How retailers can prepare for carrier disruption this winter

Elissa Quinby
30 January, 23

The recent news that Royal Mail workers are set to hold strike action during the peak postal build-up to Christmas means that deliveries in December will be plunged into chaos. Workers walked out on Black Friday, one of the year’s busiest shopping dates and six dates have been planned for December, right up until Christmas Eve.

Shipping delays are a headache for retailers, but also significantly increase consumer’s frustrations, which can trigger a drop in retention, resulting in revenue losses.

At a time when consumers are increasingly cautious with their spending due to economic uncertainty, building a positive experience for brand interactions is paramount and part of this is tackling delivery disruption head-on. This can be achieved by offering real-time customer alerts, promoting hybrid shopping and diversifying shipping options.

Encouraging hybrid shopping to avoid delivery issues

One way retailers can make an impact is by encouraging click-and-collect – a more cost-effective method than shipping products, with the bonus of driving new revenue by bringing in foot traffic. It’s also fast and convenient for consumers, eliminating the risk of missed deliveries.

To incentivise hybrid shopping, retailers can offer personalised deals and discounts, unique perks via loyalty programmes, or cut fulfilment time to hours rather than days. As in-store traffic rises, it’s vital to take an omnichannel approach to customer insights by understanding how the digital experience (DX) translates when people get to the shop. For example, online customer journey metrics may look strong, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean the brick-and-mortar experience is seamless. If people are confronted with long click-and-collect queues, they’re unlikely to use the service again, even if their DX was friction-free.

By looking at the big picture, retailers empathise and take action to ensure the end-to-end shopping experience is smooth. This is where gathering data from customer surveys and building dashboards to correlate order volume with staffing and wait time come into play.

Expanding delivery partnerships

To prevent external shipping carrier issues impacting retailers, diversification is key, as  relying on a single carrier is too risky if they experience a loss of service. By broadening partnerships to include multiple carriers, merchants have significantly more flexibility to switch to another carrier if one is unable to fulfil delivery.

Businesses should also consider investing in their own outbound logistics, as an alternative to traditional third-party shipping services and this provides more control over the delivery process.

As retailers continue to see a steady increase in online sales, shipping delays become even more impactful on the customer experience, retention rate, and revenue.

Taking real-time action

Regardless of shipping partners retailers choose, there’s still a chance customers will experience issues. Data from our recent consumer shopping habits survey revealed that 67% of Brits had at least one package ‘ghosted’ – severely delayed or lost – in the last year.

Retailers should stay connected with their customers and take responsibility for communicating delivery timelines, especially with the festive season approaching. This can be achieved by alerting shoppers about shipping estimates and activity at each critical moment in their purchasing journey, from the moment they click on a product to check out, plus each point after the item leaves the facility.

As budgets tighten and delivery disruptions are on the horizon, retailers should also provide easy access to post-purchase support such providing a warranty, providing the right accessories to expand usage. Combined, these types of communication help people feel more informed, minimising frustration and cultivating long-term loyalty.

Taking these collective steps will help retailers mitigate the risk of delivery issues and prepare for upcoming carrier disruption. Improving customer communication, looking for alternative shipping means and solidifying omnichannel experiences are all mitigating factors that can take away customer pain points.

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