U.S. ecommerce shipments in June 2020 were 30% higher compared with June 2019. However, growth is slowing, according to last-mile technology vendor Convey Inc. Convey’s data is based on tens of millions of packages shipped from more than 500,000 locations in North America.
In April 2020—the first full month of closed stores in much of the U.S. because of the coronavirus pandemic—shipment volume for packages in Convey’s network reached 19.0 million orders. This is nearly a 60% increase in package volume compared to April 2019. But since that peak, order volume has decreased month over month, with a 7.9% month-over-month decrease in May and a 15.4% decrease in June.
The month-over-month decrease in shipment volume is likely because online shopping behavior was normalizing compared with when consumers were stockpiling goods and ordering more online while stores were closed during shelter-in-place orders in March and April, says Carson Krieg, Convey’s co-founder and director of strategic partnerships. Stores in several regions began reopening in some capacity in May and June, which may have slowed shipment volume.
“While the count of new COVID-19 cases had been decreasing from April to June, new cases have been increasing from June to July,” Kreig says. “It will be interesting to monitor shipment volume to see if there is a correlation between the number of new cases and shipment volume.”
Despite a decrease in order volume, shipping delays continue to plague retailers. Convey finds that 71% of packages in its network were delivered on time in June 2020 compared with 89% in June 2019. On-time percentages have been declining over the past several months. In March 2020, 85% of packages were delivered on time, that decreased to 76% in April and 72% in May.
“Despite the June decrease in volume, carriers are still facing continued network issues that have built up over the past few months and are working to bring performance back to normal,” Kreig says.
Convey determines if a package is on time if the carrier delivered the package by the date it originally provided to the retailer and the customer.
Shipping carriers UPS Inc., United States Postal Service and FedEx Corp. have all posted year-over-year decreases in on-time percentages in the last few months, according to Convey. However, UPS had the lowest of the three, with 69% of packages on-time in June, compared with 78% for FedEx and 89% for USPS.
In the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000, 211 retailers name FedEx as their shipping carrier, 281 use UPS and 219 use USPS, according to Top500Guide.com.
“With carriers exercising their power to limit volume during COVID spikes, similar to the limits they put in place during the holidays, we’ll be watching this to see if the limits impact service levels in the coming months,” Kreig says.
Although more packages have arrived late in the last few months, shoppers have not provided more negative feedback. Of shoppers who provided feedback, 41% gave negative feedback in June 2020, the same as May 2020 and June 2019. Retailers likely have notified shoppers in advance of package delays, which may have helped to reset customer exceptions, Kreig says.
Besides an increase in shipment volume, shoppers have also picked up more orders in stores, according to Rakuten data. In June 2020, 20.0% of online shoppers picked up online order in a store, compared with 13.1% of shoppers in June 2019. Rakuten Intelligence bases its data on email receipts of more than 1 million online shoppers. This data does not differentiate if the order was an in-store pickup or a curbside pickup.
The increase in order pickups is likely because it offers shoppers and employees a way to limit contact with others—a high concern during the pandemic—and it’s convenient as it saves shoppers time because they don’t have to walk around the store, says Jaron Waldman, CEO and co-founder of Rakuten Ready, an order pickup technology vendor that is a part of Rakuten.
“[This whole pandemic and COVID situation] has taken a trend that was already happening and turbo-charged it,” Waldman says.
What’s more, many of these shoppers are first-time pickup shoppers, which Rakuten defines as a shopper who has not used buy online, pick up in store between January 2018-March 2020. In April 2020, 3.5% of BOPIS orders were from a customer who had never picked up in-store before, compared with just 2.1% of new BOPIS buyers in April 2019, according to Rakuten Intelligence.
New shoppers trying out BOPIS will further increase online order pickup volume over time, Waldman says, as many consumers new to the service will see the convenience and use the service again.
“The things that were causing it to grow before the pandemic are the things that are going to make it sustained as you have a huge number of consumers trying it for the first time,” says Waldman referring to the convenience of BOPIS and curbside.
A June survey of 3,000 global consumers conducted by consulting firm Publicis Sapient finds a similar affinity for store pickup. 43% of U.S. consumers say curbside pickup is one of their favorite ways to replenish household staples. In-store pickup was next at 41% and next-day shipping at 35%. Consumers could pick more than one response.Favorite