Data Insights And Consumer Research Reveal COVID-19’s Impact On Retail

Convey's CGO, Kirsten Newbold-Knipp, shares data and consumer research on shifting shopper preferences due to COVID-19

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has changed the retail landscape. Labor shortages and the inability to transport items sent the upstream supply chain spiraling, causing a bullwhip effect downstream. Meanwhile, as shoppers quarantined themselves and physical retail locations closed, eCommerce orders surged while fulfillment times lagged.


In this video, Kirsten Newbold-Knipp, Convey’s Chief Growth Officer, goes over the trends that Convey has seen from its 3 billion+ shipping events, and she talks about shifting customer attitudes due to the changes in this unprecedented time.

This video is a segment from an on-demand webinar, ‘It’s Not A Disaster: Solidifying Customer Loyalty During Ecommerce Supply Chain Shocks,” co-hosted by APL, CEVA, Kustomer, and Thankful. Listen to the full on-demand webinar by clicking the link to the right, and read on to learn what trends and impacts we’ve seen from COVID-19 on retail so far.


“The data that I’m going to share here, is data that is pulling across all of Convey’s enterprise customers. And what you’ll see is that across hundreds of billions of events and tens of millions of shipments, you actually see a couple of major trends, and one is that fulfillment time is increasing.”

Why Convey  Has Seen Parcel And Freight Fulfillment Times Increase In The Last Month

“Some of that is due to what Rhonda just said, right? Inventory isn’t there. So they’re actually taking time to wait for inventory. In other cases, it may be that they’re actually trying to reshuffle things. We’re looking to figure out what trucks can I get this on outbound because they’re struggling with capacity or backhaul. So we’ve seen parcel fulfillment times go up and freight fulfillment time go up even more. Now, one of the categories that’s been doing well interestingly is patio furniture and home improvement. Most of those are freight or LTL in terms of their delivery to a consumer. So you can imagine how people who are doing home improvement or trying to spend time in the yard, might be seeing some issues in terms of the delivery that they’re experiencing.”

B2B And DTC eCommerce Brands See Rise In Exceptions

“One other unique thing that we hadn’t anticipated, but makes total sense, and it’s something you guys should be thinking about if you do a lot of B2B shipments: We had 134% spike in return to sender exceptions in the first week of shelter in place. It has since gone down, but it’s still trending at nearly double what returned to sender normal is. And that might be because you were supposed to ship me something at work. I’m not at work or I was going to go on a trip and I’m not in the location where I thought it was going to be, et cetera. Maybe even people are rejecting deliveries because of signature issues. So we’ll talk a little bit later about what you can do and what, delivery companies and retailers are doing to avoid some of those things.”

Consumer Research Data Reveals New Customer Expectations In Light Of COVID-19

“It’s really important to know that there is a lot going on out there. The second set of data that I want to be able to share with you is from a different lens. All of this is happening upstream and it’s impacting what happens to consumers. So let’s talk about what consumers are thinking about this. We did a survey of a thousand consumers that came in last week. So the data is really fresh. It’s very much, you know, how they’re changing in this kind of post-COVID, but also during COVID world, what I can’t say is, will this be the exact behavior going forward?

So we’ll debate that a little bit in the later section here. But you know, if you keep trying to send out orders, consumers have always wanted delivery date estimates early in their buying journey and it’s more important than ever. Almost 100% say it’s important to get a delivery date estimate, right? It’ll be here in five days, or 20 that may make a purchasing decision choice for me.

They also want you to communicate frequently, right? More communication is better than less. And I think we can all attest to the fact that when something is uncertain, we’d rather be reassured. We’d rather have you communicate more frequently. And if you don’t communicate when there is a delay, they’re less likely to convert. About 70% say they won’t come back. So when it comes to this, thinking about customer loyalty and how can you make yourself stronger in this time, now is the time to double down on treating your customers right.”

Consumers Still Want Flexibility In eCommerce Fulfillment Options

“The last couple of data points, and this is one where I personally think behaviors will change in the long term too, is around flexibility. First is that a lot of consumers are saying, yeah, I’d like to do BOPIS (BOPIS stands for ‘Buy Online Pick-Up In Store) or I’d like to pick up curbside. I’d like another option, which makes a lot of sense right now. And I think it could be habit-forming.”

Slow And Steady Wins The Last Mile Delivery Race (For Now)

“And then the last piece and the good news here as well, a little bit of a silver lining. Consumers are being pretty forgiving. 95% said they’re willing to give retailers more time to deliver items, right? When we even see behemoths like an Amazon struggling to maintain their delivery windows, we as consumers recognize that things are not behaving as usual. And so we saw folks generally say things that used to come in one to two days, it would be acceptable to come in four to five days, some even as late as six to seven days. The key message here is be transparent. Communicate with your customers, and give them options if you can.”

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp; Chief Growth Officer, Convey
Kirsten Newbold-Knipp
Chief Growth Officer, Convey