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On-time deliveries hit record low as December order volumes surge

The December peak saw on-time deliveries fall to their lowest level since tracking began in 2011, according to the latest figures from the IMRG MetaPack UK Delivery Index.

The research shows that the number of items arriving on time fell to 85% – the lowest ever recorded.

However, the fall was likely driven by the sheer volumes. Online retail delivery order volumes were up 17.2% year on year in December. This compared to only a 2.4% year on year growth for the same month in 2016 where sales seem to have been hit more greatly by November’s Black Friday discounting event.

Between November and December this year volumes grew by 6%. The Monday before Christmas also saw high demand with customers placing last-minute orders for pre-Christmas delivery.

Whilst last-minute ordering carried on during the last week before Christmas IMRG’s research suggests that the additional purchases were single items or promotion driven. Although in 2016 there was a 6% increase in the average order value for parcel deliveries between November and December this year it fell by 10%.

Andrew Starkey, head of e-logistics at IMRG, said that retailers were caught out by both demand and weather. “December saw some extreme weather conditions across Scotland, Wales and northern England, which caused delays to movement of stock. It also featured record volumes for this period, including the late surge in orders that was higher than anticipated,” he said.

He said that retailers next day delivery options also skewed the figures somewhat. “Another key influence was the high use of next day delivery which puts additional pressure on delivery windows and, in some cases, is an example of businesses giving their customers something they haven’t specifically asked for. This option is often provided by default now by some retailers and, as many of these next day orders were not technically requested or required next day, the low on-time delivery rate is more noticeable to the retailer than the customer.”

Maria Dahlqvist Canton, global marketing director at MetaPack, said that more than ever it shows the need for excellent deliveries. “As consumer expectation is changing, and shoppers feel more confident to place their orders closer and closer to Christmas, it does mean that, even with excellent planning, it puts unprecedented pressure on both retailers and carriers to keep their delivery promise,” she said.

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