Function Junction

Fast Shipping: A Luxury Lost as COVID-19 Redefines Expectations?

At GELF LA 2020, the popular morning breakout session on International Shipping covered many topics, including demand for fast shipping.  Fast shipping has been a hot topic as leaders debate growing expectations for same-day, two-day and other express shipping options.

The conversation has expanded beyond domestic shipping to include cross-border/international shipping.  Yes, consumers – and especially younger online shoppers – expect fast shipping. Yes, many cross-border buyers don’t think about how long it takes a cross-border order to be processed, shipped, clear customs and then injected into a national/local delivery system.  They just want it ASAP.

Shipping Expectations in the New Abnormal

Freightwaves reports that Amazon told consumers this past week that its paid-subscription Prime service is facing month-long delays in shipping due to the coronavirus outbreak and that the company will focus on stocking and delivering higher-priority items.

We’ve all probably dealt with the new abnormal.  As GELF pivoted last week to accelerate the launch of its Global E-Commerce TechTalks Podcast, we needed some essential new podcasting equipment.

No problem, right? Pop over to Amazon and order the goods for two-day delivery – or maybe a little longer due to the global pandemic.  Wrong.  April 23rd was the earlier date available.  Amazon had other priorities. All good.

We ended up at BestBuy’s rather well-thought out BuyOnline / Curbsite Pickup. Worked rather well; plus we got some out-of-the-house exercise.

Speed or Certainty?

In GELF’s case, we could have waited more than a couple of days to get the podcast equipment. But we weren’t sure the equipment would show up as promised.  Not blaming Amazon, but things have changed.  Certainty was the priority. All it took was a quick ride downtown and by days’ end, we were ramping up production.

Freightwaves quotes Brittain Ladd, a former Amazon executive who now runs his own consultancy PULSE Integration. Ladd explains that the coronavirus had uncovered “a flaw in the supply chains of retailers.” In order to reduce costs, he explained, retailers carried less inventory, yielding efficient – not responsive – supply chains.

“Most analysts have failed to understand that what consumers want isn’t speed, they want certainty or what I refer to as a repeatable and reproducible experience,” Ladd told FreightWaves.

Perhaps the low inventory levels will help retailers in the weeks ahead, especially those selling products like fashion that are out of favor. But Ladd is right about expectations shifting to certainty.

This has been true for quite a while when it comes to cross-border ecommerce.  Most shoppers that cannot buy a good or service locally are more interested in knowing that the purchase is on its way – and are less worried about when it will arrive.  International shipping has been more about options than speed. Yes, there has been a growing number of global shoppers that expect fast delivery.  But most are satisfied knowing that what they want is on its way.

The article debates the impact of inventory requirements on shipping speeds. It concludes that as the supply chain races to meet demand in a rapidly changing crisis environment, retailers will need to “pre-position inventory” and automate their supply chains to maximize manufacturing and fulfillment speeds. Check it out.

What do you think the longer-term impacts of the global COVID-19 crisis will be on international shipping?

Let us know! And please join us at the Global E-Commerce Tech Talks, our podcast



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