When you think of the holidays you think of delicious food, time with family and friends, receiving presents, and if you’re lucky, a White Christmas. When talking about giving presents, however, the Christmas mall rush is not something to be reckoned with. Within the past few years, the advent of digital shopping has drastically changed the Christmas gift-buying experience. Arguably, 2013 was the year of the digital shopper; just as an indication, total e-commerce grew 24% to $4.6 billion on Cyber Monday, Black Friday, and Thanksgiving (Business Insider, Link) Customers are shopping online more than ever, shopping for deals and buying presents all from the comfort and convenience from their own home.
With such a dramatic increase in online shopping, it’s no wonder that the limits of delivery infrastructure were tested. The overwhelming amount of individuals shopping online combined with weather issues across the United States actually triggered an overload on the parts of carriers such as UPS and FedEx. This has inadvertently resulted in customer complaints over the holiday season.
Top Three Consumer Complaints
Failed promise of timely delivery: The biggest complaint of 2013 on the customer side is the failed promise of a timely delivery and it ironically stems from digital shopping becoming “too easy” and “too time-efficient.” That is to say as more and more customers shop for items on their phones instead of going to the physical stores, the retailers are put in a bind because they become forced to extend their shut-off day for shipping and will rely solely on the postal service to deliver the items on time even if Christmas day is just two days away. Stella Service, an online service that measures customer service and satisfaction, stated that 8 out of 25 prominent retailers failed to deliver on time before Christmas day, even though the orders were before the cut off day. By not meeting the delivery time, retails are losing customer loyalty and profit in the long-run.
Item out of stock after placing order: After talking with several of our colleagues, friends, and family, we noticed another negative trend. One apparel retailer did not synchronize their stock inventory with their website, failing to keep up with inventory count. As a result, a coworker of mine had placed an order for a shirt and paid for it only to receive an email a few days later saying the item was out of stock. Obviously by having these issues you will not only lose sales but valuable customers as well. This retailer did take steps to mitigate this issue however. They called my coworker and personally spoke with her about the problem and gave her a gift certificate. While the retailer did a good job of handling this problem, all of it could have been avoided in the first place if they had kept their inventory up to date.
Wrong Item: The final complaint was delivery of an incorrect item. Another friend of mine had ordered a pair of boots from a seller through Amazon prior to his hiking trip. They arrived in a timely manner but had one slight issue: they were a completely different pair of boots. Obviously my friend did not let this go and since he needed the pair in the next few days before he left he had to wrestle with returning them and then waiting for a new pair to be delivered. He ended up getting the correct pair of boots in time but the fact that the first pair was the wrong one was a huge pain for him and he had to jump over a ton of hurdles just to get the right pair. The moral here is for companies to perform quality control on anything they ship out because messing up orders like that can hurt their image and brand loyalty.
While 2013 still saw an increase in traffic and sales across the board last year one thing is becoming apparent: the tried and true old methods are becoming obsolete in this technology-driven consumer society. If retailers want to maximize their sales in this coming 2014 holiday season they will have to go back to basics and adopt the “underpromise and overdeliver” mantra in their delivery, pricing, and customer experience areas.