eCommerce has exploded in recent years, and while consistency has established itself after the record peaks of COVID-lockdowns, online shopping is here to stay. For retailers, it’s a lucrative channel that enables them to tap into shoppers beyond their physical highstreet, and for consumers it provides convenience and choice. Delivery has become one of the most important – but often overlooked – aspects of the online buying experience. Its influence on satisfaction, loyalty, and repeat purchases is significant.

While timely, reliable and transparent delivery might not sound exciting, it’s more effective at driving loyalty than shiny gadgets, game-changing strategies or even discounts. As a result, delivery has become one of the key competitive differentiators. When both competition and customer expectations are high – and rising – optimal delivery is a competitive advantage and suboptimal delivery is an Achilles Heel. Its importance takes on even greater significance today.

With Peak Season upon us, we’re anticipating a surge in consumer spending. Shippit data revealed that October’s Click Frenzy brought in 10% more orders in 2023 compared to 2022, while the average order value was up 4.7%, too. Although rates are expected to rise this month, we’re forecasting a bumper November as shoppers tap the excitement of Black Friday, Cyber Monday. But with greater spending comes more deliveries and more opportunities for retailers to flourish or flounder.

Don’t, therefore, let delivery undermine your business in the weeks and months ahead. Here are three common delivery delays, and how to avoid them.

Eliminate human error

For all the advances in technology and adoption of AI and automation, human error remains one of the most common causes of delivery delay. From order processing errors and incorrect labelling, to miscommunication on the shop floor, warehouse or distribution centre, human error increases during Peak Season as orders, queries and pressure builds.

It needn’t be debilitating, though. Through training and onboarding for staff – from shop floor to distribution centre – retailers can foster best practice, improve standards and raise expectations. The more time they have, the easier it is to contain human error. So powerful fulfilment and logistics software like Shippit can automate many of the stages where human error occurs. Whether it’s automatically printing labels or integrating with systems that offer real-time inventory updates, it reduces staff burden and ensures the end-to-end delivery process is as seamless as possible.

Turn peak season stress to serenity

From Click Frenzy and Black Friday to the pre-Christmas rush and Boxing Day Sales, Peak Season causes strain; not only on retailers, but courier networks. To thrive, preparation and forecasting is worth its weight in gold – or orders.

Retailers should investigate both their historical data and market trends to accurately predict sales activity. With that level of foresight and understanding, they can optimise their entire operation, from staffing levels and inventory management, to marketing strategies and their carrier networks. This, too, requires holistic planning. After all, what’s the use of additional staff, primed inventory management and impactful, well-timed marketing if the capacity of a delivery network is limited?

The more proactive a retailer, the easier it is to ensure their business has the staff, inventory, processes and networks to not only meet but exceed customer expectations. This goes not only for peak season, but anytime of year, and is particularly important for seasonal retailers who experience peaks and troughs in sales.

Reduce carrier issues

A carrier can be impacted by any number of factors, from natural disaster to cyber attack or even a particularly unique delivery. Ultimately, whatever the cause, the symptom is often a slow, disrupted or even entirely halted service. Shoppers have little patience for that. A retailer cannot prevent a natural disaster or protect their carrier from a cyber attack, but by ‘diversifying’ they can build contingency into their network.

In the context of carrier networks, diversifying means tapping into multiple carriers rather than relying on one – or a handful – of delivery partners. By using multiple carriers, retailers can mitigate risks and select the most suitable carrier for each shipment. For example, if a retailer sells homewares, one carrier might be more specialised in delivering a heavy, bulky couch to rural Victoria while another might be better placed to send a cushion to Bondi.

Or if one carrier is at capacity or impacted by, for example, flooding, retailers can divert volume to another carrier. Ultimately, it allows them to ensure every order reaches every customer with as little disruption as possible. Platforms like Shippit simplify the process by offering a convenient aggregator for multiple carriers as well as various delivery options like standard, express and OnDemand. And by integrating reporting dashboards retailers can monitor the performance of carriers and delivery options.

The more contingency a retailer has, the better placed they are to exceed expectations and treat delivery not as the final step of an order but the first step in customer retention and loyalty. It’s impossible to entirely eliminate delivery delays. However, implementing measures to avoid them proactively drastically reduces their risk, and dramatically increases a retailers ability to improve customer experience, loyalty and revenue, both during Peak Season and long after it.

Rob Hango-Zada is co-founder and joint-CEO of Shippit.