An Evaluation of Mainstream UK Courier Companies

As the eCommerce market has continued to develop, so too have consumers’ shopping habits and expectations with regard to delivery. Today’s online shoppers are now prepared to pay more for same/next day delivery options, with some willing to boycott companies that fail to provide this.

Due to newly implemented local lockdowns, millions of consumers will be turning to online shopping to purchase Christmas presents this year, prompting shipping experts to predict that this will be the busiest Christmas for courier companies. As a result, reliable delivery will be a priority for customers, meaning it is now imperative that eCommerce businesses select the best courier services to deliver their products.

Selecting The Right Courier

When questioned, online shoppers cited the following reasons for abandoning their carts:

  1. Shipping costs are too high – 61%
  2. Delivery times are too slow – 41%
  3. Their preferred courier is not used – 25%

More concerningly for eCommerce businesses, 87% of customers said a negative delivery experience would make them less likely to order from a particular online store again. During the coronavirus crisis, some customers have demonstrated more tolerance concerning delivery issues but, overall, expectations remain high. An outline analysis of six of the most well-known courier companies is set out below.

The Royal Mail

Founded over 500 years ago, the Royal Mail is the largest postal service and courier company in the UK, operating out of 37 nationwide mail centres. Offering a wide range of shipping services, they are one of the most cost-effective couriers for smaller and lightweight parcels.

The Royal Mail offers the following delivery services to businesses:

  • Royal Mail Tracked 24 and 48
  • Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed by 9 am and 1 pm
  • Royal Mail Sameday
  • Royal Mail 1st and 2nd Class

With an average rating of 4.2 stars on Trustpilot, the Royal Mail is trusted by online retailers and shoppers, with 66% of reviewers rating them as excellent. In 2019, they launched a new notification system to improve the delivery experience, providing customers with a two-hour time slot, a day before the delivery, allowing the recipient more flexibility. This system was introduced based on their research that found a third of online customers wanted an expected delivery time to be provided the day before delivery, something that competing couriers fail to offer.

DPD

Founded in 1999, DPD is a relatively new courier company that has experienced rapid growth and now delivers around 5.3 million parcels worldwide, each day. Working with eCommerce businesses of all sizes and providing flexible service offerings based on the needs of each business, they were the first courier company to provide customers, via email or text message, with a precise one-hour time slot for their delivery, on the day of delivery.

DPD offers the following services:

  • Next day delivery by 10:30 am
  • Next day delivery by noon
  • Next day delivery by close of business
  • Saturday delivery by 10:30, 12, or by close of business
  • Industry-first Sunday service

DPD has an exceptional reputation, with 82% of reviewers on Trustpilot rating them as excellent, gaining an overall rating of 4.6 stars. An annual poll analysing online shoppers’ delivery experiences further demonstrated their prowess, with DPD topping the table for the seventh year in a row.

DPD is making a huge effort to expand their operations in response to the eCommerce boom caused by the global pandemic. Investment plans to support the growth of the courier company include £100m on new vehicles, £40m on technology to improve their service, and £60m on 15 new regional depots, enticing eCommerce businesses to partner with this growing courier company.

Hermes

Hermes, founded in 1972, is an award-winning delivery and collection company popular with online retailers including Next, ASOS, and John Lewis. Like the Royal Mail, Hermes tends to be better suited to, and more cost-effective for, sending lightweight parcels. They fall short when it comes to providing accurate delivery times to customers, offering a four-hour slot. Hermes also offers a smaller range of delivery services than competing companies, providing next day delivery (1-2 days) and standard delivery (2-4 days) options.

Despite being less flexible than other couriers, 74% of reviewers on Trustpilot rated Hermes UK as excellent, gaining an overall rating of 4.3 stars.

FedEx

Founded in 1971, FedEx offers a comprehensive range of delivery services, including an array of next-day options for urgent deliveries.

FedEx offers the following services:

  • Next day by 9 am
  • Next day by 10 am
  • Next day by 12 noon
  • Next day by close of business
  • FedEx economy – 2/3 business days

FedEx is not highly regarded, with 73% of reviewers on Trustpilot rating them as bad, giving them an overall rating of just 1.8 stars. Online reviewers on Trustpilot specified that they avoid buying products from companies that use FedEx, making this courier a risky choice for eCommerce businesses.

DHL

DHL was founded in 1969 and rapidly expanded its business across the globe. Operating out of 55 locations in the UK, they have a large workforce and recently invested in over 1,000 new vehicles to bolster their fleet and support commercial growth. Unlike other courier services, DHL’s delivery prices are determined by seven different parcel sizes, with three different delivery options to choose from, making them very flexible in their service offering and a popular choice for eCommerce stores. They are also popular with customers, with 70% of reviewers on Trustpilot rating DHL Parcel UK as excellent, giving them an overall rating of 4.1 stars.

Parcelforce

Parcelforce Worldwide is part of the Royal Mail and operates out of 54 local depots strategically positioned around the UK to speed up delivery times. Providing a range of flexible options for deliveries at competitive prices, they are often the most cost-effective when delivering larger consignments.

Parcelforce offers:

  • Next-day delivery by 9 am, 10 am, or 12 noon
  • Express24 – next day delivery by close of business
  • Express48 – 2 working days
  • Express24 large
  • Express48 large

Despite providing an hour delivery slot to customers, Parcelforce does not fare well with online reviewers, with 64% of reviewers on Trustpilot rating them as bad, resulting in an average rating of 2.5 stars.

Summary Of Analysis

CourierTrust Pilot UK Average RatingSize of delivery fleet (UK)Number of employees (UK)Locations in the UKTime slot
Royal Mail4.2 stars41,500162,000372 hours
DPD4.6 stars10,00015,000841 hour
Hermes4.3 starsN/A14,500274 hours
FedEx1.8 stars2,2004,00075N/A
DHL4.1 stars2,00040,000551 hour
Parcelforce2.5 stars1,1004,500541 hour

On the whole, most of the delivery companies analysed provide tracking information to customers and offer specific time slots. The companies range in size but make the same promises around timely delivery to eCommerce businesses seeking a carrier. However, courier companies with fewer employees and smaller fleets may struggle to provide timely delivery during the upcoming Christmas period.

How EC Group Can Help

We are experts in logistics and have partnered with some of the UK’s largest organisations, providing them with responsive order fulfilment and cost-effective warehousing and inventory management. Our services will save you time and money and help your eCommerce business to satisfy the increased demand stimulated by local lockdowns and capitalise on the growth of the eCommerce industry.

Our rich experience operating one of the UK’s largest response handling facilities has helped us to develop extensive knowledge of various delivery services, working closely with the full spectrum of courier companies, learning their service offerings and specialties from first-hand experience. Our expertise will help you choose the most suitable courier company based on your business, products, and order volume, and negotiate delivery deals that will save you money.

By selecting the best courier and charging low prices for great delivery options, you will increase the likelihood of repeat orders, reduce cart abandonment, and gain more positive reviews. With our logistical support, you can provide your valued customers with a reliable delivery service and accelerate the growth of your business. 

If you’d like support in selecting the best courier and improving the delivery of your products, please contact us.

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