Ecommerce peak 2021 predictions: how big will it be?

Just when we thought ecommerce peak season couldn’t get any bigger, 2021 is on track to break all the records set in 2020. Last year, the largest delivery volumes were seen between October and December, with YoY growth reaching an impressive 25.4% in November. In Metapack’s Peak delivery trends report, we predict these figures are set to rise once more in 2021.

The question is, will retailers’ delivery experience withstand the pressure? Here we share the strategies our top customers are employing to survive and thrive this peak season.

The case for carrier contingency

Even if growth will decelerate somewhat this peak season, we’re still predicting a 10.7% rise on the astronomical ecommerce delivery volumes witnessed at the height of COVID-19. Another record-breaking peak is good news for retailers, but it won’t be without risks.

Volumes like these will place additional pressure on supply chains and carrier networks still under strain from the COVID-19 crisis, as well as new challenges like labor shortages and flooding in Europe and China. Consumers were understanding of shortages and delays at the beginning of the pandemic, but at this point poor performance will almost certainly translate into customer churn.

When pressure is combined with uncertainty, contingency planning becomes imperative. Retailers need access to a full suite of carriers to safeguard their delivery proposition in case their usual network becomes overloaded.

‘Out of home’ delivery the one to watch in Peak 2021

Meanwhile on the front end of their business, a range of delivery options will help retailers convert, especially as we get further into peak season and time pressure becomes more of an issue. If a customer leaves their holiday shopping to the last minute, tactics like ‘ship from store’ can help them get their order faster, and delivery options like ‘click and collect’ or collection points can bring delivery timeframes forward. It’s not just the delivery ecosystem that’s key, but also the ability to draw from various elements at the drop of a hat.

Standard delivery is still predicted to make up 79% of the delivery mix, but if there’s one mode to watch this season, it’s ‘out of home’. Methods like lockers, PUDOs and in-store pickup have followed an interesting trajectory over the past year. Home delivery unsurprisingly remained the preferred delivery mode throughout lockdown, but one carrier partner Metapack works with experienced a 2% rise in the use of their lockers. They attribute this to the fact that many of their lockers are located outside, which made them safer to use during the pandemic. Also, many are situated at supermarkets or petrol stations, which remained open and well-frequented during lockdowns.

Delivery experience as a retention tool

Ecommerce peak season is always a huge customer acquisition opportunity. But it is also a major customer retention risk. 81% of consumers had a bad delivery experience in 2020, which was a five time increase on the previous year, and our research shows that more than one third of consumers would change retailers after a negative delivery experience. This peak season is clearly not one to compromise on delivery experience.

Great delivery requires something more than just delivering customers the products they want – it involves providing an overall experience they wish to repeat. By communicating better with customers, retailers can minimize the negative effect of delays while also providing the transparent and empowering experience customers want.

If there’s one takeaway to be drawn from our predictions for Peak 2021, it’s that last year’s ecommerce growth was more than just a flash in the pan. While growth rates will slow this year, we’re still predicting volumes over and above what we witnessed last year. The challenge for retailers lies in seizing the opportunity while maintaining carrier resilience and ultimately guaranteeing a delivery experience that will keep customers coming back for more.

Discover more peak predictions in our 2021 Peak delivery trends report.

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