Online shopping—for both goods and services—has become common practice in nearly every nation around the world. Some people choose to shop online for convenience, with door to door free shipping playing a significant role. Others are more price-conscious: an internet-only sale makes purchasing online a real cost-cutter. Still others shop online due to necessity: there are many brands out there that are online-only, and even some brick-and-mortar retailers only sell particular merchandise, like clearance or artisan goods that you can't find in stores, through an online channel. Or, they live in a region where the store they want to buy from is not local.
The average person can also be influenced into making a digital purchase by a plethora of marketing tactics, such as time-sensitive emails, enticing product reviews, Groupon discounts, and Instagram-based FOMO (fear-of-missing-out).
Regardless of "why" an online transaction is initiated, the number of digital buyers is most definitely on the rise and has been since online shopping came into existence. In 2021, over 2.14 billion people worldwide are expected to buy something online. And more than three-quarters of internet users in the U.S., one of the leading online retail markets ranked by online shopper reach, are expected to make at least one purchase online in 2019, up from 73% in 2013.
But along with all the tremendous upsides to selling online, there are downsides for e-merchants.
3 delivery challenges for an e-commerce company:
1: PORCH THEFT
Let's face it: more and more Americans are doing their shopping online. According to the United States Census Bureau, 10% percent of all retail sales in the United States were digital. And as long as these online purchases get shipped and left on porches, they’re likely to be stolen. Packages left out in the open on stoops, driveways, or at front doors are just too enticing to thieves. Even in big cities, where the “porch” can just as easily be a lobby or a front hallway, unattended packages can linger for hours, if not days, before being claimed.
While the FBI keeps no nationwide statistics on the problem, 30% of Americans say they've experienced porch theft themselves, according to a survey by home security service, Xfinity Home.
2: TRAFFIC & DELIVERY DELAYS
Many cities simply don’t have the updated infrastructure to handle traffic nightmares caused by the rise in online shopping. In 2018, the United States Post Office delivered 6.2 billion packages nationwide. And that doesn’t take into account other parcel-delivery services, such as UPS, or FedEx, which plans to add to the congestion by delivering seven days a week in 2020.
By then, McKinsey estimates delivery trucks alone will be responsible for $34 billion a year in American urban congestion costs.
But this isn't just an urban problem: when it comes to traffic tie-ups due to package delivery, suburban and rural locations also feel the pain. Add to that the growing trend of internet-savvy shoppers who drive to the store, compare in-store prices to what is offered online, place an order on their mobile device, and then drive home expecting free, fast delivery. That’s three trips to complete one transaction!
3: UNHAPPY RETURNS
Returns are expensive, and they’re also the touch point that’s most likely to cost you future business. If your customers think it’s too difficult or too costly to return something, they may start to shop elsewhere.
Interestingly, returning a purchase can also be a way for an e-commerce retailer to turn a potentially negative experience into a positive one. That’s important considering that 30% of all products ordered online are returned (as opposed to less than 10% of the products purchased in brick-and-mortar locations).
Easy returns can delight a customer and cement their loyalty. That’s why omnichannel merchants are adopting the “BORIS” (buy online, return in store) approach to appeal to consumers who no longer distinguish between shopping online or in-person. It’s working: research by Invesp showed that 92% of shoppers would buy again if returns are simple, and 62% are more likely to shop online if they can return in store.
An alternative solution
The success of each delivery depends on a variety of ever-changing factors, like traffic density where the package is being delivered, and whether delivery trucks have a safe place to pull over without obstructing other vehicles. There’s also the question of whether people are home to accept deliveries and, if not, is there a safe place to leave a package where it won’t be stolen? And, if your customer is home to receive the package, will it be easy to return if necessary?
That’s why a last-mile delivery solution — like our pick-up center solution — can truly benefit your business. E-retailers with a last-mile distribution center can circumvent many of the headaches and costs of the final segment of order delivery.
Friendly, knowledgeable, and often bilingual in-person service at a pick-up center can help reinforce the relationship customers have with an e-commerce business, and — as a final interaction in the consumer journey — can often increase in-store sales in the process. In sum, offering customers a buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) option, the omnichannel shopping experience that is increasingly in demand, gives online brands a serious competitive advantage.