This year has been full of shipping delays, which means the holiday season will likely complicate this issue even further for your business and especially your customer service team. That’s why we want to help you prepare by providing you with tips and tools to communicate shipping delays with customers, keep them informed, and improve transparency for your business. 

COVID and the rise of shipping delays.

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted supply chains in a major way. And while there are various factors at play, the bottom line is that it affects people—people who work in the supply chains, people who run businesses, people on a customer support team, people who work in delivery services, people who are trying to buy products. In short, people everywhere. But for retailers and other local businesses trying to keep their businesses running smoothly, this issue can threaten their livelihood. 

While COVID-related shortages started with toilet paper and quickly became more about posting memes on social media, delivery delays are now impacting businesses and consumers in many different sectors of the economy. Examples include apparel, computer chips, plastics, and rubber, just to name a few. 

How do I solve late shipping issues?

Be transparent about delivery delays.

Transparency is everything. You may not be able to provide everything your customers want or need all of the time, but you can always give them transparency and clear communication about general delays. Businesses wonder how to tell a customer their order is late, and many rely on email to provide updates on a customer’s order. Still, there’s another communication method that doesn’t get ignored, lost in the inbox, or sent to spam folders—text messaging. With 6.4 billion smartphone users across the planet and 95% of texts being opened within 3 minutes, it’s easy to see that text has taken over. And local businesses have picked up on it.

SMS marketing is the practice of using text messages to convert leads and increase customer retention, but it’s also the best way to communicate any shipping delays or late deliveries. As a rule of thumb, text messages are usually 160 characters or less and require prior permission from your customers to send. These text messages may include multimedia elements such as pictures, videos, GIFs, and links, and senders must abide by their country’s rules and regulations, as well as those of the recipient.

Local businesses sometimes worry that SMS marketing software is too complicated to implement or that promotions can frustrate customers and damage customer relationships. However, SMS marketing can be a huge asset and revenue driver with the proper practices and information.

Double down on text messaging.

Done correctly, SMS marketing can actually strengthen relationships by inviting responses and creating transparency. With well-timed messages and relevant content, it feels more intimate than other marketing messages and encourages continued engagement in a way only text can. The key is knowing how to message the right way.

Segmenting your customer base is a crucial part of using text marketing and updates. Doing so may sound complicated, but it simply centers around grouping your customer records into lists that share an attribute or characteristic(s) that aligns well to specific targeted messages. And you’re probably already doing it. 

Even a little segmentation can increase customer loyalty, decrease your opt-out rate, and significantly increase revenue. According to recent research, segmented campaigns boast open rates 14% higher than non-segmented campaigns and 101% more clicks. They significantly lower bounce rates, unsubscribes, and reporting incidences. 

The best marketing messages are written with the customer’s viewpoint in mind. Segmentation is also a crucial aspect of personalization. And there’s nothing consumers are craving more than personalization. 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a brand that tailors their experiences for them. And 91% of consumers are more likely to patronize brands that provide offers and recommendations relevant to them. 

It’s really quite simple. You have to segment if you want to keep your opt-ins happy and send successful campaigns this season. And that starts with tracking key characteristics. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Communicate about processing and fulfillment turnaround.

In addition to communicating about general delays, your business should also be transparent about processing and fulfillment turnaround times, especially during the holiday season when people are hyper-focused on getting what they need before certain special dates. When you give customers an early heads up and are clear about these timelines, they will be much more understanding when delivery times aren’t as fast as they’d like them to be. Consider incorporating an SMS shipping template into your after-purchase process.

Give customers a heads up to shop early.

Every problem presents an opportunity—and shipping delays are no different. With the right strategy, you can turn shipping delays into a marketing opportunity. For example, as inventory comes back in stock, you can keep your customers informed with exclusive offers. No one wants to miss out, especially on an item that has become rare due to low supply. Address that pain point by hitting consumers with a promo marketing message like the one below to convince even your most reluctant customers to act quickly and click on your link. 

holiday shipping delays template example

Example: “Hi Stacy—we are running low on our Black Friday inventory! Make sure to get your order in now to take advantage of these once-a-year prices! Shop selection:

Communicate fulfillment/warehouse delays.

When the inevitable fulfillment or warehouse delays arise, be prepared to communicate with customers. They will likely be somewhat upset about delays, but they will likely be furious if they don’t receive clear communication about them. This is another area where you can take advantage of the power of text messaging. With the right messaging platform, you can send mass text updates to your customers, informing them of delays. And since 98% of text messages get opened (and remember: 95% get opened within three minutes), you can rest assured that they’ll get the message. 

holiday shipping delays template sample

Example: “Hi Sam, we wanted to update you that some of our inventory fulfillment has been delayed. We are working hard to get the inventory our customers need. We’re offering all our customers 15% off their next order with this code: fifteen”

Take responsibility for any late deliveries. 

One thing that’s hard about COVID-related shipping delays is that you have little to no control over them once you hand them over to shipping carriers. But there’s one thing you do have control over: how you decide to communicate about late deliveries with your customers. Taking responsibility for the role your business plays can be one of the best ways to earn trust, give customers peace of mind and create loyal customers. Right now, consumers expect delays and other problems to arise. What they don’t always expect is for the business they’re buying from to take ownership and provide transparency throughout the process. 

holiday shipping delays template sms example

Example: “Hi Rachel, we wanted to update you on your recent order. Unfortunately, we will be delivering it later than expected. We are very sorry for the inconvenience. Please take 25% off your next order with this code: twentyfive”

Underpromise and overdeliver.

Nothing gets people more frustrated than when a business promises them something and fails to deliver. To avoid this, prepare for the holidays by forecasting demand for your inventory. Then, be realistic about what your business can and cannot offer customers during that time. For example, you might adjust your return policy on the fly for customers to make up for any frustrations or include a free gift. Customers love to be surprised—when it’s a pleasant surprise, that is. 

holiday shipping delays template sms sample

Example: “Hey Sophie, good news—your order came in earlier than expected! Stop by to pick it up any time.”

Start texting your customers today—at no cost. 

While you have your work cut out for you with the holidays coming and inventory shortages being the norm, hopefully, you now have some ideas of how you can prepare and better communicate with customers. Start using text messaging to provide transparency, manage inventory shortages, and ultimately bring in more revenue for your business. Getting started is easy with Podium. Even better, it’s free to get started

Isaiah Rendorio
Isaiah Rendorio Product Marketing Manager, Campaigns

Isaiah Rendorio is the Product Marketing Manager for Podium Campaigns—helping local businesses tap into the power of SMS marketing to strengthen customer relationships, increase customer lifetime value, and drive more revenue.

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