In an ideal world, online shopping deliveries would run smoothly for both the retailer and shopper, however that isn’t always the case.

There can be many things that delay shipments but it’s how retailers tackle these issues that can mean the difference between a positive shopping experience for the customer, or a disastrous one.

Thankfully, the most common delivery issues have simple solutions. Retailers who want to ship cross-border need to consider the following scenarios and have clear procedures in place to minimize the impact on their bottom line:

  1. Incorrect shopper address

One of the most common, but avoidable, delivery issues is an incorrect shopper address. A manual address tool than allows a user to input any characters or formatting could cause a huge headache for delivery companies, especially in foreign countries where addresses may follow an entirely different format. Retailers cannot rely on shoppers to enter their addresses in the format a carrier requires, therefore it is important to have a system that can verify the address formatting to postal authority standards, regardless of the shopper’s location in the world.

Some carriers may provide a checking service, however having a built-in address tool in the checkout will reduce time spent liaising between carriers and the customer.

  1. Weather (force majeure)

Many carrier x retailer contracts include a force majeure clause, i.e. the carrier is protected from liability and the obligation of delivering shipments on time in the event of a major weather event. Companies with a tried and tested plan for responding to this potential supply chain disruption have a distinct advantage over their competitors.

While major weather events are catastrophic for logistics, it is important to remember that all types of weather can impede the transit of goods unexpectedly, in turn frustrating your customers.

Retailers should consider:

  • Are we using reliable transportation providers?
  • Do they have a force majeure clause in their contract? What does this mean for shipments?
  • Do our carriers have the ability to move additional freight volumes in the event of a major weather event?
  • Does our budget account for the unexpected and are we willing to spend more to move freight that is impeded by weather?
  1. Remote locations

The good news for many retailers is that shoppers who live in remote or rural areas are buying more and more online. However, this represents logistic challenges because the cost of shipping may end up costly more than the actual items – if not done cleverly.

According to market research firm Kantar Retail, 73% of rural consumers shopped online in 2016, versus 68% in 2014.

Alice Fournier, director at Kantar Retail said:

“While [rural shoppers] traditionally shopped with more of a stock-up approach, having access to free-shipping programs means the flexibility to shop more often, with a lower overall basket value. [The problem is] the inherent costs to retailers of the current model make it unsustainable from a profitability standpoint”

Amazon has set a standard on shopper expectations around fast, cheap shipping and retailers need to adapt and compete with them, or risk losing customers.

In rural areas, low-density routes can get costly fast, with not only time and money being spent dropping off just a handful of parcels, but on missed deliveries too.

Last mile delivery is generally the most costly and challenging leg of the supply chain, and there are a number of ways to reduce this difficulty. Some retailers use complex algorithms to determine the most efficient way to get each package to its final destination. Others work with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider that can negotiate carrier discounts and offer more efficient shipping with local carriers in regional areas. It is beneficial to use smaller, local carriers for remote addresses because bigger carriers can charge a fee for these deliveries, and can hand off parcels to the national postal service to save money. This is not ideal for the shopper as drivers aren’t always obligated to deliver to the door, meaning some residents might be forced to pick up packages from the local post office.

By using a logistics solution that works with specialist carriers that have expertise in delivering to difficult-to-access addresses, retailers will increase profit margins and customer satisfaction rates.

  1. Aircraft capacity restrictions

To remain competitive, retailers must make sure their supply chains are dynamic and cost-effective. This means ensuring they always get goods to the consumer quickly and reliably. One of the quickest, but most expensive ways to do this is via air cargo.

There are restrictions on the weight and size of the goods that can be carried via plane, and there is an even longer list of prohibited items.

Capacity bottlenecks are a major delivery issue many retailers experience, particularly on the Asia-Europe trade and transatlantic trade during peak periods.

Relationships with the airlines are key to avoiding disappointment related to cargo which doesn’t moved as scheduled. The more accurate the retailer’s predictions are the more likely material will move as scheduled, therefore regular updates with forecasts, particularly during peak period, is critical. Seasonal trends should also be accounted for such as Christmas and even Valentine’s Day when the movement of flowers peaks, leading to havoc across the aircraft cargo sector.

It is recommended that retailers make bookings as early as possible to avoid capacity shortages, longer transit times and potential delays.

  1. Customs inspections

The cross-border shipping business is subject to numerous import controls and regulations and can quickly become costly and time consuming when something goes wrong.

Sometimes import containers can be stopped for examination, leading to delays, fees and penalties. How long your shipment is delayed depends entirely on the type of exam you’ve been selected for, and how long it takes your cargo to get into and out of the examination station.

As in most cases, prevention is key to avoiding a customs inspection in order to reduce the impact to the supply chain. Retailers should use reliable partners in their supply chain and ensure paperwork is up-to-date and accurate, and include a thorough description of goods.

Retailers also need to have a contingency plan in case goods are held in customs, and maintain visibility over the shipment, as well as informing the customer at each stage of the process.