Small business owners in the e-commerce and retail sectors have faced delivery delays since the start of the pandemic. But you can take steps today to improve the process and ease the pressure on your business. In this article, we explain how long you can expect shipping to take, why so many shipments are delayed, and what small business owners can do to address these challenges.
How long does international shipping take right now?
Overseas retail delays are still occurring compared to pre-pandemic days. Shipping from China used to take 40 days on average, but dropped to 70 days by the end of 2021. Flexport’s Ocean Timeliness Indicator recorded a high of 114 days.
According to the Global Supply Chain Pressure Index, shipping companies are not out of the woods yet – shipping times from several parts of the world to the United States are still lagging behind. Chinese and European ports are a major source of many delays, with China’s continued blockages contributing greatly. Also, the cost of sending air freight from the United States to Asia is more expensive, which means you can pay more to get the items you need to sell.
Why do overseas shipments take so long?
Many factors contribute to shipping delays, such as the fact that 95% of the transpacific shipping industry is controlled by three alliances, which has allowed them to increase shipping costs. But the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated other issues and made the situation worse. Global ports were closed and there were not enough workers due to the virus, so cargo ships were very congested.
Most of the world’s shipping is done over the ocean. Thus, cargo ship delays, shipping container backlogs, port closures and labor shortages have caused significant delays for many U.S. retailers trying to maintain inventory. Not to mention that it is now more expensive to ship new products. The cost of transport is seven times higher than before the pandemic, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Even Amazon isn’t immune to the impact of shipping delays. Between 15% and 23% of the company’s products were out of stock by the end of 2021, CNN reported. However, small retailers without the resources of a large company like Amazon are feeling the greatest impacts.
What happens when a supplier does not deliver?
If delivery is delayed, retailers must deal with the real-time consequences of supply chain disruptions and product shortages. A positive customer experience is key to maintaining brand loyalty. According to a recent Oracle survey, more than half of consumers would switch brands after wanted items were out of stock or delayed between one and three times. So, if a retail business encounters a late shipment, a single out-of-stock item may be enough to convince customers to go elsewhere.
How does a retail business handle shipping delays?
Here are several steps retailers can take to reduce the stresses associated with supply chain delays and shipping delays.
Adapt to new consumer habits
American shoppers have adapted to the long lead times by starting to buy more in bulk, pre-ordering and increasing in-person purchases. Businesses need to be mindful and manage these shifts in buying habits as the supply chain is disrupted. Also, if it makes sense for your products, consider adding a subscription service or same-day pickup for your customers.
One of the most important ways to manage supply chain issues is to gain insight into the current delivery status of your products. Use supply chain visibility software that works for retail like Descartes MacroPoint, Anvyl, or Overhaul to see where your products are at every step of the process. Some supply chain visibility software allows you to choose your shipping route to also get the fastest delivery option.
Automate your inventory management
Use inventory management software to stay on top of your inventory needs. Tracking which products you need to restock allows you to plan orders in advance. So even if you experience shipping delays, you won’t run out of stock and can continue to fulfill customer orders. This software can also give you details such as items that are not selling so you can avoid ordering them again.
You can avoid a lot of headaches by being honest and clear with your customers. If you think there might be delivery delays, let your customers know as soon as possible. Plus, be as open as possible with your customers about where their orders are by sending shipping status updates. Offering your customers discounts or refunds upon request if there are shipping delays and the order arrived too late to be useful is also a good idea.
Giving yourself more leeway is the easiest thing you can do to manage supply chain issues. As long as your produce is non-perishable, you can order ahead for this holiday season. Consider buying in bulk for products that sell out to avoid shipping the same product multiple times. Additionally, allowing customers to pre-order products can give you more latitude in terms of delivery times.
Can you get compensation for shipping delays?
Your company may be able to get compensated for late delivery, although the process can get complicated. If you placed an overseas shipping order, you may be able to file a freight claim, which is a claim made directly to the freight carrier. However, you will need to be able to prove that delivery did not take place within a “reasonable time”, or within a reasonable time, which caused damage to you. The term “reasonable” is subjective, however, so you are not guaranteed to obtain compensation by following this claims process.
Cash flow solutions for retail businesses
Retail businesses need to keep their inventory well stocked to maintain and increase customer satisfaction, but that may not be easy when cash flow is an issue. Luckily, you can log into Nav and connect your retail business’s cash flow to get real-time insights into its performance and your next best move.
You’ll also be able to identify the financing options you’re most likely to qualify for, such as business credit cards and small business loans. You can apply for funding in minutes using Nav. These financing options can provide the cash needed to ensure you avoid shipping delays and keep your customers happy.
Here are some of the retail business loans currently available:
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