The Nightmare (of Failed Delivery) Before Christmas

And how to avoid it.

This year more people than ever will order Christmas gifts online. In an ideal world, people would be so organised that they’d have all their gifts ordered weeks in advance, but of course, this is not the reality for most. The great mantle of responsibility of delivering the perfect Christmas depends, not on a man in a red suit, but on a well-oiled delivery machine that can take the weight of the frenzy that is last-minute Christmas shopping.

All of this can lead to a perfect storm and the possibility for leaving customers empty-handed at Christmas due to errors. Every year, brands get called out across social media by disgruntled customers who didn’t receive their products on time.

Failed deliveries cost 1.6 billion a year

Failed deliveries are a retailer’s worst nightmare at any time of year, costing an eye-watering £1.6bn. This figure alone demonstrates the obvious importance for retailers to get their delivery processes right and provide their customers with a contextual and seamless delivery experience. The cost to brands at Christmas however, is much greater. At this time of year, the expectation is so much higher and the fallout much more impactful in terms of brand loyalty. This is particularly true when we remember that consumers are often choosing online ordering because it’s one less thing to worry about, which, when well executed is a gift in itself to busy customers.

What shoppers want from Delivery.

A great shopping experience is everything for the digitally empowered customer and the future of delivery relies upon successful customer experiences. Breaking down barriers and providing a frictionless delivery experience plays a vital part of the customer experience. So what exactly do consumers consider to be a good delivery experience?

The first thing that should be understood is that a good delivery experience is contextual. What you or I see as ideal may not suit somebody else. It’s important to understand the real needs of customers.

To achieve this, clear communication from is absolutely key. The volume of deliveries at this time of year will have all retailers under pressure to process and deliver every order. Clearly communicating Christmas order deadlines is an extremely important starting point in terms of managing expectation, but it is also imperative that retailers deliver on their promises to make those deliveries prior to Christmas.

Overpromising is your enemy.

Special offers are all well and good, but if you get the delivery wrong, the customer experience is ruined. Your capacity for order fulfilment needs to be ramped up to meet the delivery demands of Christmas.

You need to be 100% confident that your delivery management platform, as well as your warehouse operations, partners and carriers are as reliable and efficient as possible. You need to ensure you have the staffing and inventory to support heavy demands. If everything isn’t in place to meet the increase in demand, it can put fulfilment in jeopardy. 

Shoppers prefer for their orders to arrive when they expect rather than be promised Next Day Delivery only for the package to not materialise. It is important not to offer it if you can’t fulfil it.

Speed is not everything.

At this time of year, rapid delivery is all the more essential for consumers. Amazon Prime Day sets the annual pace for speedy delivery, but this is reinforced with the Black Friday/Cyber Monday end of year period. To add to this, Amazon has raised the bar even higher, with the announcement of One-Day delivery for Prime members this holiday season.

Not every retailer can match this kind of speed, but it is most important for brands to be clear on this and to deliver on what can be achieved rather than promise a next day delivery that arrives late.

Retailers should also aim to create direct and meaningful connections with customers offering consistent and trustworthy post-purchase tracking communications. 

With high levels of orders in a short space of time, it will be those who are utilising automation like AI and chatbots to increase efficiency and productivity to cope best with the pressures of Christmas orders and ensure a smooth experience from ordering to delivery.

Pick-up options.

Lastly, empowering the consumer by providing them with as many delivery options as possible, can make a huge difference to the experience. The convenience of being able to select a new address post-order, or to pick up from a designated collection point can be just as beneficial for the busy holiday shopper, if not more so than a next day delivery that arrives at an empty house. 

At the last minute, it may not be possible to guarantee a home delivery will make it in time. The Click and Collect option of buying online and picking up in-store is gaining popularity and is a great alternative to next day delivery, offering speed and convenience to the customer who can access their goods the day after ordering. It offers peace of mind and a great way to build brand loyalty.

Another bonus to this strategy is the likelihood of fewer returns. For eCommerce companies processing returns is not just a headache but an expensive one too, with UK shoppers returning £7 billion of purchases every year. Customers who pick up instore, have the chance to inspect their goods on the spot, with the opportunity to return or exchange there and then if necessary, which decreases the return rate and can save retailers on reverse logistics. For both parties, this is a win-win solution.

Of course, for some customers this will not be an appealing option and want the ease and convenience that online shopping/home delivery brings. It is imperative that retailers make that experience easy and convenient or you may lose them forever. Poor delivery experiences are the leading source of poor online reviews

The real danger and potential cost of failed deliveries at Christmas lies in reputational damage to your brand if customers feel let down. Customers will lay the blame at the retailer and not the carrier or the weather or any other factor. On the other hand, if you can deliver on your promise you could gain a trusting and loyal customer base for Christmas and all year round.

Takeaways for retailers.

The two most important takeaways for online retailers this holiday season.

  1. Communicate Christmas delivery deadlines and keep customers informed with post-purchase customer communication.
  2. Provide flexibility on delivery and pick-up options to provide the most convenience to shoppers.

Retailers that have a solid approach to both will have a significant advantage over their competitors. Good luck and may all your Christmas eCommerce deliveries be delivered on the first attempt!

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