Depending on the data source you've last checked, the United Kingdom belongs to the top three or four largest e-commerce markets in the world, right next to China, the United States and Japan. With an increase of 8.3% in 2023, the UK e-commerce market contributed to the worldwide growth rate of 9.6% within the same year.
UK's mature e-commerce and last-mile logistics are a goldmine for online market expansion — if you do it the right way. How so? 85% of online consumers say a poor delivery experience prevents them from shopping with the same retailer again.
Breaking into new markets and scaling your online sales is a game of high stakes without a locally adapted delivery strategy and the best carrier services in place. This is when the real magic, or the real challenge, comes into play.
Know your competition and transform your delivery experience — from product consideration to returns — into a solid differentiator where your brand name recognition and customer loyalty are truly won or lost. Here's your guide to the last-mile delivery solutions and your delivery strategy in the United Kingdom.
Table of contents
- Top e-commerce stores in UK fashion and beauty;
- UK consumer expectations and popular delivery methods;
- Tips for choosing e-commerce shipping solutions in the UK;
- Top three last-mile delivery services according to shoppers;
- Sustainability and traffic congestion in last-mile delivery;
- Three carriers driving last-mile delivery innovation in the UK.
Top e-commerce stores in UK fashion and beauty
Amazon and eBay dominate the landscape of online marketplaces preferred by UK consumers. Amazon holds a one-third share of the UK fashion market, followed by Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, H&M and Asos.
After Amazon with a tremendous 81% market share in cosmetics and personal care — one of the biggest and fastest-growing categories in retail — UK online shoppers go to John Lewis, Boots, Sainsbury's, Sephora and Ulta.
UK consumer expectations and most popular delivery methods
When shopping online, UK consumers want convenience and speed. In 2022, 80% of UK's e-shoppers put free shipping and returns at the top of their consideration list. Same and next-day deliveries were also a game changer for about 50% of surveyed consumers.
Global Digital Shopping Playbook reports that in 2021, UK consumers showed a strong preference for having their online orders delivered directly to their home. Only 10% of surveyed favored Click & Collect — or in-store pick up — and even fewer would choose pick-up points.
The trend's already reversing. According to a Citizens Advice report in 2023, 27% of online shoppers said that having to stay home — or asking someone else to stay home — to collect a delivery has been a problem for them. Another 24% said that the courier left before they had a chance to answer the door.
UK e-retailers are now reassessing their post-pandemic shipping strategies in favor of alternative shipping methods which customers want to see at checkout. As delivery orchestration requires more complexity and costs, retailers are on the lookout for technological solutions to connect every dot of the supply chain with maximum efficiency for everyone involved.
Tips for choosing e-commerce shipping solutions in the UK
Don’t limit yourself to a single carrier, even when it's tempting to lock in a good shipping contract with your day-to-day operations and costs in mind. It's only with a multicarrier delivery strategy that you can boost sales conversions and customer loyalty, beat the competition in the new market and — importantly — achieve scalable business growth.
E-commerce deliveries are highly contextual and dynamic. How consumers want their orders delivered depends on what they’re buying, where and when. Shopping habits, seasons, item specifications and estimated delivery times are key to determining which shipping option works for a specific purchase. Besides, carriers commonly work better in some areas than others.
Get personalized support in carrier API integration with Ingrid Delivery Checkout — a delivery selection module that integrates into your checkout page to present accurate and flexible shipping information for every customer, including delivery times, price, available carriers and shipping methods.
More shipping rules, less manual configuration.
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UK's top three last-mile delivery services according to shoppers
- Royal Mail;
- Evri (formerly Hermes).
The overwhelming majority of UK consumers prefer online deliveries by Royal Mail. It’s the longest-standing and one of the best-regarded delivery companies in the UK, although the company has recently fell under investigation for lower delivery access rates in 2022-2023.
Royal Mail makes cost-effective deliveries on the same day, next business day and in 2-3 business days, except for Sundays and bank holidays. Some of the company's products offer guaranteed delivery, and others factor in possible delays.
One-fifth of UK shoppers choose DPD as their online delivery service. It's one of the largest carriers in the UK supply chain and a member of the DPD Group, one of Europe’s top parcel groups. Due to the wide range of shipping options and additional services, DPD makes a great fit for larger or more valuable products, although at comparatively higher rates.
DPD makes domestic parcel deliveries on the next business day, as well as special deliveries on Saturday and Sunday for more urgent orders.
Evri (formerly Hermes)
Another one-fifth of UK consumers opts for Hermes, which rebranded as Evri in March 2022. It holds a substantial last-mile delivery market share with UK’s top retailers, including Asos, John Lewis and Next. Evri’s shipping rates appear to be within the same range as those of Royal Mail. In the end, it all comes down to your shipping volumes and the rates you negotiate.
Evri delivers domestic parcels within 2-5 days, depending on the offered services, seven days a week. Your online customers can choose a more convenient pickup at any of the 4,500 nationwide Evri ParcelShops as an alternative to home delivery.
So, which one it is?
All of them, plus the UK's other common delivery companies like DHL, Parcelforce, UPS and Yodel. Rather than choosing one over the other, combine the offers and benefits of the best UK carriers to optimize your checkout conversions and delivery costs. By doing so, you make a long-term investment in a sustainable, multicarrier delivery strategy with premium consumer convenience.
UK's last mile addresses sustainability and traffic congestion concerns
The majority of UK parcels are distributed by cost-uncompetitive, fossil fuel-powered delivery vans. As the volume of home deliveries across the UK grows, so does the challenge of increased traffic congestion in major cities. It's also a source of massive sustainability concerns. Accenture estimates that the streets of London will carry 1.5 times more delivery vehicles by 2026 than they did in 2022.
UK's supply chain industry must embrace the shift towards alternative delivery models that can reduce urban traffic and routing inefficiencies with parcel lockers, pick-up points and a more compact, electric transport fleet. It's a slow but steady industry change, although to the exclusion of more remote rural areas — at least so far.
Three carriers driving last-mile delivery innovation in the UK
'We fit your routine,' they say. InPost lockers are a 24/7, fully automated and secure delivery service available throughout the UK at convenience-boosting locations like train stations and supermarkets. No home delivery anxiety, no queues, no short working hours — InPost enables consumers to pick up their parcels any time of the day in a matter of seconds.
InPost customers now represent half of the country’s adult population, with over 16 million people now using the service for deliveries and returns. In 2023, the company successfully deployed a network of 5000 locker units across the UK.
London-based sustainable parcel delivery network Hived set out on a mission to decarbonize the 'dirty' last-mile without needing to compromise on affordability or convenience. A more sustainable alternative for e-commerce deliveries, Hived operates an emission-free fleet of vehicles, a network of decentralized micro-sorting hubs and proprietary AI-powered last-mile routing software.
The company offers same-day, next-day and two-day shipping options to all of Greater London with a 99.99% on-time delivery rate and a 99% first-time success rate.
Gophr makes nationwide, same-day store-to-door deliveries for retailers like Boots, Loyds and Selfridges — quick, convenient and climate-smart. Gophr operates greener vehicles, including cargo bikes and electric transport, and offsets the remaining fleet emissions by 100%.
They're currently active in over 65 of the UK's top towns and cities with plans to scale across rural areas. Retailers can book professional courier deliveries through Gophr's available e-commerce integrations or directly on the website.
Delivery experience as a competitive advantage
Entering new markets and scaling your business is a lot easier when you can offer the best carrier services. Your online e-commerce business can't afford lost sales and bad customer reviews. Besides, the delivery costs of retail will only keep growing.
To set the right delivery strategy and constantly improve it, integrate with the right technology partner like Ingrid Delivery Platform for suggestions on real-time, most cost-effective and convenient delivery options for every purchase and location.