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Black Friday delivery cracks begin to show


The morning after the night before, and Twitter was starting to come alive with people complaining about delivery problems.
In the wake of what seems to have been a quiet in-store Black Friday, all the action taking place online is starting to filter through to delivery networks which are already showing the signs of strain. Both MetaPack and NetDespatch recorded very high amounts of parcel traffic yesterday, with the former processing around one million orders, and the latter more than 30% up on a typical Friday.

Despite some retailers using online queuing to moderate the flow of orders, and even some sites falling over altogether, the infinite opportunities to shop online will ultimately have to be passed through networks that face some very finite constraints.

By midday on Friday, Argos seemed to be running out of same-day Fast Track slots in some areas; it wasn’t the only one hitting capacity issues in this early stage of the peak season, with many customers complaining on Saturday that their same-day and next-day premium deliveries had not materialised. With Cyber Monday coinciding with the last day of the month, when some people will be getting paid, the clearly-evident problems already emerging are only going to be further compounded.

The following snapshot of some customers’ complaints, aired on Twitter on Saturday 28 November, is meant to be just that … a snapshot, it is not intended to give the impression that particular retailers or carriers are under-performing, nor even that some are set to sail through peak unaffected.

Argos did brisk business on Black Friday, with one driver telling eDelivery that he spent Friday delivering a lot more TVs than usual. Slow order confirmations and late deliveries soon found themselves in the firing line though.

Currys PC World and DPD were singled out by one customer for goods not being available for an expected, and paid for, delivery.

Fast fashion retailer Boohoo was criticised for offering next-day delivery that in one case seems to have been delayed by two weeks.

While it’s not a complaint customers only make during peak, this is the time of year when the issue of missed delivery cards becomes particularly visible. Whether caused by time-pressured drivers or customers’ inattentiveness is a matter of conjecture in most cases, but it highlights the importance of communications in the final mile.

House of Fraser made a point of stating on its website that deliveries may be affected by peak volumes, which may be the cause of this complaint. In which case, it highlights that general advice to customers won’t always be enough to avoid problems and disappointment.

If ever there was a time to deploy the tip of the iceberg metaphor in an eDelivery story, this is probably that time. There will be more problems, more delays, more missing parcels, more unhappy customers – this is a factor of volume and velocity; a 30% (or more) uplift is going to do that. Once again it highlights the conflict between the front and back ends of retail… making promises is one thing, keeping them is another.

This isn’t the first, and won’t be the last, time I write this but failing to keep the promise made to the customer ultimately undermines a brand’s reputation and the relationships it has with its customers and stakeholders.

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