American Consumer Struggles - Delivery Delays & Halts

With much of America still under lockdown until April 30th (as of April 13th), delivery services have become an essential part of day-to-day life. These delivery options include the giants like Amazon, United States Postal Services, UPS, FedEx, etc.; but, they also include the droves of grocery delivery services growing in popularity in light of the pandemic such as InstaCart, Shipt, Fresh Direct, etc.

In the first few weeks of the pandemic, delivery issues were simply due to delays. Instead of getting an Amazon Prime order the same day or within 2 days, it might take 5 days, for example. Rather than being able to get your groceries delivered this morning, you might have to wait until tomorrow evening. All in all, these were simply inconvenient, but pale in comparison to what American consumers are seeing today in some parts of the country. 

Amazon gave consumers a heads up weeks in advance that they would be prioritizing “essential purchases.” What is considered an essential purchase is up to the discretion of the retailer. As the home delivery retailer mammoth looks to get essential products into the hands of those that need them, delays on non-essential items can be anywhere from 2-4 weeks. 

USPS has been continuing to provide uninterrupted services to consumers to the best of their ability. They have even offered the ability to print shipping labels at home and contact a local post office to request that a parcel employee be dispatched to pick it up and deliver it where it needs to go. This service has been critical as family members look to ship items to one another. For example, if one family member found toilet paper at their local store and another could not, consumers are shipping products to each other in an attempt to help one another. 

Despite the USPS’s valiant efforts to continue to provide services, the federal government denied them access to the $50B bailout and $25B in loans they requested to keep their services steady. If the government does not come to a revised agreement to support the USPS, they have forecasted that they will run out of money by June of this year.

Beyond standard shipping companies, grocery delivery services such as Fresh Direct, Whole Foods via Amazon, Instacart, Shipt, etc. are completely overloaded. Instead of having to wait a day or two for grocery delivery, consumers are alarmed to find that they can’t even place an order. Rather, after placing all the items in their cart, they receive a notification that no shoppers are available to assist them. Despite trying day after day, the same error message is shown.

All in all, things are getting pretty dicey as consumers look to get the products they need. Sure, consumers can still physically go to stores to get items, but are hesitant to do so during the apex of the virus. Knowing consumers are up against this struggle, what can delivery services and/or brands do to improve customer experience and maintain a steady purchase flow of products?

  1. Set consumer expectations before they get to checkout. Amazon has done a great job at this. As you review an item on their site, you’ll see a notification that the item you’re looking at may not be considered essential; and, most times, there will be an anticipated delivery date listed. 
  2. Allow consumers to book grocery delivery days/weeks in advance. It would be tremendously helpful to consumers to be able to book out deliveries past the day-of. This will help them plan meals and rationing supplies until they know they can get a delivery. Even if booking out in advance means it may be difficult to know what’s in supply at the store once their turn does come up, they can communicate with the shopper on replacement items. 
  3. Consider offering direct-to-consumer options and ship using USPS. This will enable your consumer to bypass the retailer supply chain issues and buy from you directly. Simultaneously, it will support the USPS which is in desperate need of financial assistance.  

Consumers are in need of guidance on how to shop differently and are at maximum consideration for shopping in a new way. This is an incredible opportunity to come out as a hero amidst the chaos and help convert consumer purchase behaviors that may have lasting impact well beyond COVID-19.