Record numbers of online parcels were sent out in December, according to the latest IMRG MetaPack UK Delivery Index. Some 17.2% more parcels were sent during the month than in the same month a year earlier.
That contrasted with low year-on-year growth for the same month in 2016 (only 2.4%) when there was a slow-down in growth between November and December which seemed to be down to the Black Friday effect, pulling orders forward into November. In 2017, November parcel volumes were up by 6% on the previous year.
But while December parcel volumes rose, only 85% of deliveries arrived on time that month. That’s the lowest percentage recorded by the index since it started in 2011.
Andrew Starkey, head of e-logistics at IMRG [IRDX VIMR], said: “December saw some extreme weather conditions across Scotland, Wales and northern England, which caused delays to movement of stock. It also featured record volumes for this period, including a late surge in orders that was higher than anticipated. Another key influence was the high use of next day delivery which puts additional pressure on delivery windows and, in some cases, is an example of businesses giving their customers something they haven’t specifically asked for. This option is often provided by default now by some retailers and, as many of these next-day orders were not technically requested or required next day, the low on-time delivery rate is more noticeable to the retailer than the customer.”
The IMRG MetaPack index suggests the strong uplift in December was largely driven by a surge in demand in week three, with particularly strong demand on Monday December 18. That appeared to be a psychologically important day, as the last day that shoppers felt genuinely confident their orders would arrive on time.
That Monday was not the last day on which many retailers provided guarantee of delivery in time for Christmas, however, and the data also suggests that a late spike in orders was driven by shoppers making last-minute purchases of single items or responding to promotions. The bulk of the gift-buying was likely to have happened far earlier.
In 2016 there was a 6% increase in the average order value for parcel deliveries between November and December, but this year that figure fell by 10%.
Maria Dahlqvist Canton, global marketing director at MetaPack [IRDX VMEP], said: “The ecommerce market is growing at such a rapid pace, and the rise in delivery order volumes, not just during December, but over the whole of 2017, reflects this positive expansion. However, as consumer expectation is changing, and shoppers feel more confident to place their orders closer and closer to Christmas, it does mean that, even with excellent planning, it puts unprecedented pressure on both retailers and carriers to keep their delivery promise”.