Understanding And Overcoming Parcel Delays Due To Geographic Congestions This Holiday Season

The holiday rush is right around the corner.

We’re talking crazy deadlines, rechecking inventory every five minutes, and shipping out products as fast as possible.

So how prepared is your business to get every order to the customer’s door on time?

According to this Deloitte survey, around 40% of customers are willing to wait for 5-7 days if free shipping is offered, and 44% of customers are willing to wait only for two days for a faster shipping option. This gives you an ample window of time to get the package delivered on time through most services.

As for free shipping, customers go the extra mile to qualify for it. Although this may vary during the holidays, retailers need to ensure that orders placed in advance for holiday gifts need to make it to their destinations on or before the promised delivery date.

Unfortunately, the money back guarantee offered by shipping carriers is suspended for most services during the holiday season. So how can your business stay in control of the last mile and ensure that the delay percentage is kept to a bare minimum?  

Despite losing out the advantage of holding carriers accountable for their performance by claiming refunds, there are certain measures you can take to make sure your customers still get to experience a smooth and hassle free last mile experience.

Understanding the geographic record of a shipping carrier’s performance during previous holiday seasons can help you design your shipping strategy accordingly, focusing on monitoring the packages you ship out to areas with a higher chance of delays.

To help retailers understand the layout of high delay prone areas, consolidated data from holiday season 2017 has been used to create a report. Usually, densely populated areas face more delays than other areas. For instance, here are the cities that faced the most number of recorded delays in 2017 for FedEx and UPS respectively.

FedEx delays during holiday season

UPS delays during holiday season 2017

As FedEx and UPS expect to ship volumes of 400 million and 750 million respectively, it falls to retailers to figure out how to handle delivery exceptions during the last mile.

The map above shows how metropolitan cities with higher populations face more number of delays than sparsely populated ones. There are certain exceptions to this however, and these outliers either fall in the coastal areas, rural/ inaccessible areas or areas affected by natural disasters.

Considering the performance of both FedEx and UPS in 2017, UPS faced a larger number of delays owing to technical difficulties and understaffing. FedEx on the other hand suffered maximum delays of up to 8% as opposed to an average of 4-6% during other months.

So what can your business do to ensure customers do not get affected by delayed deliveries during the holiday season?

1. Cushion your delivery window

Now that you know the sheer volume of shipments carriers deal with, and the possibility of errors in several areas, you would certainly understand the importance of padding your delivery window just right.

It’s holiday time, and nobody wants their gifts delivered a day or two late. Your business would be shipping out a lot of time sensitive packages, which therefore brings along added responsibilities. There’s no way that bottle of wine meant for Christmas dinner is going to arrive the next day.

If you consider carrier performance in the specific area you are shipping to, and give yourself a cushion of at least one day more than the time specified by the carrier, you are guaranteed to have happy customers who receive their orders early in most cases.

Not only would this give you some leeway in getting the package delivered, it also gives you ample time to ship out an overnight replacement in case there is an unexpected carrier network issue in that area.

Ensure that you mention region specific cut- off dates before checkout when the customer enters his/ her postal area code. Having a list of areas more prone to be affected by delays or exceptions can be a very helpful asset in this regard.

2. Get your best trackers on it

A geographic analysis of shipment routes will give you a good idea of high risk areas, be it a metro or some inaccessible place in the countryside.

In order to ensure that holiday season 2018 does not see a large percentage of delays, it falls upon every individual retailer to monitor problem areas carefully and keep their support team on high alert.

Marking high risk shipments and tracking them from end to end can ensure that these shipments make it to their destinations on time.

If there is a chance of packages routed through a specific area getting inevitably delayed, then prior notifications to customers is mandatory. Sending in replacements may not always be possible, but a sincere apology with a discount voucher can keep your brand in the good books of the customer.

3. Happy holidays to you too!

Your brand acquires a minimum of 29% new customers just during the holiday season.

How do you ensure a majority of them choose to stay on after the holidays?

Converting all these customers to loyal brand ambassadors who stay on even after the holidays can be achieved only when you provide them with a memorable customer experience, right from the cart to their doorstep.

The last mile plays a vital role in achieving this goal. Getting an order delivered on time, with prior notifications ensuring recipient availability, and constant tabs on where the package is, is something every customer wants. It’s exactly how you would want to track an Uber till you finally see it turn the bend towards you. Provide an exceptional last mile experience, and you’ve got them hooked.

If you give your customers everything they expect and more, the holidays are sure to bring great cheer to your business too!

To help retailers out with their last mile visibility needs, has put together a report using data consolidated from over 75 million shipments tracked during past holiday seasons. This holiday season, give your customers the best last mile experience they’ve ever had, and win them over for life!

Joelah James

Joelah James

Writer. Wanderer. Impulsive artist. Always on the lookout for great coffee, books, and more coffee.

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