subset of the Media category, this report just 9% of shoppers opt for faster delivery.

“There are some cases, like a late birthday present or needing a book for exams, where we use StarTrack and the customer pays for it. But for most people, if you tell them it will be there in two to three days, they’re happy,” says Wayne.

Tracking adds another layer of confidence. “We tend to over-communicate to build trust. As soon as we manifest, a tracking code is automatically sent to the customer to tell them the item has been shipped,” says Wayne – who believes this reduces the number of contacts to his customer service centre.

Online shoppers agree, with 74% saying real-time tracking is important to them in Australia Post’s survey.2

Continually improving every step in the chain

It’s one thing to set expectations, and another to consistently deliver. Booktopia has over six million products available for purchase on its website, yet only 150,000 of those books are held in stock in its warehouse. It’s still a significant range compared to most physical book stores, but it means they depend on the publishers fulfilment process if they get an order for any of the other 5.85 million titles.

“We work on the 80:20 rule, where 80% of our orders do come from our available stock,” explains Wayne. “But we also know when we have a product in stock, we’ll see four times as many sales than if we have to order it in. We’ve AB tested this. It comes back to certainty – if it’s in stock, the customer knows they’ll get it next day, or within one to two days. If they have to wait a week, it can sometimes make a difference to the sale.”

It’s relatively easy for Booktopia to control its own pick and pack time and despatch flow. So now, Wayne and his team are focusing on understanding the inbound supply chain.

“We are constantly working on ways to finesse each part of the journey,” he says. “You need to be able to play with the levers because it affects the customer experience.”

More choices, more control

Booktopia has also found offering alternative collection points can give customers a greater sense of control.

“We were early adopters of Parcel Lockers, and our parcel size really suits that option,” says Wayne. More recently, he’s seen customers embrace alternative retail collection points, like the local supermarket or pharmacy, because it gives them more options to collect their parcel when and where it suits them.3

Sized to fit

Booktopia’s two new CMC packaging machines not only double its outbound despatch capacity, they also automate individual order wrapping to fit precisely – which means fewer damages, and smaller parcel sizes.

“We can now wrap about 1,600 parcels an hour, which has reduced our packing backlog. And the beauty of the machines is they take the dimension of each product, cut the cardboard, and wrap it to fit,” explains Wayne.

There’s an environmental upside as well. Booktopia no longer uses any bubble wrap, making each delivery more sustainable. Plus, it can fit more parcels in a delivery truck, which reduces fuel consumption per order.

Right-sized packaging has positive brand outcomes as well. As you’ll see in recommendation 5, Consumers prefer not to receive parcels wrapped in unnecessary packaging, and while book damages are rare they do have a negative impact on NPS when they happen.

Wayne says Booktopia recorded a significant increase in its NPS score for customers who received the new packaging. “I think the parcels are also more aesthetically pleasing. They’re well-branded.”

After a pandemic-fuelled surge in online book buying,4 Booktopia now has around a 15% share of Australia’s online book market, with sales close to $200million in 2020.5

Wayne says he’s paying close attention to customer repurchase rate, with so many new customers buying online for the first time. And because he sees Australia Post as an extension of his business, he works proactively with his Account Manager to understand the impacts on the delivery experience.

“We’re always working with Australia Post to understand what we can do to improve the customer experience from a delivery perspective, so it reflects better on Booktopia,” he says. From understanding and measuring what matters most to its customers to managing those expectations through fulfilment, packaging and tracking, Booktopia makes sure it stays in its customers’ good books.

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This article is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for your business needs.

1 Behind the Book | Five Minutes with Booktopia, Power Retail, December 04, 2020

2 Australia Post survey of people who received a domestic parcel in February 2021, n=>2,000

3 Terms, conditions and collection time limits apply. You have 48 hours to collect your parcel from a Parcel Locker, 10 business days to collect from a participating Parcel Collect (Post Office) location, and 30 days from a PO Box. Size limits apply. View full terms and conditions.

4 How Booktopia adapted to record book sales, Australia Post September 2020

5 Booktopia's sharemarket debut worth the wait, Sue Mitchell, December 03 2020, Australian Financial Review