UK online retailers have scored considerably higher than their German counterparts in the realm of free shipping and express delivery, according to research conducted by ParcelLab.

72% of UK firms offer express delivery services compared to Germany's 40%, while free shipping is offered by 65% of UK retailers versus only 38% in Germany.

This may be in part due to 'the Amazon effect' in the UK – where 91% of shoppers use Amazon versus 56% globally. This has led to an associated increase in customer expectations in terms of fast, reliable and cheap/free delivery and returns, frictionless commerce, personalisation of experience, and a wide range of products available alongside detailed information relating to each item.

In the UK it's very common for customers to have the option to return items bought online in store (79% of shops), however in Germany only 10% offer this service. On the other hand, 90% of German shops offer free returns compared to just 61% in the UK.

Germany also scores better than the UK in other areas, such as the wide availability of parcel shop collection as a delivery option, as well as transparency over carriers used, and the selection of these available for shoppers to choose from.

The research highlights the potential for improvement in the customer experience in both countries – something that is key for retailers operating in the increasingly competitive e-commerce landscape. Barriers to entry are considerably lower online, shopping around is commonplace, and the threat of Amazon is ever-prominent. However, those offering a quality customer experience at each stage of the sales journey – from initial online search through to final delivery – will be rewarded with valuable repeat purchases.