It’s (s)no(w) fun if your delivery is delayed!


Last week, retailers warned customers that their shopping might be delayed due to the wintry conditions and that shoppers faced major disruption as the so-called “Beast from the East” winter storm brought heavy snow and freezing temperatures to the UK.  Indeed Britons’ travel plans (and I include myself in this) were heavily disrupted by the wintry conditions as roads across the country were hit by the worst snowy weather in decades.


If I was struggling to go about my daily business, this got me thinking about the impact this might be having on online deliveries and how the carriers and retailers were dealing with the weather and the inevitable delays. Today we take it for granted that if we order online our parcels will be delivered same day, next day or within a day or so. So how were Britons faring with the fact that not only were their travel plans being disrupted but also their goods might not arrive?


Retailers did their best to forewarn customers. Tesco said it will do “its best” but deliveries may be limited during bad weather. Amazon on Twitter said: “As a result of the expected cold snap in the next few days with risk of snow, our deliveries might be delayed.”


But what do you do if your parcel doesn’t show up?  One of the important aspects to understand is that once ordered, your contract is with the retailer, not the delivery company. So, if the carrier loses the goods you ordered, the retailer is still responsible for putting things right. It is a retailer’s responsibility to make sure your items arrive on time and in good condition. If your parcel fails to show up on time, the first thing you need to do is raise the issue with the retailer. It will be their responsibility to track down your package.


I also noticed that as well as putting out notifications in advance warning their customers that parcels might be delayed, some also put out messages to say that they were not liable in circumstances where the event leading to the claim was caused by situations “outside our control” including exceptionally severe weather conditions. Whilst helpful, this probably isn’t going to create the best customer experience.


If your parcel was delayed the retailer you ordered from should attempt to arrange an alternative delivery time if the bad weather caused you to miss your slot. But be prepared because legally, retailers only need to refund the cost of the cheapest delivery option – so if you paid for a premium “next day” or “named day” service, unfortunately you may not get all your money back.


The bad weather last week was not the only knock that retailers have had to deal with in recent times. Competition from online rivals, inflation and poor sales are just some of the worrying trends facing the UK’s retail industry. Indeed, last week in addition to the bad weather we also saw Maplin and Toys R Us join a growing list of high-profile retailers falling into financial difficulty.  This sombre trend means retailers must have a laser focus on ways to more cost effectively and efficiently deliver that ‘dream’ customer experience.


Commenting on the recent financial troubles of Toys R Us, Richard Lim, chief executive of Retail Economics, said: “All is not well on UK high streets. The perfect storm of spiralling operating costs, softer consumer demand, and seismic structural changes has claimed another victim. Put simply, the retailer was too slow to embrace omnichannel, was burdened with too many stores and failed to deliver a retail ‘experience’ good enough to stand out from its competitors.”


So, while I am not going to purport to be an expert on omnichannel, what I do know is that automating every part of the delivery process is absolutely critical today in order to help retailers keep up with consumer expectation and deliver a highly competitive retail ‘experience’ – even when it snows!  Put simply, little in omnichannel retail matters more than getting the goods to the customer in the most convenient way.  Shoppers, now used to ordering anyhow, anywhere, anyway, anytime, are keen to take delivery at the moment that suits them.  So putting every part of the delivery process under the microscope is absolutely critical to survival.


Here at NetDespatch we provide both retailers and carriers with leading edge e-commerce software that enables them to improve the service they offer to shoppers.  Our parcel shipping and labelling platform ensures that parcels are picked and shipped with the minimum of effort and – believe me –  in parcel delivery and shipping every second counts.   Shoppers judge your business on the speed and accuracy of online deliveries and this will only intensify as demand for faster delivery services escalates.


To this point, last month, the IMRG index showed that on-time parcel deliveries recovered to 90% in January, from 85% recorded in December 2017. However, this was still down on January last year when it was at 93%. The IMRG stated that the most likely reason for the longer-term fall in performance was the general increase in the proportion of orders using faster, typically next-day, delivery services which was putting a strain on on-time deliveries.


So, while I can’t do anything about poor winter weather conditions, we can certainly help retailers and carriers alike streamline the delivery process. Let’s hope that now we are in March, spring is around the corner and getting that all-important parcel to the consumer (at least where the weather is concerned) will get easier.  What is also just around the corner on the 21st and 22nd March is the eDelivery Expo, the UK’s largest fulfilment and final mile conference.  I am sure there will be plenty of discussion around innovation in the delivery supply chain, so if you are interested in finding ways to speed up your delivery you should pop along.  I hope to see you there.


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