Nearly half of top online retailers have been advising shoppers this week of cutoff dates for placing orders for delivery by Christmas Eve. Quite a few are also making clear there are options for those who order closer to Christmas, showing expedited delivery dates or encouraging in-store pickup.
Of the 100 sites of major retailers that Digital Commerce 360 editors checked Dec. 12, 43 featured homepage advisories on the last dates for placing orders for delivery by Dec. 24. The most common cutoff date for standard shipping was Dec. 15.
Tipsy Elves LLC is among the retailers with a Dec. 15 cutoff for guaranteed delivery before Christmas with standard shipping fees. And the web-only retailer of intentionally garish apparel is offering discounts on expedited shipping late in the season to make it easier for last-minute shoppers to buy its eye-catching sweaters, T-shirts and onesies, says Evan Mendelsohn, co-founder and co-CEO. For example, the retailer reduced priority shipping this week to $5, instead of the usual $9.
He says during periods leading up to holidays like Christmas and Halloween “we will typically discount whatever method is the one that will allow people to receive on Friday heading into the big party weekend. People are often ordering our products for holidays, parties, events and occasions happening on the weekend.”
Mendelsohn adds, “Our goal is to allow customers to order as close to Christmas as possible and at the most affordable prices — all with guaranteed shipping.”
Retail chains promote in-store pickup of holiday orders
Of the 43 retailers promoting standard shipping cutoff dates on their homepages, 37 put the deadline between Dec. 12 and 19. A Petco Health and Wellness Company Inc. spokeswoman noted that the retailer’s Dec. 13 cutoff was based on ground shipping advisories from national parcel services.
The latest cutoff date among the 100 retail sites checked was that of Blue Nile Inc., which guarantees delivery of orders placed as late as Dec. 23. But that’s because the retailer, which specializes in engagement rings and other jewelry that typically cost sseveral hundreds of dollars and more, regularly offers free two-day shipping. Blue Nile ranks No. 145 in the Digital Commerce 360 2022 Top 1000 Retailers database, a ranking of North America’s leading retailers and brands by online sales.
Women’s apparel retailer Chico’s FAS Inc.’s cutoff date “shifted out slightly this year” to Dec. 14 for guaranteed delivery with standard shipping, from Dec. 13 a year ago, a spokeswoman says. For shoppers who don’t get their orders in by then, Chico’s is offering a 10% discount online from Dec. 15 to Dec. 24 for purchases made at Chicos.com for in-store pickup. Chico’s is No. 88 in the Top 1000.
Buy online, pick up in store can be a holiday lifesaver for procrastinators. Of the 63 retailers checked that primarily sell through physical stores, 25, or 40%, promoted in-store or curbside pickup as ways to get purchases in time for holiday celebrations. Petco, No. 96 in the Top 1000, is advising customers they can place an order up to two hours before their local store closes on Dec. 24 and still pick up that order that day.
Retailers like Mendelsohn can be a bit more confident about their promised delivery dates this year. Carriers’ on-time performance appears to be recovering to pre-pandemic levels after two years of more frequent delays, according to ShipMatrix, which tracks carriers’ on-time delivery rates.
“We use DHL and UPS, and they’ve been really reliable this year,” Mendelsohn says. “There were some delays during the pandemic, but carrier performance has been pretty strong and reliable this year.” Tipsy Elves is No. 832 in the Top 1000.
That’s true generally, ShipMatrix says. Though late deliveries increased around the Thanksgiving holiday period, carriers still performed better than last year from Nov. 24 to 30, which included Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, ShipMatrix says. FedEx’s on-time delivery improved the most, to 95.3% from 83.9% during the same period in 2021. UPS delivered 96.6% of packages on time this year, up from 96.1%. USPS delivered 95.8% on time, up slightly from 95.5%.
ShipMatrix says carriers, including Amazon.com Inc. as well as the three traditional delivery services, have increased capacity so they can handle as many as 110 million parcels a day in 2022. That compares with about 90 million last year. With ShipMatrix predicting peak demand at 92 million parcels, that leaves the carriers with excess capacity. That’s a big change from the last two years, given that ShipMatrix estimated excess demand of 7.2 million parcels a day in 2020 and 1.3 million in 2021.
Nonetheless, 61% of consumers said they were concerned about receiving on-time delivery of online orders in a late October 2022 online survey conducted by Voxware, a voice automation software provider.
Levi’s lists Hanukkah cutoff dates as well as Christmas
Showing guaranteed holiday delivery dates prominently on a homepage can allay those concerns. And some retailers are showing shoppers more than just the cutoff date for standard shipping. For example, electronics retailer Newegg Commerce Inc. (No. 40 in the Top 1000) displays a chart with the last dates for order with three-day, two-day and next-day delivery.
Levis Strauss & Co. (No. 196) recognized that Hanukkah-celebrating shoppers would want to know when they must order for delivery in time for the holiday, which begins Dec. 18 this year. The jeans maker included the Hanukkah as well as Christmas Eve cutoff dates in its shipping advisory, under the heading “DON’T BE LATE.”
Chico’s, meanwhile, also provided shipping cutoff dates for those in Canada and other countries. The women’s apparel retailer is among the 511 retailers in the Top 1000 that ship to online shoppers outside of North America, according to the Digital Commerce 360 2022 Top 1000 Report.
Yankee Candle guarantees delivery of personalized items
And Yankee Candle Company Inc., a subsidiary of Newell Brands Inc. (No. 41), noted in a homepage banner that all purchases made by Dec. 14, including of personalized candles, would arrive by Dec. 24.
Online shoppers care about delivery, especially around the holidays. 32% listed speed of delivery and 16% previous delivery experience with a retailer among the main considerations when choosing where to shop online during the holidays, according to a September 2022 survey of 1,088 online holiday buyers by Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights.
Quite a few — but far from all — e-retailers recognize that concern about getting holiday purchases in time as an opportunity to boost consumers’ confidence. E-retailers take advantage by providing detailed information about when shoppers must place their orders for holiday delivery. And some are adding details about expedited delivery cutoff dates for those who don’t complete their shopping until the holidays are near.
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