Brands are trying to fix the holidays' escalating Grinch problem
A view from Amit Sharma

Brands are trying to fix the holidays' escalating Grinch problem

Stolen packages epidemic requires giving your customers options.

By now, you likely have heard of (or experienced) "porch piracy:" UPS, FedEx or USPS rings the doorbell, but no one is home. The package is set down on the resident’s porch, and a trespasser then sneaks up and steals it. You may be alarmed how often this criminal scenario occurs across the U.S. 

The New York Times reported on Dec. 3 on an increasing rash of package thievery after e-commerce deliveries in urban, suburban, and rural areas. The Times estimated that New York City alone sees 90,000 packages stolen every day, while Denver experienced a 68 percent jump in package robberies in the last four years. 

Thankfully, retail brands are offering hope for a better yuletide outcome to overcome such Grinches this holiday season. They increasingly give customers options for receiving and returning packages in efforts that should help curtail this epidemic. Here are some of the ways brands that are cutting down the likelihood of thievery while making holiday gift-giving, receiving, and exchanging less stressful. 

Save the gift buyer with BOPIS 

In 2013, 44 percent of consumers said they would be more likely to shop with a retailer if they could "buy online and pick up the item in the store" (BOPIS). Five years later, 67 percent of consumers regularly used the BOPIS option, which also cuts down on the opportunities for theft. 

Delivery and pick-up options have become imperative, and retailers understand this reality: 61 percent of retailers said that BOPIS and BORIS (buy online return in-store) are at the top of their omnichannel plans and investments. Plus, it’s growing: 90 percent of retailers are expected to offer this option within the next two years.

With the nationwide problem of stolen packages and the gift-buying season in full swing, alternative options cannot come fast enough—and there have been recent, specific developments to note. In October 2019, crafts retail chain Michaels partnered with UPS to make 1,100 of the brand’s stores UPS Access Points, which now total 4,800 U.S. locations in convenient neighborhood businesses. These locations give shoppers another option for receiving and returning online orders from Michaels or any other brand. 

Make BORIS an option, too

Today’s time-strapped customers sometimes arrange for carrier pickup of their returns, and may leave packages at their doorsteps for the courier. These instances, too, can be prime opportunities for porch-stalking Grinches; so give your customers the BORIS option just as Michaels has recently done. If Kohl’s deal for returns with Amazon is any indication, Michaels should see a healthy spike in foot traffic due to the UPS agreement. After a two-year pilot program in 80 stores in the Los Angeles and Chicago areas, Kohl’s now accepts returns of Amazon purchases nationwide. And here’s another benefit: In the first three weeks after implementing the policy, the department store giant saw foot traffic rise by 24 percent. And the number of visitors who stuck around the stores to shop for more than 16 minutes lifted 14 percent.
While brands like Kohl’s don’t want to be too dependent on digital giants like Amazon, they can attract Amazon customers into stores while offering a convenient service. Kohl’s is not only benefitting from the increased traffic, but they are also thinking about the customer experience, making it easy for busy shoppers to knock multiple things off the to-do list at once in physical stores and alleviating concerns about theft. 

To improve CX, it’s worth noting some retailers are offering unusually convenient returns policies as part of their offering. For instance, Gap-owned brands Athleta and Hill City allow customers to return clothing and workout gear purchase after actually exercising in the items first. It’s a sneaky-good offer for inspiring customer loyalty, particularly during the holiday season. Gift recipients can at least give their items a try before returning them for something they may want more. Once again, it’s all about giving the customer options. 

Win the last mile

It doesn’t matter whether the e-commerce seller is Amazon, Kohl’s, Michaels, Athleta, Hill City or any other brand. It’s smart business to offer as many pickup and returns options as possible—and with customers who have, unfortunately, had packages stolen from the doorstep, that idea matters even more. During the gift-centric holidays, especially, it’s also important to keep customers in the loop about their product delivery and return being documented, refunds being made, and other order tracking information about things like replacement items being shipped. It’s all about making the last mile of e-commerce a positive customer experience to leave them with a superb impression of your brand.

But first, e-commerce customers need to actually get their packages, right? Don’t leave them wondering about whether the package is still sitting on their stoop or at the front door of their gift recipient. Give them the option to decide what’s most convenient for them, and eliminate that concern during the holidays and year-round. 

Amit Sharma is CEO of Narvar.