The coronavirus pandemic has forced shoppers to stay at home and resulted in a spike in eCommerce as people increasingly go on to buy the things they need. As a result, there’s been a corresponding spike in the demand for home delivery.
The Covid-19 situation has also occasioned multiple order fulfillment delays, resulting in retailers needing to reconfigure their shipping process. If you’re one of these many eCommerce merchants that have had to change their shipping strategy in the wake of the pandemic, Easyship can help.
Not only can we help you find the courier solutions you need and provide a seamless shipping experience, but we’ve also put together a wealth of COVID-19 resources that can help you keep your shipping on track.
To further help you out, this article will look at the surge in online orders, how retailers and carriers are responding to the situation, and discuss how some of the brands that have successfully navigated the coronavirus outbreak.
The Surge in Online Orders
A survey by Gordon Haskett Research Advisors has found that 41% of consumers shopped for groceries online for the first time as a result of the pandemic; even customers aged 60 and above were turning to eCommerce.
These changes in consumer behavior during the coronavirus pandemic has brought big business to online retailers and shipping carriers. But, it also means they now have to go the extra mile to ensure timely home delivery.
Stay-at-home orders have led to extra eCommerce packages that have created holiday-level shipping volumes for online retailers and carriers. Richard Clark, a Post Office operation manager, says that their package volume has increased by 70% and that the coronavirus pandemic has created Christmas-level shipping volume in May!
In Northern Ohio, the surge in online orders was so high in May that the number of post office package deliveries surpassed the Christmas holiday peak shipping season in 2019. Similarly, Wine Insiders’ CEO Zac Brandenberg says that the online retailer is experiencing order spikes from Western states similar to those seen on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Contactless delivery to customers’ homes remains the safest option with lockdowns, curfews, and social distancing measures in place to help combat the virus. But it’s not easy for courier companies to keep up with demand.
This is because these types of deliveries are more costly and more time consuming than bulk shipments to stores and businesses, most of which remain closed during the pandemic. Although online buyers have come to expect free shipping from retailers, it is becoming increasingly hard for eCommerce merchants to offer this. This means online buyers may need to pay more for home delivery.
How Retailers Are Dealing with the Situation
Following the surge in demand during the Covid-19 pandemic - especially in essential goods categories - online retailers are grappling with a spike in orders, low inventory, and shipping delays.
The time to fulfill orders, which is measured from the moment a buyer checks out to the time the carrier picks the order for delivery, has increased from 15.1 hours to 21.2 hours. A global survey of shoppers in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Canada shows that 47% of buyers have faced out-of-stock product situations.
Online retailers are putting different measures in place to help deal with shipping delays. On March 13, Boxed Wholesale, a food and household goods retailer, sent an email to buyers alerting them of shipping delays following a surge in orders. Like many other retailers, Boxed Wholesale has placed order limits on popular product categories such as disinfectants, hand sanitizer, and paper goods to avoid out-of-stock notices. Amazon also issued a notice for shipping delays on March 18.
eCommerce giants like Amazon and Walmart have already announced the hiring of more workers. Amazon plans to hire 100,000 workers, while Walmart plans to hire 150,000 additional workers to help deal with shipping delays during the pandemic. Retailers are also implementing delivery surcharges to help mitigate home delivery costs because many couriers have imposed peak surcharges to deal with the surge in demand.
How Couriers Are Responding to the Situation
Major carriers, such as FedEx, UPS, and USPS, have been hit by a spike of packages for delivery since March when the coronavirus began to take hold in the US and Europe. For these carriers, it’s as if Christmas has come too early (and not necessarily in a good way).
They’re busy shipping as many packages as they usually see during peak holiday seasons around Christmas and Black Friday. Typically, business-to-consumer deliveries are around 50%, but they have grown to almost 70% during the pandemic.
As a result, most carriers have now imposed peak surcharges to help them handle the massive volume of shipments they’re dealing with. On May 31, UPS added a $0.30 surcharge per package on some of its cheapest services; peak surcharges for international shipments have been in place since April.
UPS is also adding a $31.45 surcharge onto customers shipping above 500 large packages, such as appliances or furniture, per week.
FedEx home delivery has also added peak surcharges, which may cost businesses up to $400,000 a month.
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, different carriers are coming up with innovative ways to maintain deliveries, such as offer contactless delivery options where items are left outside the doorsteps or mailrooms in apartments without the buyer's need to append their signature on delivery.
5 Brands That Have Successfully Navigated the Coronavirus Outbreak
It’s not all bad news, though. Many brands have managed to pivot their eCommerce and shipping strategies to successfully maintain their business and operations during the pandemic. Here are five brands that have set an example for the rest.
ABC7 Chicago reported that Walmart had plans to hire 150,000 more workers, including delivery drivers among them, by the end of May to deal with the increase in demand for delivery to customers’ doors. The spike in demand for Walmart's home delivery services will also see workers across the country receive cash bonuses totaling $365 million for keeping stores operating smoothly.
To navigate the Covid-19 pandemic, Amazon announced plans to hire 100,000 new workers to help speed up order fulfillment, following an unprecedented jump in orders in essential categories such as household staples and medical supplies.
Amazon has also increased wages by $2, from $15 per hour to $17 per hour, for its employees and contractors in fulfillment centers, stores, transport operations, and those facilitating its delivery operations. Additionally, the company plans to invest over $350 million globally to streamline order deliveries so that people can remain at home.
In an article by The Wall Street Journal, Dave Clark, Amazon's Senior Vice President of Operations, wrote that they had seen an increase in demand and their labor needs are unprecedented during this pandemic. Through April 5, Amazon had suspended Fulfillment by Amazon services for non-essential products to prioritize order fulfillment in high-demand categories such as household staples and medical supplies. The restrictions have since been lifted.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Uber stepped up its game with its Uber Eats arm to allow restaurants to deliver their foods to people staying at home. This was especially useful for customers in Miami and New York City. The brand also extended its Uber Freight service and launched a delivery service that would allow customers to send things to their friends and family while maintaining social distancing.
Following the mandatory quarantine measures, grocery delivery services have boomed in ways never seen before. In a statement, Instacart reports having seen the highest grocery demands in its existence. In addition, downloads of its iPhone app have increased by 218%, and many new customers are signing up daily.
Usually, Instacart relies on independent contractors for deliveries, but it now has most shoppers working for it to help navigate the coronavirus situation. Other measures they have put in place include streamlining procedures to ensure faster checkouts, introducing limits on some items, and canceling orders for out-of-stock items. As well as encouraging workers to use hand sanitizer during delivery services, Instacart is also encouraging customers to embrace contactless delivery.
5. Blue Apron
Blue Apron is a meal-kit delivery company that was struggling to stay afloat before the pandemic. With more Americans staying at home, they have flocked to meal-kits for at-home dinners; as a result, Blue Apron saw a 27% increase in demand in April. To respond to the sharp rise in consumer demands for home delivery, Blue Apron has hired more workers, especially for its fulfillment centers in Linden, NJ, and Richmond, CA.
How the Pandemic Changed the Game for Home Deliveries
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the game for home deliveries as national, state, and local authorities continue to demand that consumers stay at home and practice social distancing as much as possible. This has left many people with no option but to order products online, which has led to a spike in coronavirus shopping and home delivery services.
Many retailers have also been forced to look for alternative shipping options to keep their buyers satisfied. Easyship can help you navigate the Covid-19 pandemic by giving you access to over 250 fast and cost-effective courier services for delivery.