Nobody likes delayed shipments. They frustrate customers who, in turn, take those frustrations out on business owners. With global eCommerce sales reaching $4.28 trillion (USD) in 2020, online shopping and parcel delivery are as prevalent as they’ve ever been.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has been one of the least expensive carrier options for online sellers for many years. USPS has traditionally been slower than alternatives like FedEx and UPS. During the pandemic, shipping times with USPS got even longer, adding another burden to business owners.
How delayed shipments impact eCommerce
For eCommerce business owners, delayed shipments can be detrimental. Those who take part in the Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP) program on Amazon are at the mercy of Amazon’s algorithms when it comes to making sales on the platform. Complaints of late shipments and negative reviews can hurt sellers’ SFP standing, lead to order cancellations, and tank their sales.
Customers are less likely to return to your online store if their purchase arrives late, and acquiring new customers typically costs more than retaining existing ones. Late shipments from USPS can hurt your bottom line.
What causes delays with USPS, and how can your business handle them?
Reasons USPS shipments are late
1. Delivery guarantees vs estimates
When USPS gives you a delivery time, it’s an estimate, not a guarantee. Unless you use Priority Mail Express, you cannot get a refund for a missed delivery window.
At the end of the year, around Christmas and New Year’s, online sales skyrocket. As a result, more businesses are trying to ship products. The overload puts pressure on USPS capacity, which causes delays.
Severe winter storms, floods, power outages, and other natural disasters are unpredictable, and one of the biggest reasons behind shipment delays.
4. COVID-19 related delays
The COVID-19 pandemic saw a major spike in online shopping, coupled with thousands of USPS employees contracting the virus and being unable to work. Both factors contributed to major delays in 2020 and these delays will likely continue.
If you’re shipping internationally, your products will have to pass through customs — and they can hold your shipments as long as you don’t have the right paperwork. All carriers who ship internationally are subject to customs requirements, but some carriers are better at handling it than others. If you work with a customs broker, you can eliminate some of the issues that crop up when moving your goods across borders.
6. Incorrect address
It’s possible the customer misspells their address or you don’t correctly record it from their order. Either way, an incorrect address is one of the top reasons for delayed shipments with USPS.
How to handle delays on USPS shipments
To avoid delays with your shipments, try these tips.
1. Audit products and shipping materials
You can’t control every USPS delay, but there are some you can. Ensure you have the correct sizes and weights recorded for your most popular products, so you don’t lose any time shipping them. Providing exact numbers also avoids potential delays with USPS.
2. Extend delivery times
One way to avoid unhappy customers is to extend the expected delivery times for items in your online shop. You can better manage your customers’ expectations this way. You do run the risk customers won’t purchase your items because your delivery times are too long, so it’s important to find a balance.
3. Offer free delivery
Another way to manage customer expectations is to offer free delivery if you can afford it. If a customer doesn’t have to pay extra shipping costs for a purchase, they’re much less likely to be frustrated if the package arrives late.
4. Be honest with your customers
When you encounter delays, the worst thing you can do is lie and try to cover it up. When a customer contacts you about a delayed shipment, always respond promptly and with as many details as possible. Also, try to offer a way to make it up to them, with a discount on their next purchase or a partial refund.
5. Use the USPS SCAN form
A SCAN form allows you to send a group of shipments with the same master barcode. When a USPS employee picks up the packages, they can scan them all into the system at once, rather than individually. It also allows the sender and recipient to start tracking the package(s) right away.
6. Negotiate with a new carrier
For many businesses, switching from USPS to a new carrier is the smartest move, even if other carriers charge higher rates. If you do switch to FedEx, UPS, or another carrier, do some research beforehand. Each carrier has different tiers of service that might meet your specific needs. You should also contact carriers and ask for rates, and try to negotiate a lower one.
7. Work with domestic suppliers
If your business is situated outside the U.S. but you import goods there, consider working with U.S.-based suppliers. You’ll face fewer restrictions in moving your products to your customers, and it will reduce delays.
8. Let customers track their shipments
You may not be able to physically speed up shipments, but you can give customers tracking numbers or invest in a tracking application. Your customers might be more amenable to late shipments if they can get updates on their packages in real-time.
Running a business comes with a lot of obstacles. Border Buddy makes sure importing and exporting isn’t one of them. Ready to talk about our customs brokerage solutions for your business? Contact us today.