TFG looks to drones, collection points to facilitate customer deliveries

Few South Africans are at home during standard delivery times to accept their parcels and the country has a high level of informal housing, with no formal street addresses for delivery. These unique demands in the South African online shopping context require innovative thinking around delivery and returns.
The e-commerce team at TFG (The Foschini Group) has introduced third party collection points and is considering the use of drones, in the future. It has implemented the Pargo solution, where customers can collect deliveries at a convenient pick-up point close to home.

Pargo can be selected as a delivery option at checkout at no additional cost if the total basket is R500 or more, with an integrated map allowing shoppers to select the most convenient pick-up location for their parcel. Once the parcel arrives at the collection point, a text message is sent to the shopper stating their parcel is ready for collection.

“It is essential that we adapt global standards of best practice to suit the South African market and socio-economic conditions,” says Robyn Cooke, head of e-commerce at TFG. “This is why we are also looking at innovative ‘Deliver to Me’ options, leveraging geo-location services as Uber does, to avoid the need for specific street addresses.”

Drone delivery is another innovation headed to South Africa. “We believe it will happen at some point in South Africa. It is going to take a while to iron out the legalities, and will be driven by emergency medical requirements and the like. However, it will happen at some stage in the next five years for smaller, easily transportable items,” says Cooke.

TFG is also going to introduce ‘timed’ deliveries within the year, where shoppers get to specify the time they want their delivery to be made.

“Globally deliveries and returns are optimised around customer convenience and preference and I see no reason why the same can’t transform the South African environment,” says Cooke. “Online shopping should be moulded to suit customers’ lives, not the other way around.”

Are there global delivery and returns trends that are set to transform the e-commerce landscape in SA?

Cooke: Globally deliveries and returns are optimised around customer convenience and preference and I see no reason why the same cannot transform the South African environment. We are going to see much fluidity in the omni-channel delivery space, where a customer will become much more flexible about ordering online within the store environment, from home or on the move, and always having it delivered. Alternatively, the converse, where they may order online, but always prefer to pick their purchases up in store or a combination of the above. Online shopping should be moulded to suit customers’ lives, not the other way around. We also cannot ignore the looming spectre of drones being used in delivery.

BizcommunitySA conditions demand innovation. What are TFG’s biggest challenges and how are you rising to meet these?

The specific SA context is fraught with hijackings and terrible road accident statistics. We see this affecting the delivery service of all e-commerce retailers. At TFG, all parties are working extremely hard to mitigate these risks and keep the incidents to less than 0.5% of all deliveries.

BizcommunityNot having an official home street address, or not being allowed to receive personal packages at work can be a barrier to online shopping. Are you looking at third-party collection points as a solution?

It is essential that we adapt global standards of best practice to suit South African market and socio-economic conditions. For example, few South Africans are at home during standard delivery times to accept their parcels. We also have a high level of informal housing, with no formal street addresses for delivery. This is why we have implemented the Pargo solution, so customers can collect deliveries at a pick up point close to home, 24 hours a day. We are also looking at innovative ‘Deliver to Me’ options, leveraging geo-location services like those that Uber does, to avoid the need for specific street addresses.

BizcommunityDoes TFG offer free shipping?

Free shipping is offered to all shoppers who spend over R500 and opt for standard delivery.

BizcommunityIs TFG able to offer overnight, one-day, or even same-day delivery across South Africa?

TFG offers overnight delivery services to all but our outlying areas. We are looking at same-day delivery for the metropolitan areas of Cape Town and Johannesburg as a service for next year, but it really depends on product availability to get this right.

BizcommunityDo TFG customers have to pay for express delivery?

Yes. Petrol and warehousing are expensive in South Africa and these costs are increasing. We pass on some of this cost to our customer and absorb some of it ourselves, as a value added service. As a responsible retailer, we offer innovative delivery options, but the faster and more urgent it is, the more expensive it is.

BizcommunityWhich is most popular – same day delivery at a cost, or delayed but free?

South African customers are aligned to their international brothers and sisters. They expect an entry-level free shipping option and are unlikely to shop fashion online if there is no free returns policy. They do not mind waiting a few days for free delivery. However, they definitely want the option to pay extra if they need something in a hurry.

BizcommunityDo you offer shoppers the opportunity to specify the day and time of delivery, rather than accept the usual ‘some time’ that day option?

We believe that anything that can make life easier and more convenient for our customers should be introduced, so are currently monitoring a test in this regard.

BizcommunityDoes TFG offer customers live tracking and live chat communication to enable them to follow every step of the process?

Customers can track orders very simply with TFG. Just plug in the order number on the home page of our sites to check the status. We also send email and SMS communication throughout the journey to ensure our customers are up to date.

BizcommunityHow important is the returns process?

An easy returns process is critical for apparel specifically, encouraging a customer to buy online, even if they aren’t 100% sure of the fit.

BizcommunityHow is TFG making returns faster and painless?

TFG returns are free and we allow our customers to return their parcel to the physical store for an immediate refund, or call the courier to collect at the customer’s convenience. We are exploring innovations to see if we can implement efficiencies to make this even more convenient for our customers.

BizcommunityDo customers generally prefer to drop off returns in-store, or courier collection?

Most of our city based customers prefer to return to the stores, while our customers in outlying areas always opt for courier returns.