Nothing deflates the spirit of holiday giving as quickly as a special present that doesn’t show up on time. And odds are, this season, which is predicted to be part of the biggest online shopping year yet, deliveries will disappoint those who don’t order early.
Adding to delays: Gift givers are shipping more online items, big and small, directly to recipients, rather than bringing them in person due to social distancing and limits on traveling to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The coronavirus pandemic has also been creating packing delays at warehouses where workers are adhering to safety measures while also trying to handle the surge of online orders that started when stay-at-home orders were issued in March.
How big is the online surge? E-retailing researchers at Digital Commerce 360 project U.S. consumers will spend a record $38.21 billion online between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, a 35% jump from last year.
Less time will be spent browsing in stores this season as more time is used scrolling through retailers’ websites. But stores will still play a role.
Chain retailers boosted their curbside pick up service when stores temporarily closed at the start of stay-home orders, and they continue to try to match Amazon’s generous, same-day or two-day shipping policies.
Some shoppers order directly from stores in the recipient’s hometown so they can pick up gifts themselves instead of relying on overburdened delivery services.
A holiday shopping and shipping survey by Voxware found most respondents (77 percent) plan to have gifts sent to loved ones, although 13 percent said half of the items they purchased online have arrived later than the promised delivery date.
What are shoppers’ options?
Generally, online retailers offer consumers fast and slow choices.
Standard shipping within the U.S. might take three to five days. The cost is $7 at the Gap, unless you spend a minimum of $50, then shipping is free and can take up to seven business days.
In trying to reach the free-shipping threshold, shoppers can’t count the cost of shipping and handling, taxes, gift cards or gift wrap.
Standard shipping to Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. Territories can stretch to 11 business days. Expedited and priority shipping are offered by many retailers for an extra charge, but only for addresses in the continental U.S.
On the flip side, eco-conscious retailers have cut down on packaging and shipping waste by slowing down deliveries and sending all items in one box rather than in multiple boxes.
Shoppers typically receive a perk for being patient, but about a third of online shoppers are willing to pay more for sustainable shipping and packaging, according to a survey conducted in August by Digital Commerce 360 and Digital Bizrate Insights.
The busiest online shopping season ever means you need to order early, ship smartly and expect delays, say experts.
“Give your delivery professionals a little extra time to do their jobs safely,” suggests shipping experts at Coyuchi, which offers organic cotton bedding, towels and sleepwear. “UPS has suspended the UPS