Holiday Delivery Trends: How To Guard Against Disappointment

As we enter the home stretch of the holiday season, Convey has been keeping an eye on delivery trends over the last four weeks, since the season’s official kickoff on Thanksgiving. Recent news indicates a disappointment in the customer delivery experience as eCommerce orders rose above traditional levels, yet carriers and retailers struggled to keep up.

Not all is lost however, here are some steps retailers and shoppers can take to curb expectations and prevent disappointment in the final days of holiday shopping.


Delivery Surges Lead to Negative Customer Experiences

Over the last four weeks the percentage of shipments with carrier-reported issues has steadily increased from 7.6% the week of Thanksgiving to 12.5% to the week of Dec. 9. While last week we saw a drop to 10.4%, it is signififcant that roughly 1 in 10 shoppers is currently experiencing an issue. This coincides directly with the increase in negative delivery feedback consumers have shared with carriers and retailers.

Reducing the impact of these issues on the customer experience is imperative for retailers. Our research has found that 70% of shoppers are likely to not return to a retailer after a poor delivery experience; meanwhile Dropoff reported last week that 94% of customers will blame the retailer when things go wrong and not the carrier. Despite the majority of shipments continuing to go off without a hitch, the hundreds of millions of packages in-transit this holiday season mean the loyalty of just as many customers is at risk.

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Delays Are the Primary Customer Complaint

This year we’ve seen shoppers become increasingly more demanding of the shipping experience. The most visible example is the extent to which shoppers are unforgiving of delivery delays. Since the holiday season officially began this year, delays have overtaken missing packages as the leading customer complaint.

Shipping delays are currently averaging about one- to -two days. With last Saturday having been the deadline for three- to five-day ground delivery, retailers need to take extra care this week to inform shoppers on their delivery options, as it’s risky for shoppers to choose non-expedited delivery options and expect to receive it by Christmas Eve given the currently expected delays. If retailers don’t properly set expectations, we could see a spike in inquiries from concerned shoppers as Christmas approaches.

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Steps Retailers Can Take to Defeat Disappointment

There are a few measures retailers can take to ensure positive customer experiences over the holidays:

  1. Set expectations early.

    While 90+% of shipments are arriving on time, delays averaging one to two days are occurring more frequently. Retailers must communicate this unfortunate reality early in the checkout and delivery experience to encourage concerned shoppers to choose an expedited shipping option, while also setting reasonable expectations for those who choose standard shipping.

  2. Over communicate.

    Customer complaints about delays regularly occur, despite packages being delivered within the appropriate delivery timeline. If a delay occurs early in the fulfillment process, retailers should expedite the shopper’s package to ensure delivery still meets the service level agreement committed to at the time of purchase. Additionally, retailers should put in extra effort to be as explicit as possible, reiterating expected timelines throughout the purchase journey. Retailers could opt to use delivery date ranges instead of shipping jargon to clearly communicate with shoppers when a package is expected to arrive.

  3. Address issues proactively.

    Damages and delays happen. Consumers understand that. What they don’t understand is when nothing is done to make it right. Retailers should monitor shipments for damages made in-transit and proactively send a replacement to ensure no one has a gift-less holiday. Furthermore, if an item wasn’t delivered within the committed delivery time, retailers should acknowledge the poor experience and refund the shipping cost.

How Shoppers Can Minimize Disappointment

While many retailers are taking steps to ensure a positive delivery experience, the world is not yet perfect. The good news? There are a few steps consumers can follow to ensure they aren’t left gift-less.

  1. Give your order a few days’ buffer.

    We know from our data that delayed shipments are, on average, only late by a little more than a day. Give your order an extra one or two days on top of the shipping estimate to ensure delays do not impact your Christmas morning. This is especially important as recent storms and surges in shipment volume have caused delays to spike.

  2. Understand your shipping service selection.

    Most standard delivery options are business day delivery estimates meaning your three to five day delivery option ordered on a Friday or Saturday is most likely to arrive between the following Wednesday and Friday. While this nuance might not be a big deal the rest of the year, stakes are much higher when you need an item before your holiday travel or before Christmas morning.

  3. Sign up for SMS notifications.

    Unsuccessful delivery attempts are the number one carrier reported issue and often result in perceived delays. This exception type or issue occurs when a shipment requires someone to accept it. SMS notifications will update you when your shipment is in your area and out for delivery, so you can make sure to be available when it arrives. Additionally, 40% of customer-reported issues over the Thanksgiving weekend were related to a package being noted as “delivered,” but not actually received by the customer. By ensuring you are home for delivery you can help combat potential theft issues. If you are unable to be available to receive a delivery and the option is available, consider having your items delivered to a secure package locker or held at the delivery terminal.

  4. Track your package regularly.

    While the detailed exception codes can be very confusing, look for keywords such as “damage” or “unable to deliver.” Surprisingly, most retailers today are unaware when damages or other catastrophic events (like trailer fires) occur in transit. If you see these codes, contact the retailer’s customer service department right away to investigate. It is likely that your package will be returned to sender even if the status still reads “In-Transit.” The earlier the issue is caught the faster you can be sent a replacement. Similarly, phrases like “incorrect address” can signal missing customer data. If you see address issues, contact the retailer or the carrier immediately to resolve the issue before your package gets sent back to the retailer’s warehouse.

Interested in learning more about what you can do to ward off delivery disappointment year round? Shoot us a message and we can analyze your organization’s top issues to identify the most impactful areas you can improve the customer experience.

See more of our on-going holiday coverage:

Carriers and Shoppers Disagree on the Delivery Experience

Shoppers Give Feedback on Thanksgiving Shopping Weekend Deliveries