This is a next in a series of ‘road tests’ of a UK retailer’s online channel and the overall fulfilment customer experience. Aspects that affect the overall customer experience are reviewed, including: product pages, online help and FAQs basket, checkout, fulfilment, delivery and customer returns processes. Greenfingers.com was reviewed in August 2013.
I wanted a small shelving unit or étagère on which to display plants on the terrace of my flat. I chose to buy from Greenfingers.com (Greenfingers) because their étagère was a suitable size to fit in the available space and as it was quite low would not get blown over. As it was the end of July, I was also hoping to get a discount in the summer sale.
Home page, delivery options and returns policy
I arrived at Greenfingers from the google search results page, where it clearly indicated express delivery proposition as a core part of its offer.
The Greenfingers home page itself was very ‘busy’ and the clear call to action from Google was now hidden below the fold on my screen and in the sidebar.
Clicking on Rapid Delivery took me through to the Delivery information page.
Interestingly, Greenfingers advertise their ‘on promise shipping’ success on the homepage…although there is a slight conflict between the home page and the ‘More … ‘ information.
Help, FAQ and Information pages
Greenfingers clearly include a faster shipping service within their proposition.
Unfortunately the branding applied to their delivery service is inconsistent across the site and in their marketing (i.e. “Rapid Delivery”, “Express Delivery”, “Priority despatch”) which may lead to dilution of the benefit of this offering in the customers’ eyes.
Greenfingers have a product offering that includes garden furniture and sheds and may require alternative carriers due to their size. This makes it difficult for Greenfingers to provide a single statement of delivery timescales. However, I think most customers appreciate that a larger item may require special delivery arrangements, and suggest that, particularly for these larger and more expensive items, a nominated day delivery would enhance the proposition, as would be inconvenient to collect from a depot.
The details behind the despatch and delivery service are described in the FAQ section of the website, which describes in a great deal of detail the offering. It could be improved by being more succinct and a little clearer as to the elapsed time between placing the order and delivery to me. As a customer, I would have been disappointed if I lived in the Scottish Islands and had been charged a premium only to discover, when tracking my parcel advertising on the Parcelforce website that all parts of the UK including Highlands and Islands benefited from the same parcel charges.
It may also be helpful to give examples of the items that do not qualify for the priority delivery service.
The Product Page mostly describes the product.
However some key details are missing, including how the width of the shelves and how tall is the highest shelf. It is clear from the product reviews, that some customers were disappointed by the size of the item once it arrived.
Under the Add to Basket button, the indication of whether the product qualified for Priority Despatch was clearly presented.#
When viewing the basket, it continues to be clear that Priority despatch is available, but there is no display of delivery charges.
If I hadn’t viewed the FAQs, at this point I would still be uncertain of how much I will be paying for delivery.
There is also an opportunity here, too, to present a delivery promotion, e.g. spend more that £30 and get free delivery. This is entirely appropriate for this product range, especially if none of the larger items are ordered. I would have bought a few additional pots or garden accessories to take my spend over a reasonable threshold.
Oh no, a username and password must be created before proceeding to checkout!
At this point, I was very tempted to abandon my basket and starting looking elsewhere. To add to the frustration, during account creation, there was an option to opt out of Greenfingers sharing information with other companies, although there was no such opt out of Greenfinger’s own email marketing communications.
After overcoming that hurdle, I was asked to input my invoice address and then asked to confirm whether it was my delivery address. A nice feature was that I could put some delivery instructions for the courier – although this was only limited to specifying a neighbour to leave the parcel with as the delivery service used required a signature.
Next I get to the Shipping and Payment options screen. There is still no indication as to how long delivery will take, nor which days of the week delivery can take place. The page layout isn’t great – the information is there, but I’d have put the shipping method options alongside the shipping total.
An order confirmation email was received within minutes of placing the order. And there is still no estimate of when my order will be delivered.
I had really hoped that because my order was placed early on the Monday morning, I would get delivery on the Friday of the same week as I was at home that day. Unfortunately the 3 working day despatch cycle took until Thursday evening so delivery was attempted when I was out.
My first attempt at tracking my parcel as by clicking the ‘Shipping Ref’ link on the Invoice found in Order History. Unfortunately, it seems that there was an incorrect hyperlink from the online website (parcelforce.co.uk vs. parcelforce.com), as it took me to the following page:
Following the Parcelforce instructions, I went to their website and was able to find the parcel. Whilst this did reassure me that the parcel was in the system, the tracking status of “Received and Processed” at the “National Hub” is gobbledegook to the average customer and still does not tell me when my order will be delivered.
On Monday 5th August, I returned home to find the failed delivery card, informing me that my parcel had been taken to a post-office branch. The details on the back of the card gave a map and opening times of the Parcelforce depot, so were unhelpful.
There was no offer for re-delivery, although this may have been hidden where the driver has stuck the parcel number on the card.
The information I was missing at this point of time was:
- When will the parcel be available to collect (I did have the opportunity to go to the Post Office on Monday afternoon to collect the parcel, but experience with Royal Mail parcels has been that you need to wait 2 days before the parcel is available to collect)?
- How heavy is the parcel? Do I need to go to the Post-Office by car, and if so is there parking? Interestingly, this isn’t the post office branch where I normally collect Royal Mail registered post or parcels. As a major inner city Post Office on a major traffic circulatory system, I knew on-road parking wasn’t an option.
- What are the opening hours of this Post Office?
I went to the Post Office on foot to collect the parcel on Friday 9th, and to my relief the items were easy enough to carry home.
Opening the package
The étagère was packaged with the other items in a corrugated cardboard package. Whilst I was a little concerned that this was labelled as the étagère, as this was clearly the packaging from this larger product and the hessian bags ordered had been slipped in.
The delivery note contained the essential details, but could be improved by including the FAQ details on how to return an item.
My top 5 recommendations are:
- Stop the default of marketing to an Opt In to marketing information (Probable regulatory requirement).
- Allow guest checkout without the creation of a login, or move account registration to the end of the process so it is less of a hurdle
- Add estimated delivery date to the process, as early as possible in the process.
- Decide on and use a single branding of the premium delivery service
- Edit the FAQs to give a concise definition of the delivery and returns service.