Just how bad were this week’s Christmas shipping delays? Online retail rating firm StellaService conducted its own test of last-minute package delivery, placing 75 orders from 25 retailers prior to each online store’s holiday cut-off date.
The firm reports on its blog: “Eight retailers – or 32% – failed to deliver at least one order by Christmas. Of all 75 orders, 12% did not arrive by the estimated date. And, all but one failed delivery was shipped using UPS.”
UPS, which blames the situation a confluence of bad weather and a shortened holiday season, says it expects to finish delivering delayed Christmas packages by today. However, the impact of the shipping problems could stretch into the next holiday season, altering online retailers’ approach to the peak shopping period.
Last-minute shoppers may face earlier deadlines for ordering packages next year. At the same time, retailers will need to be more careful about promising “guaranteed” delivery by Christmas, a StellaService executive tells the Dallas Morning News. And smaller shipping companies, rivals to FedEx and UPS, could also get a boost as a result, reports Reuters.
Amazon informed media outlets yesterday that it was offering $20 gift cards and shipping refunds to customers impacted by the delays. However, in the comments on our previous story, some GeekWire readers report that they have struggled to get the refund or the gift card from the company. We’ve contacted Amazon to find out more about the criteria the company is using.
Seattle-based Nordstrom was among the retailers that got out in front of the problem, warning customers in an email earlier in the week that overcapacity at UPS would cause some packages to be delayed, according to CNBC.
Jamie Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom’s digital operations, also apologized to customers in a post-Christmas message.
“While we are dependent on our shipping partners to hold up their end of the bargain on getting your orders to you, we also realize that we are accountable for meeting your expectations and take responsibility for what happened here,” he wrote in the message, according to USA Today. “Unfortunately, as you may have heard, the UPS delivery network was overwhelmed, and they were not able to meet their commitment.”
Meanwhile a company owned by Amazon — Zappos.com — is getting high marks for ensuring on-time deliveries.
Recapping its last-minute delivery test, StellaService explains on its blog, “It’s no surprise that customer service obsessed Zappos.com gave customers the latest cutoff time – December 23 – and delivered by Christmas in all three regions. StellaService Analysts found that Zappos.com actually upgraded the shipping option to make sure the orders arrived on time.”
Of course, complimentary shipping upgrades cut into the bottom line, which makes Zappos’ strategy more of a temporary fix than an actual solution to the problem. Look for retailers to be much more careful next year — and get ready to do your “last-minute” online shopping a little earlier.