2020 has been unlike any year before it due to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, and this year’s holiday shopping season is no exception. Businesses have already seen a massive increase in e-commerce delivery and the upcoming holidays will only compound the effect. In fact, 75% of consumers say they’ll do at least some of their holiday shopping online this year (up from 65% in 2019) and 43% plan to shop online exclusively.
Analysts are forecasting a huge spike in orders and predicting a “Shipageddon” situation with a 3- to 5-times increase in shipments this holiday season. Businesses and delivery services alike are bracing for this unprecedented influx in demand, with UPS and FedEx stretched thin and informing some of their shippers that they have already reached most of their capacity. As a result, up to 7 million packages could face delays each day between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Getting deliveries to customers quickly and accurately will be a crucial advantage for retailers this holiday season. However, the last mile is the most complex link in the delivery chain. In order to succeed, finding a balance between speed, efficiency and cost-effectiveness is key. Fortunately, retailers who begin preparing for the holidays today will be able to reap the rewards.
Here are a few ways to dive in:
Take action now
Don’t wait for things to “slow down” – get started as soon as you can. While states are restricting the number of people allowed to shop in stores in many states, these consumers haven’t put their lives and holiday shopping on hold as well. Shoppers are choosing their brands and providers today and will continue these relationships even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. We’ve seen a permanent change in buying behavior, so waiting to take action will only hurt businesses and put them behind their competitors. Luckily, businesses have several options available to help them out with their shipping needs. In the past, last mile delivery software was complex and required logistics and delivery know-how. However, new technology can handle the heavy lifting and get contract workers, local couriers and internal employees up and running in real time. More than ever during the holidays, customers expect deliveries to happen quickly and on time. Research has found that customers can blame retailers for poor delivery experiences, even if the retailer wasn’t responsible, so ensuring efficient, correct delivery of your retail goods now will align to shoppers’ high expectations and keep them satisfied during the holiday season and beyond.
Align internal tools and teams
The holidays are stressful enough already for retailers, so making sure to coordinate all internal resources in advance will save businesses headaches down the line. Ensure that your website is ready to handle an influx in order volume, that there are security measures in place for accepting digital payments and that your supply chain is ready to provide inventory as soon as products are requested. Most importantly, make sure that your customers have easy options to receive your products. Many shoppers aren’t comfortable shopping in stores right now and are selecting delivery or contactless pickup as their preferred methods to receive items, so not having these options available could dramatically impact your bottom line. Even if you haven’t done delivery in the past, technology can help you ramp up internal employees or contract workers in real time, so you’ll be prepared to handle delivery requests.
Guarantee a seamless customer experience
The rise of two-day deliveries and advanced tracking tools have increased customer expectations, and most shoppers now expect full visibility on the status of their order. The instant consumers purchase a product, they want to know exactly where the package is, the estimated delivery date and if any delays are anticipated. A positive customer experience and setting expectations are key to ensuring their loyalty. However, with the already unprecedented influx in delivery orders, FedEx has started sending out notices of possible delays and adding peak season fees. To help ensure happy customers that receive their products on time, many retailers have started to take on their own deliveries. If you do choose to power your own deliveries, make sure to set realistic customer expectations. For example, if you don’t think you’ll be able to follow-through on same-day or two-day shipping, it is better to offer an honest timeline, so the customer isn’t disappointed. Also, make sure that drivers are able to contact the customer when they are in the field making deliveries to reduce the threat of lost or stolen packages. Shopper loyalty is a result of a positive customer experience, and letting them down may result in customers that never return.
Leverage powerful tools
Many small businesses used to rely on manual delivery tracking and input, which was cumbersome, prone to error and time consuming. Fortunately, last-mile delivery software technology has advanced rapidly in recent years. While selecting a solution may feel overwhelming, in the end it can only help your business this holiday season and beyond. Taking advantage of these powerful tools is easier and more cost efficient than relying on a third party or handling everything manually, and end-to-end delivery tools can be up and running in no time. When looking for a last-mile delivery solution, make sure that it meets your company’s individual needs. Many tools provide real-time information on how drivers are performing, delivery status and how deliveries are impacting your businesses so you can make any adjustments as you go to ensure everything is running as efficiently as possible.
The holiday season is upon us, but it isn’t too late to prepare. By taking action now, ensuring you’ll be ready for the influx of orders and having the right tools on hand to help customers receive their products on time, you can avoid “ Shipageddon” and keep your customers satisfied during the holidays and beyond.