Distribution operations will be under a microscope again this holiday season, as consumers grow increasingly intolerant of late deliveries, incorrect orders, and subpar returns management, according to a survey from supply chain technology firm Voxware, released this month.
New Jersey-based Voxware provides cloud-based voice automation and supply chain analytics software for companies in a range of industries, including retailers and third-party logistics services (3PL) providers. The company polled 500 U.S. consumers in late October for its biennial survey on holiday shopping behaviors and expectations and found that: 65% would stop shopping with a retailer altogether after two to three late deliveries; 81% would stop shopping with a retailer if they receive an incorrect order two or three times; and 70% say they expect incorrect orders to be corrected and redelivered within three to four days, among other findings.
Those expectations put increasing pressure on warehousing and distribution operations to streamline and improve their fulfillment and delivery processes.
“Meeting customer expectations must be the first priority for retailers,” Keith Phillips, Voxware’s president and CEO, said in a press release announcing the survey’s findings. “Yet, increased mistakes and delays are disappointing customers. Much of the success or failure in meeting customer expectations falls on warehouse services and its ability to move product quickly and accurately into and through the distribution center and out for delivery.”
The survey also found that 7% of consumers will cancel an order after receiving an incorrect item rather than wait for the retailer to send the correct item—up from 3% who said so in 2020—and 70% of consumers said they are likely to share a negative experience online when a purchase is late or incorrect.
The survey also revealed a shift in consumer buying behavior this year, as pandemic concerns wane. More customers expect to return to in-store shopping this holiday season, while still holding on to online purchasing habits–meaning that retailers will be challenged to keep store shelves stocked and online fulfillment channels humming at the same time. Nearly 40% of the survey respondents said they expect to purchase more gifts in stores than they did in 2020, and 40% said they will buy more than 75% of their holiday gifts online this year–slightly less than the 46% who said so two years ago.
“Often overlooked tasks in the warehouse will be in the spotlight this holiday shopping season,” Phillips also said. “Receiving and replenishment will be key for retailers to move product to where it needs to be. Whether it is refilling the stock rooms in a brick-and-mortar establishment or fulfilling orders directly to consumers, flexible and responsive retailers will come out ahead this season.”
Inflation will be a big factor this holiday shopping season as well; 56% of respondents said they plan to purchase fewer gifts this year than they did last year, and just 11% said they will purchase more gifts this holiday season, according to the survey.