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on December 21, 2020 by Rob Hahn in Fulfillment, Marketplaces

As Predicted, “Shipageddon” is Here

The anticipated holiday shipping chaos

The holidays are here and as we predicted, so is “shipageddon,” with shipping delays, overworked carriers, frustrated consumers and panicked brands — all of us likely one of them. While we were all warned this would happen, between holiday season shopping and the continued COVID-19 pandemic, let’s be honest: this scenario is one none of us truly could conceptualize. 

The latest shipping data shows an estimated 6 million packages a day are awaiting pick up from carriers, with another 3.5 million not reaching destinations on time. All standard shipping windows have passed by now for Christmas, with USPS’s last day for pre-Christmas delivery on Friday, December 18, and now enters the crush of three-day, two-day and next day shipments piling on top of already in transit packages. 

Meanwhile, shipping giants FedEx and UPS are reported limiting the number of deliveries for retailers, rerouting packages to USPS and crushing it in the process. Not surprisingly, USPS on-time delivery rates dropped to around 86 percent the third week of December, and will undoubtedly be worse this week.

We’d like to say these delays shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. Prepared brands communicated with consumers about these expected delays. Many informed consumers got their shopping done early, as Whitebox saw a surge in holiday shopping even before the Thanksgiving holiday. Carriers likewise tried to prepare for this demand with an increase in infrastructure investments. The Postal Service reportedly hired more than 50,000 seasonal workers and additional transportation and precautions, while UPS added 100,000 seasonal workers and FedEx more than 70,000 additional workers.

But, here we are. And with strains across U.S. operations, carriers are responding with extra holiday fees that will likely have to be absorbed by either the retailer or the consumer this year and into 2021. So what can you do?

How your business should handle the next two weeks

This year has changed the way consumers shop, and along with it, changed consumers’ expectations of brands. Here is Whitebox’s advice for how brands can handle the rest of 2020 with grace: 

  1. Not being able to track down a package is frustrating — for consumers and brands alike. With millions of packages awaiting transit each day, what’s a brand to do? Carriers are being pushed to their limits, and reshipping items will only make the situation more overloaded and delivery windows longer. As the saying goes, “patience is a virtue,” and unfortunately one we’ll all need to practice at the end of this long year.

    Takeaway: Do not reship items still in transit to consumers. Brands will lose out. It might feel like the right thing to do, but the second shipment will not get there any sooner and is likely only to frustrate your customers more. 

  2. As we mentioned in our first “shipageddon” post on November 3, transparency is key. So maybe you don’t feel like consumers get it right now, because all you’re feeling is the heat from frustrated shoppers who want their Christmas gifts, but this is the reality of the situation we’re in. The best thing brands can do right now is communicate with consumers on extended shipping timeframes and delays.

    Takeaway: Consumers respect honesty and transparency, so set their expectations prior to purchase on shipping times. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and update them often on shipping status and delays to keep communication flowing. 

  3. It’s hard a hard pill to swallow when we’re now so used to the excellence of a low defect network, but this is how the rest of 2020 will go. And unfortunately, the new year won’t necessarily fix these shipping issues. We were all warned, we all did what we could, yet the impact is and will continue to still be felt. Carriers are already extending fees, and increases are coming in at an all-time high for the annual 2021 increase.

    Takeaway: Try not to panic. We are all in this together, and for better or for worse, this situation is not unique to your brand. It may not sound like good news, but you won’t be the only supplier consumers are frustrated with this holiday season.

Believe it or not, there is an upside to all of this. According to Adobe, ecommerce sales are expected to reach $189 billion in November and December of this year, a 33 percent increase from 2019. So while we may all feel the strain of trying to make everyone happy this holiday season, at the end of the year, we will still feel some gains. Plus, “shipageddon” will provide us with many lessons learned to help us all succeed in the new year. 

At Whitebox, we will continue to update our Whitebox Flash Alerts for 2020 and keep our clients and partners up to date on the latest news and updates from carriers and marketplaces. 

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