Package Stuck on a Boat? Keep Customers Calm Despite Shipping Delays

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Jun 15, 2021

Remember a shipping boat called the Evergreen and how it blocked the Suez Canal (and thus about 10% of the global trade network) for almost a week?

This was a piece of global news, a complete disruption of the global economy, and caused billions of dollars in losses every day. And it wasn’t just shipping magnates and economists that were obsessing over the news—it was all Twitter could talk about for days.

And while this was a serious event that spurred thousands of memes while causing delays in supply chains around the world, this isn’t a new issue in the supply chain realm. OK, maybe not to this extent (it’s not every day that one boat can cause $400 million in economic damage every hour), but it’s not uncommon for packages to be delayed for days or weeks.

According to a study by the Inspector General, about 17% of mail volume is delayed. That’s almost one in five packages arriving later than expected. While the Evergreen boat may have seemed like a once-in-a-blue-moon situation, package delays are an unpleasant (and often frustrating) reality.

In the end, package delays cost retailers some serious dough. Every year, delayed packages cost both the consumer and the retailer about $2 billion. The coronavirus pandemic coupled with an increasingly busy holiday shopping season showed everyone just how tumultuous shipping delays could be in 2020. Delays shot up between 50–100% during the holiday season as a result of increased online shopping.

Plus, those hefty costs aren’t just a one-time financial hit. Delayed packages make your customers less likely to return. In fact, about 30% of consumers said that they’re “much less likely” to return to a brand when they’ve experienced a delay in shipment. Diminished loyalty can be a devastating loss to your brand, and that loss is only amplified when you realize acquiring a new customer can be five times more costly than retaining an existing one.

On top of lost revenue and lost customers, shipping delays can be a common cause for lost reputation. Even though a ship getting stuck in the Suez is not your fault, it can still lead to sour feelings and a negative review of your products and your post-purchase experience. Forty-six percent of negative reviews are associated with shipping, but the good news is that there are ways you can salvage the situation.

While your store can’t always ensure shipping and fulfillment flow smoothly, you can control the experience your customers have when delays happen. From transparency to effortless claims filing, getting the goods to your customers can still be a memorable experience, stuck ship or not. 

Do Shipping Delays Truly Affect Customer Experiences?

You may be asking, “Does it really impact my ecommerce brand if people’s stuff is delayed, especially if it’s for reasons like the big boat is stuck?” Who gives a ship, right? 

The answer is a resounding “Heck yeah!” Even when things happen that are out of anybody’s control, customers expect you, dear shipper, to take responsibility and make things right. This means that even if delivery trucks get raptured into the sky, packages are sucked down into sinkholes, or entire shipping containers are stranded on a barge thousands of miles away, 94% of customers will still blame the ecommerce brand when shipping delays crop up.  

When packages face delay, the quality of the customer experience nosedives—fast. More than half of customers expect a discount or full refund when shipments are delayed, which comes as no shock since most consumers rank guaranteed shipping dates above even free shipping.

Since the post-purchase experience is considered the most memorable part of the customer journey by 40% of shoppers—a percentage that’s only growing—it’s dire that online sellers put strategies in place that can quickly and thoughtfully repair shipping problems.

Without a post-purchase plan in place for when delays, loss, or theft happens, ecommerce stores risk dinging long-term loyalty, repeat customer rates, and more. After a bad delivery experience, more than 80% of shoppers are unlikely to buy from that brand again. If shipping problems are left to fester, online merchants risk:

  • Losing customers due to a bad experience a breaking trust.
  • Losing internal resources left to answer endless “Where is my order?” inquiries.
  • Losing revenue by continuously spending more to acquire new customers than retain existing ones.

Route Helps Online Sellers Fend off Shipping Pitfalls

Post-purchase platforms like Route may not be able to dislodge megaton cargo ships from one of the most globally important trade canals on the planet, but they do offer a variety of solutions to mitigate the negative ramifications or everyday shipping delays. When delays happen, the entire customer experience hinges on transparency, care, and support throughout the post-purchase phase. 

Repairing shipping problems isn’t the easiest task—especially if events are out of your control. But this is a great test to turn pitfalls into golden opportunities. It’s a chance to show your brand to customers in a new light as one that cares and customers can trust. And when 94% of customers prefer working with ecommerce merchants instead of going to third-party carriers, passing the buck to UPS or FedEx isn’t a smart option.

The first and most important step to making the most of a rough ship-tuation is staying transparent and communicative throughout the experience. A whopping 93% of customers want to stay in the know and get proactive updates about their shipment, with 95% expecting retailers to speak up if the delivery date changes.

Don’t wait for the customers to come asking about the status of their order. Not only does this put the burden on them, but it also fractures any trust they had in your brand.

With transparent and timely communications about where a package is while en route to their door, customers will feel more at ease. Even if something catastrophic and entirely unexpected happens during transit, being up front and honest will save your store time, money, and reputation.

Customer engagement and communication regarding unexpected delays can take many forms (or all forms if your budget allows):

Email Updates

Like this massive example to the right from reMarkable, an email is a great way to explain the situation, provide clear next steps, and answer questions proactively. The long form allowed by email means there’s also plenty of room to be supportive, intentional, and empathetic while layering in elements of your brand. 

Plus, many email marketing solutions today make it possible to easily add all affected customers into a segment that you can include in upcoming automated announcements about a delayed shipment stuck, say, on a boat. 

Text Messages

Text messages don’t allow for as many words as an email, they cost extra marketing dollars, and they could get flagged as spam by recipients. But the massive pro for text message updates is that many ecommerce-savvy folks will get that update almost immediately in the palm of their hand.

Phones are ubiquitous, smart or otherwise, so no matter when that update is sent, odds are very good that your customers will see it. 

Push Notifications

When shoppers use an all-in-one package tracking app like Route, they’re opting into a streamlined and seamless world of engagement with the brands they buy from. Consumers opt into push notifications, so the engagement merchants can expect is going to be sky high. 

Push notifications can easily be linked to a longer in-app experience should customers choose to know more about what’s happening. Much of the time, though, shoppers will simply enjoy the peace of mind they have from being updated in a few short sentences. 

Post-purchase Platform

Second to honest and immediate communication, brands need to seek out solutions to their delayed, stolen, or lost items. As great and compassionate as your communications might be, your customers will still want what they purchased (or a refund) at the end of the day. 

For times like these, use a post-purchase platform like Route to manage claims directly from the consumer. Taking advantage of a post-purchase technology not only makes running your store easier, but it also makes filing claims a seamless (dare we say mildly enjoyable?) process for your customers. 

In just a few clicks, customers can self-serve and file a claim for their delayed package. Route then jumps into action and manages refunds and reorders for the merchant, which saves time and money. With fast refunds or reorders, brands increase their ecommerce revenue without the risk of absorbing return and exchange shipping fees. 

Despite a package delayed in a wormhole somewhere, merchants simultaneously resolve claims, save time for crafting proactive communications, and resolve customer qualms in mere moments. What could have been a frustrating and loyalty-busting hassle is transformed into an opportunity to engage with customers and enhance their experience. 

A Good Experience Is Bigger Than the Biggest Stuck Ship

When ecommerce brands develop strategies that envelop transparency, proactive communication, and fast issue resolution, customers will trust your brand more than before their package was delayed. Create a customer experience that’s the best on the market all the way through the entire customer lifecycle (and not just ending it after they’ve converted), and develop stronger loyalty that turns into more revenue and growth.

Even if every package your store deploys gets stuck on a big boat in the middle of a canal and shipping delays run amok, there’s no need to panic. With the right post-purchase solutions, thoughtful and fast issue resolution becomes second nature. And when the customer feels good, well, that’s bigger than even the biggest boat.

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