Early Alerts Keep Customers Happy Despite Shipping Delays

Thanks to the expedited delivery options now offered by many online retailers, nearly every consumer has experienced the satisfied – okay, let’s call it smug – feeling that comes from ordering and receiving the perfect birthday gift for a loved one just in time for the big day. Procrastinators of the world, rejoice!

When orders are delivered without a hitch, the post-purchase experience is delightfully unexceptional. Unfortunately, not every delivery goes exactly as planned.

That’s no surprise, given that FedEx shipped 1.25 billion packages in 2015. A recent UPS study found that 51% of all purchases made in a three-month period in 2016 were made online. Moreover, 54% of consumers say they want (and need) delivery to alternate locations during extended hours, indicating consumers’ growing demand for anytime, anywhere delivery. The bottom line? Lots and lots and lots of packages need to be delivered – but not all will make it to their destinations without incident.

You can’t control the weather, but you can control your communications about the new estimated time of delivery. Sending a personalized, timely alert about a problem helps your customer plan ahead – and, most importantly, feel valued.

Given this reality, retailers must have a solid plan of action when delivery “exceptions” arise. Delays and disruptions may be due to inclement weather, a bad delivery address, an unfulfilled signature requirement or a clearance problem at a warehouse. No matter the cause, retailers risk losing customers if they don’t offer accurate, real-time delivery updates. And brands that alert their customers to a problem early are one step closer to building deep, loyal, long-term consumer relationships.

Consider this scenario: It’s Christmas Eve. A blizzard across the Midwest has grounded planes and brought traffic -– including all delivery trucks -– to a standstill. Little Johnny’s new scooter is now stuck somewhere out on Interstate 80. As a retailer, you know how much your customer needs that shiny red scooter. You can’t control the weather, but you can control your communications about the new estimated time of delivery. Sending a personalized, timely alert about a problem helps your customer plan ahead – and, most importantly, feel valued – while visions of sugar plums dance in Johnny’s head.

When it comes to communications about shipping and delivery exceptions, remember these three Rs:

Real-time: The 2016 UPS study found consumers want to be notified about delivery status (as well as pricing changes, sales and other promotions). Forty percent of online shoppers, especially women and millennials, prefer to receive delivery updates and related information via text – in other words, ASAP.

Relevant: Branded, personalized and targeted post-purchase messaging lets companies engage with consumers well beyond the “buy” button. Providing accurate, useful information about delivery status, not to mention other retail specials and events, helps secure a brand’s reputation as supportive, trustworthy and transparent.

Red alert: Here’s where smart businesses can really distinguish themselves in the marketplace. An alert system that notifies consumers pronto about an unavoidable delay is more than handy. It’s critically important for brands trying to stay ahead of the pack when it comes to providing a positive post-purchase experience.

These days, consumers expect deliveries to arrive on time, come rain or shine. But when the force of nature or an unforeseen complication makes an expected delivery impossible, savvy retailers need to find ways to ease customers’ pain about shipping exceptions – with no exceptions.


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Can you share any cautionary tales or exceptional examples of how businesses have handled shipping exceptions? Hit us on Twitter @narvarinc.

 

Willow Older is a professional writer and editor based in the Bay Area. She is a semi-professional consumer who firmly believes a "lifetime warranty" really should last a lifetime.