Monday, December 28, 2015

Online Shopping's Increased Popularity Causes Extended Shipping Delays

Just in December alone, it is expected that United Parcel Service will deliver a total of about 420 million packages in the United States while its competitor Federal Express will deliver about 228 million. The U.S. Parcel Service is also in the game, expected to ship about 545 million packages this month. All together, they will be shipping a huge amount, almost 8% more than they did at this time last year. According to Samantha Masunaga, in her L.A. Times article, this dramatic increase in the number of people and retailers needing to ship packages is due mainly to a recent increase in e-commerce.

This year, many retailers offered Black Friday deals on their websites, essentially giving their customers a choice. They could come into the store on Black Friday and shop, finding deals and purchasing items to take home with them immediately. Or, they could shop online, earning the same deals and reduced prices as in the store, and have the item shipped. Sensibly, many customers chose the second route, choosing to wait a little bit longer for their item rather than braving the hectic battle in the store on Black Friday. While this online integration by the retailers helped to keep Black Friday running more smoothly in stores, it came as an unexpected hit among shipping companies, whose predictions were far surpassed, which led to many delays on deliveries.

With the holidays approaching, shipping companies were getting even more overwhelmed with many more orders than in previous years. Because of that, they began telling customers that there would be no assurances that their package would arrive before Christmas unless they used the higher-cost options, like two-day or overnight shipping. Even those options were not perfect. UPS's on-time delivery rates for two-day and overnight delivery have varied throughout the month, ranging around 97%. Basically, when it comes down to it, even the more expensive options are not a guarantee, so consumers should plan ahead and order far in advance if they want to make sure their item arrives in a timely fashion.

Cyber Monday sales exceeded expectations, reaching $3.07 billion, which was 16% more than last year's sales. During Black Friday, about 103 million people got their deals online while 102 million preferred to do their shopping in brick-and-mortar establishments. Online purchases this year, especially during its final months, soared higher than ever expected, which is why shipping delays occurred. While shipping services were prepared for higher demand than in previous years, they could hardly know exactly how much the demand would increase, so the explosion of e-commerce's popularity caught them off-guard. Even for many online merchants, this year's demand was surprising. For several retailers, popular items ran out very quickly, and some even experienced crashes on their websites due to the increased traffic.

Most people in this day and age have a smartphone or some other way to get online while on the go. Because of this, online shopping may be easier and more appealing than having to go to stores and hope that they have the item you want in the correct size or color or style. It is simpler to just go to a website, type in exactly what it is you want, and order it. Over the holiday season, about 25% of e-commerce shopping was done via a mobile device. Our society's increasing dependence on new technology could be a reason why retailers have integrated more of that same technology into the shopping experience, making it easier and faster for potential customers to shop with them.

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