Retailers are assertively preparing their shipping operations to avoid delivery and service issues this year, according to Shop.org’s eHoliday survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, which found that nearly 80% of retailers surveyed will set their standard shipping deadlines for guaranteed Christmas delivery to expire at least one week before the big day, compared to just over 73% who said so last holiday season. Additionally, roughly 21% will set those deadlines to expire Dec. 19 or later, compared to roughly 26% who said so last year.
“It’s important to remember that the 2013 holiday season was impacted by a multitude of factors that affected the supply chain in the days leading up to Christmas, including bad weather and a shortened holiday calendar. That said, retailers and their delivery partners this year are proactively planning to make sure they meet customer expectations for delivery and customer service,” said Shop.org executive director and National Retail Federation senior vice president Vicki Cantrell. “In addition to ramping up their online promotions earlier to entice customers to start shopping earlier in the season, many companies this year also have invested in functionalities such as live chat, checking in-store product availability and buying online-picking up in-store.”
Of the roughly 92% of retailers polled who plan to offer free standard shipping of some sort this holiday season, 69% said their guarantee for Christmas delivery will expire on or before Friday, Dec. 19. Nearly three-quarters of retailers polled last year had a deadline on the equivalent day (Friday, Dec. 20, 2013).
In a separate survey released in August, Shop.org asked retailers which site and service features they have invested most heavily in before the holiday season, and many agreed shipping and fulfillment features were of utmost importance. According to the survey:
- 41% have invested significantly in live chat
- 35% noted they have invested in technologies that allow shoppers to check in-store availability
- 31% have invested in shipping-deadline calendars
- 27% have invested in ship-from-store functionalities
- 26% have invested in buy online-pick up in-store services
For those waiting until the last minute, 21% of companies surveyed that plan to offer a free or upgraded expedited shipping promotion will give customers until Tuesday, Dec. 23, to take advantage of the offer. By contrast, roughly 15% of retailers polled will let their customers take advantage of that offer only through Monday, Dec. 22, and another 15% will end their free expedited shipping promotions on Sunday, Dec. 21.
More than half of retailers surveyed who plan to offer express two-day shipping say their deadline for guaranteed Christmas delivery will expire on or before Sunday, Dec. 21, while the balance will end guaranteed two-day shipping on Monday, Dec. 22.
“Consumers now have more tools at their disposal when it comes to connecting with retailers. And as online shopping continues to grow, more shoppers this holiday season will look for specific online promotions as a way to find the perfect gift at the right price,” said Prosper’s principal analyst Pam Goodfellow. “Possibly having learned from their procrastination last holiday season and with another shortened holiday calendar ahead of us, shoppers could start looking for those shipping offers sooner rather than later this year.”
When it comes to one-day express shipping, 50% are comfortable offering express one-day or overnight shipping as late as Tuesday, Dec. 23, for a guaranteed Christmas delivery; 30% have set Monday, Dec. 22, as the deadline for their one-day express delivery deadline.
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