As consumers continue to shop online at an increasing rate, due both to the impacts of the coronavirus and convenience, experts have warned retailers will face unprecedented shipping challenges as the holiday season quickly approaches. The expectation, in fact, is that retailers will not be able to ship at a rate that will meet consumer needs or fill the demand.
According to Greg Smith, executive vice president of claims at Berkley Asset Protection, an influx in delivery delays occurred due to a significant increase in the daily volume of packages shipped locally and globally during the pandemic. Volume, however, is not the only issue.
Shippers are also holding packages in possession for a much longer period of time which increases the opportunity for losses and makes it difficult for the sender to follow up and confirm delivery with the recipient. And at the same time, shipping companies have stopped obtaining signatures upon delivery in an effort to keep the public and its employees safe in accordance with social distancing guidelines.
“COVID-19 and the safety measures that the shipping carriers have to adhere to in order to continue to deliver packages and the increase in volume,” said Smith, are the root cause of delivery delays.
Smith noted that due to signature requirements not being enforced in the same manner they were pre-pandemic, especially on high-value packages, there has been a notable increase in lost and stolen packages as well as fraudulent claims that packages were not received resulting in refunds and product loss.
“The lack of signatures during COVID-19 is opening opportunities for a number of issues to develop,” said Smith. “Theft from the door and no accountability on delivery. It is hard to determine who is stealing these packages. There needs to be an “electronic handshake” of sorts that confirms delivery. I envision [technology] that connects the recipient to the driver and electronically provides a signature once the package is delivered to the proper person. The key is having the actual recipient of the package present and acknowledge the delivery, while still adhering to social-distancing guidelines.”
And USPS shipping has been under specific struggles as it undergoes challenges with federal budgets and staffing issues. According to Smith, these challenges have resulted in slow and delayed delivery.
“Normal turnaround time is not being met,” said Smith. “It is important to give the clients reasonable expectations. [Retailers should] be mindful of the increased volume during the general election as well as the holidays.”
Moreover, international shipping delays are also causing supply chain and manufacturing delays for product deliveries by retailers. According to Smith, many of Berkley Asset Protection’s customers have seen a delay in obtaining materials and goods needed to manufacture and fulfill orders.
To be prepared for the holiday shopping season and ensure timely delivery to customers, Smith told WWD it is important that retailers “establish a holiday shipping plan as early as possible and maintain a shipping log.”
This planning, said Smith, should include, “having dedicated staff that handles shipping; this includes packing and tracking the shipment and calling the customer to confirm delivery, communicating clearly with the customers around shipping terms and dates, sending the client the tracking number and asking them to make sure they are home for the delivery, and identifying and reporting any missing packages as soon as possible, the quicker they are reported the more likely they can be recovered.”
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