As the holiday shopping and shipping season heats up early this year, many consumers are worried about the supply chain issues impacting retail inventory. That, however, is not going to slow down shoppers. But will shipping be able to keep up with consumer expectations?
As uncertainty surrounding variants of COVID has some shoppers concerned, about half of Americans are planning a hybrid holiday shopping season of in-store and online shopping, according to a recent survey by Loqate.
“In the age of digitization and ongoing global supply chain and shipping disruptions, this holiday season is shaping up to be the year that will make or break many retailers,” said Matthew Furneaux, global commercial director at Loqate, in a press release. “At the same time, retailers have an enormous opportunity to build customer trust and loyalty by minimizing risks and delivering on rising expectations for shopping flexibility and delivery reliability.”
Among the shifting consumer preferences and behaviors revealed in Loqate’s 2021 holiday survey of 1,000 American consumers:
Consumers are getting an early holiday start.
Attempting to avoid the shipping delays and sold-out items that are expected this year, 88% of U.S. consumers plan to start their holiday shopping well before December, the Loquate survey showed.
This year, consumers got an early start, which was reflected in a dip in sales during the ordinarily busy Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
According to Adobe Analytics, shoppers spent 1.4 percent or about $10.7 million less this year on Cyber Monday. Meanwhile, spending during Cyber Week — spanning from Thanksgiving through Nov. 29 — was also down 1.4 percent, to $33.9 billion.
But this doesn’t mean that retailers will be selling or shipping less this holiday season. By all indications, it seems that shoppers took heed of warnings to ship earlier this season.
Overall spending in November still outpaced 2020 totals, up 11.9 percent, to $109.8 billion, according to Adobe, which expects 2021 spending to beat last year by 10%.
The National Retail Federation, meanwhile, said it expects both online and brick-and-mortar holiday spending to grow by between 8.5% and 10.5% this year, totaling between $843 billion and $859 billion.
Consumer expectations are high for retailers to get holiday delivery correct.
While aware of supply chain issues from ships stagnant in harbors through driver shortages impacting the mid-and last-mile, customers still expect presents to arrive on time. Late deliveries are a concern for 87% of consumers, the survey found. Most concerning retail and eCommerce businesses is that 41% of respondents are unlikely to purchase again from a retailer that delivered a late package. To offset this, many retail and eCommerce players are expanding their omnichannel distribution to reduce stockouts and place products closer to the customer to shorten the time to delivery while lowering their costs at the same time.
This shift also means that many retailers will be working with new carriers as they expand their network to meet the demands for fast, free, and on-time delivery regardless of where the item is heading.
Free shipping and promotions drive consumer purchases.
Shoppers are, for the most part, expecting to spend generously this holiday season. As a result, holiday sales are expected to grow by 7% and 9%, according to Deloitte’s annual holiday retail forecast. Overall predictions from Deloitte show that sales will total $1.28 to $1.3 trillion during the November to January timeframe.
However, that doesn’t mean consumers want to spend more than they need. The Loqate study showed that 17% of consumers consider sales, promotions, and shipping discounts significant factors for deciding where they will spend their money this season.
3 ways to have happy shipping for the holidays.
It is shaping up to be a busy and costly peak shipping season for retail and eCommerce companies. Here are 3 ways to cut costs and time to help meet customer expectations this holiday season while keeping costs down.
Omnichannel Shipping Strategy:
To ensure items get to customers more quickly and at lower cost, retailers continue to implement omnichannel shipping strategies to fulfill orders this holiday season—especially as they struggle to source products. Shipping from fulfillment centers, brick-and-mortar stores, 3PL warehouses, and suppliers can help get products to consumers faster at reduced shipping costs.
Expanded Carrier Network:
As retailers and eCommerce sellers continue to grow their shipping points, they are expanding their carrier networks to include national, regional, local, and specialized carriers to help get orders to shoppers. While this move to a multi-carrier network can help cut time, it does add to the management
While this has helped cut down on the time of deliveries, it can also be challenging to manage all of the moving pieces without the proper multi-carrier management solution.
Packing for Profits:
As carriers face an unprecedented capacity crunch, avoiding Dimensional (DIM), space-based weight fees keeps costs low by preventing unexpected DIM weight fees.
With proper planning and management of shipping from the warehouse through to the last mile, retail and eCommerce businesses and their customers can have a happy holiday season despite the challenges they face.
To learn how a multi-carrier management solution can help keep shipping costs in check while meeting customer delivery expectations set up your personalized Transtream demonstration today.