When the global pandemic struck earlier this year, the world went into lockdown. Borders instantly closed and planes were grounded.
Health fears aside, lockdown represented a cruel and ironic blow for retailers. With physical stores shuttered, shoppers turned to online shopping in droves; but just as e-commerce spending soared, the infrastructure to deliver purchases to their destinations crumbled.
For brands relying on shipments from overseas, COVID meant scrambling to find new ways to get products into Australia; for those trying to deliver products domestically, it often meant contending with delays.
In late August Australia Post recorded one of its busiest days ever, with 2.35 million parcels and letters delivered. But even with pop-up processing centres and additional chartered planes – to compensate for the 90 per cent reduction in “belly space” used for freight in passenger planes – delays and increased costs have remained concerns for retailers, says Paul Zahra, the chief executive officer of the Australian Retailers Association.
In late August Australia Post recorded one of its busiest days ever, with 2.35 million parcels and letters delivered.
The flipside, he says, is that the pandemic has forced retailers and delivery services to turn to creative solutions to win consumer confidence. “We expect this excellent standard to be one of the long-lasting legacies of COVID.”
Those creative solutions include the rise of click and collect and appointment-style shopping, and adoption of free shipping, which has become ubiquitous. Increasingly, says Zahra, shipping costs are being absorbed by retailers.
“Most retailers are offering either free delivery or a minimum spend for free delivery to maximise sales. Those retailers that offer this proposition see delivery costs more like a marketing cost rather than an added logistics cost and, hence, have a thriving online business.”
"Most retailers are offering either free delivery or a minimum spend for free delivery to maximise sales."
Want to know how other Australian retailers are managing deliveries and shipping during the pandemic? Afterpay has created a special in-depth report on postage, where you can find out how brands like Country Road have adapted their delivery strategies during the pandemic here.
We also have a step-by-step guide to click and collect, advice on how to offer free shipping, and a profile of eco-conscious packaging company and Afterpay merchant HeapsGood Packaging.
And in the meantime, don’t forget to prepare for the expected surge in online shopping – and the subsequent delays in delivery – in the lead-up to Christmas. To avoid customer disappointment:
Communicate postal deadlines and delivery timelines clearly on your website and update your FAQ page. Pop-up messages or banner ads will reinforce these timeframes. Australia Post’s delivery deadlines are here.
Allow time for your own pick and pack processes, not just delivery deadlines.
Proactively reach out to your database well in advance of peak shopping times to remind them to shop early or risk delays.
Add tracking numbers to orders, so customers aren’t chasing deliveries.
Consider bringing your sales promotions period forward.
Investigate frictionless shipping and contactless collection.