Kurt Salmon: E-Commerce Shipping System Squeezed

A Kurt Salmon study of online orders from 62 retailers across a broad range of categories encountered some delivery disparities. This year’s fastest companies delivered on average in 2.8 days, in line with results for top performers last year.

The study included traditional big boxes, specialty retailers and online-only e-tailers, and analyzed online orders that were shipped to consumers, as well as those picked up in-store, to measure shipping speed, accuracy and cost.

Zappos won for fastest delivery coming in at a one-day average. Kurt Salmon cited Lowe’s, Barney’s and Burberry for two-day delivery, and REI, Saks, Amazon and Under Armour for three-day delivery. Bloomingdale’s followed with four-day delivery.

However, the market research firm noted that, outside of the top 10 performers, average order-to-delivery time fell significantly across the 62 retailers studied, with the overall average coming in at 6.9 days, 20% slower than the average in the same study conducted last year.

“This year, we really saw the top retailers separate themselves from the rest of the pack,” said Steve Osburn, Kurt Salmon retail strategist. “And we expect many retailers will try to follow these top performers’ lead next year, leading to even happier holidays for consumers if retailers can execute against their wish lists.”

Other study results, Kurt Salmon noted, include:

  • As opposed to 15% in 2014, 90% of retailers offered a way for customers to get free shipping in the latest study.
  • In another delivery wrinkle, 35% more retailers offered buy online, pick up in store or reserve-in-store opportunities this year, but only 40% of ship-to-store transactions were error free.
  • Better execution enabled 80% of retailers to complete orders within two weeks of Cyber Monday, up from 66% in 2014.
  • Higher-than-anticipated e-commerce volumes have stressed carrier networks, with 9% of packages sent via UPS Ground encountering some type of unexpected delay in the shipping process.

In terms of shipping systems, delays encountered in the course of the study were typically small and paled in comparison to some retailer-caused delays, Kurt Salmon noted, but they point to a larger problem: a carrier network at capacity.