Did you keep your delivery promise during Peak Season?
What you can learn from shipaggedon
No one wants to provide customers with a bad experience. Especially ecommerce sellers who pride themselves on a seamless delivery experience. But faced with all the challenges Peak 2020 threw at you, did you keep your delivery promise to your customers?
Breathe. You got through it.
We’ve wrapped up our review of Peak 2020 internally and wanted to share data and findings we’ve collected from the industry, plus our own learnings. See how we helped our sellers prepare, prevent issues from occurring and navigate through them as they arose.
Summary (in a rush - head to the end for full findings):
- 15 questions you need to ask yourself about your Peak 2020
- How being transparent helps you retain customers
- How a major retailer failed its customers during Peak 2020
How did you perform?
As you review your Peak 2020 performance, what have you learnt? What could you have done differently?
Put yourself in your customers shoes, would you be happy with the service you received? Did you keep your promise to customers?
Record breaking period
Peak 2020 was the busiest period in the history of e-commerce. The value of internet retail sales in the UK was up 80% to £3.25 billion in November 2020 compared with £1.81 billion in Nov 2019*.
In the past few weeks there has been some staggering data released by carriers on the number of parcels that travelled through their networks. The huge increase in volume was to tightened COVID-19 restrictions on the high street during November 2020 that expedited permanent changes in the way customers shop.
Huge increases in carrier capacity
Peak saw the cumulation of a ramp up in capacity for all the major carriers, with numbers of parcels increasing dramatically compared to Peak 2019.
Hermes delivered their 5 year expansion plans in 5 MONTHS and delivered 72 million parcels between Black Friday and Christmas Eve compared to 42 million in the same period in 2019**. Yodel delivered over 27 million parcels during Peak 2020, up almost 40% from 2019***.
But even with a ramp up in capacity it wasn’t all plain sailing. Carriers started implementing stricter terms of service during Peak, as they tried to manage the huge increase in demand.
Reduced carrier flexibility and performance
Carriers capped numbers of parcels with no flexibility on collection times. Carriers often arrived off schedule both early and late, which caused congestion inside and outside warehouses, as parcels and vans stacked up.
Carriers were missing collections completely on some days with no warning, so parcels were left waiting in the goods out section adding further congestion and delays. Additionally, carriers struggling with overcapacity were cancelling collections at short notice and even returning orders they had just collected as they couldn’t manage the capacity.
As an ecommerce seller, carrier issues weren’t the only issues that you faced during this time.
The perfect storm
A global shortage of shipping containers and packaging. A lack of warehousing space as e-commerce sellers filled racks ahead of Peak and stockpiled as a result of uncertainty around Brexit. Oh and a pandemic putting employee health rightly at the forefront of all your business priorities but adding additional complexities.
All exacerbated further by higher customer expectations than ever before as free, fast delivery and returns became the norm.
Shipping delays, warehouse space, packaging shortages
Low availability of shipping containers meant that receiving stock became more complex, took longer and was more expensive. Resulting in squeezed margins, missed forecasts, stock outs and key products going on backorder for e-commerce sellers in the run up and during the busiest season of the year.
It’s important for products not to go on back order, as this causes further delays and additional pressure for the customers as many of these are presents for loved ones.
Warehouse space and resources were stretched further in the build up to Peak 2020 due to e-commerce sellers stockpiling for an uncertain Brexit. This was further compounded by social distancing measures in the warehouse adding time to processes.
So even if you were prepared and did get stock to the warehouses in advance, there were issues and delays to get stock booked in and on the racks ready to fulfil orders.
These issues and delays reduce the time the warehouse team has to familiarise themselves with the products. This time is crucial as this allows the team to quickly and accurately pick the orders when they are received.
A shortage of packaging meant for some e-commerce sellers, even if you’d negotiated all the aforementioned issues, orders weren’t able to go out as they needed the correct packaging to ensure they didn’t get damaged in transit. Before and during Peak 2020 it was taking three weeks to source packaging that would usually take two days.
Updated customers are happier customers
As you can see, challenges arose which were out of the control of e-commerce sellers, fulfilment providers and carriers. But were you transparent with customers? Could you provide accurate updates as they occurred? Could issues have been handled better?
Customers do understand the challenges and many are willing to accept hiccups and delays in orders, if they are informed and updated before and after the buy button. Especially if this is mirrored on the website, in the confirmation emails, in automated customer service emails, on socials etc.
No one likes being kept in the dark, and no one is happy when things could have been handled better.
This is echoed in a report by Sprout Social, which states that 89% of respondents were willing to give brands a second chance if they were transparent about the steps it will take to resolve the issue****.
As published on the 13th of December 2020 in the Independent, you only have to see how damaging a poor delivery experience can be to a brand's reputation by reading the backlash from their issues from switching purely to online sales, after lockdown restrictions forced their stores to close during November 2020*****. This has seen IKEA’s Trustpilot score nose dive in the last two months to 1.6 stars. With thousands of reviews from customers who’ve spent hundreds of pounds (plus extra for delivery), and can’t get a hold of anyone for an update on their orders via phone or email.
That's why at Bezos.ai we are fully transparent with our sellers as soon as issues arise so they can notify their customers ASAP. Our platform provides sellers with visibility of stock levels and actionable insights into order velocity, so they can prevent stock outs and orders going on back order.
By updating our sellers in real-time they can flex and adjust based on the order velocity they are currently experiencing. So if there are carrier issues due to high demand, they can dynamically change cut off times, switch carriers, change delivery service and checkout delivery options.
Keeping the delivery promise, improving the customer experience and ensuring delays are minimised.
Did your fulfilment provider help you before and during Peak?
Asking the right questions and evaluations of your Peak forecasting will help you better prepare and react to the external challenges. To help you effectively evaluate your Peak 2020 performance, we have compiled a list of questions that could have helped to prevent or reduce the impact of the factors outside your control:
- Were you asked by your fulfilment provider for sales forecasts?
- Did your fulfilment provider advise you of warehouse limitations (check in times, storage space)?
- Did your fulfilment provider ask you to make sure all your products, boxes, SKU’s were correctly labeled?
- Did you make sure all your inventory was booked well in advance?
- Did your fulfilment provider confirm all products had a defined location in the warehouse to minimise the chance of mispicks/mistakes?
- Did you ensure packaging was capable of handling forecasted orders and more?
- Did your fulfilment provider recommend pre bundling in advance?
- Were you recommended to update your website delivery promises?
- Did they recommend the most reliable carriers to use during Peak?
- Did your fulfilment provider advise you of the carriers with the services most suitable to the demands of Peak (levels of tracking, insurance, delivery slots)?
- Did your fulfilment provider provide you with real-time data on carriers during Peak 2020?
- Was your fulfilment provider transparent when things went wrong?
- Did your fulfilment provider proactively inform you when an order was delayed or lost?
- Could you provide clarity to customers in real-time?
- Would dynamically switching your cut off times, changing carriers, delivery service and checkout delivery options helped you keep your customer promise?
If you weren’t asked these questions before or kept updated in real-time during Peak, could these simple changes have helped improve your brands reputation? And if you kept your promise to customers during Peak, how would this have affected revenue then and in the future?