On­line sites court pro­cras­ti­na­tors with speedy ship­ping

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

For­get or­der­ing on­line weeks in ad­vance or dash­ing out to the drug store for a gift card on Christ­mas Eve. Pro­cras­ti­nat­ing hol­i­day shop­pers are find­ing a haven on­line as re­tail­ers ramp up ex­pe­dited ship­ping and same-day de­liv­ery ser­vices.

Far from dis­cour­ag­ing last-minute on­line shop­pers, re­tail­ers are ac­tu­ally court­ing them. Ama­zon is of­fer­ing a "Pro­cras­ti­na­tor's De­light" spe­cial. Cloth­ing re­tailer Madewell pro­claims on its web­site that "pro­cras­ti­na­tors get the best deals" - 25 per­cent off every­thing, with or­ders as late as noon Thurs­day for hol­i­day de­liv­er­ies.

It's a far cry from 2013, when Ama­zon and pack­age de­liv­er­ers mis­judged de­mand and de­liv­ered some hol­i­day pack­ages af­ter Christ­mas . Since then, the Seattle com­pany has added ware­houses to be closer to cus­tomers. It has also leased jets and trucks to get pack­ages de­liv­ered on time - even last-minute or­ders. Pack­age car­ri­ers such as FedEx and UPS have also in­creased staffing and hired out­side contractors for the hol­i­day sea­son.

"So many peo­ple are shop­ping on­line be­cause it's eas­ier," said Sucharita Mulpuru, chief re­tail strate­gist for the ShopTalk re­tail con­fer­ence. "They're wait­ing for last minute be­cause no­body is en­cour­ag­ing them to shop ear­lier."

Trust in re­li­a­bil­ity

If you're an on­line shop­per in the days lead­ing up to Christ­mas and Hanukkah, be ready to forgo free ship­ping and shell out for ex­pe­dited ser­vice. Look for sites that of­fer de­tailed ship­ping in­for­ma­tion. And check where the pack­age is com­ing from - if it's ship­ping from China or the U.K., you won't get it in time.

But the ex­tra cost and vig­i­lance is worth it to those seek­ing to avoid the has­sles of jam­packed stores, crowded park­ing lots and fren­zied crowds. Laura Cur­tis turned to ex­pe­dited two-day shop­ping from Etsy and else­where when she re­al­ized she needed more gifts for her nieces and neph­ews.

"I'm usu­ally way done by now," said the writer from Mt Kisco, New York. But she said she has faith that she'll get her pack­ages on time. "Our FedEx guy is re­ally re­li­able." Al­though a union warned that Ama­zon might not be able to re­tain enough pi­lots un­der con­tract to de­liver pack­ages through its new air­line ship­ping ser­vice, Prime Air, Ama­zon said it doesn't ex­pect any de­lays.

Spi­ral­ing de­mand, more ser­vices

The num­ber of hol­i­day pack­ages has been ris­ing each year as more peo­ple shop on­line. Re­search firm comS­core pre­dicts on­line shop­ping dur­ing the Novem­ber and De­cem­ber hol­i­day pe­riod will rise as much as 19 per­cent from last year to $81 bil­lion. That com­pares with an ex­pected 3.6 per­cent rise in over­all shop­ping dur­ing the same pe­riod to $656 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Re­tail Fed­er­a­tion, an in­dus­try trade group.

That means many more pack­ages each year. UPS pre­dicts global de­liv­ery vol­ume dur­ing the hol­i­days will rise 14 per­cent from last year to about 700 mil­lion pack­ages. FedEx ex­pects vol­ume to rise about 10 per­cent.

Mean­while, the num­ber of ser­vices for last-minute on­line or­ders keeps grow­ing. Ama­zon has been ex­pand­ing its Prime Now same-day de­liv­ery ser­vice, adding nine cities to reach 31 this year. It is us­ing lo­cal de­liv­ery ser­vice providers and reg­u­lar driv­ers as on­de­mand mes­sen­gers. The ser­vice is cater­ing to last-minute shop­pers by of­fer­ing a "Pro­cras­ti­na­tor's De­light" pro­gram that will de­liver prod­ucts up un­til 11:59 p.m. on Christ­mas Eve. PetS­mart is of­fer­ing same-day de­liv­ery through startup De­liv. Uber is us­ing its net­work of con­tract driv­ers for same-day de­liv­ery of goods for small busi­nesses in New York, San Fran­cisco and Chicago.

In ad­di­tion, Ama­zon now lets peo­ple sub­scribe to its reg­u­lar $99-a-year Prime pro­gram, which of­fers free two-day ship­ping, on a month-by-month ba­sis. That means shop­pers can sign up in De­cem­ber to take ad­van­tage of free two-day ship­ping and have the op­tion of can­cel­ing the next month. All this could lead to a rush in last­minute on­line de­liv­er­ies.

Primed for pro­cras­ti­na­tion

ShopTalk's Mulpuru said she re­ceived a FedEx pack­age in an un­marked van rather than a reg­u­lar FedEx truck, a sign FedEx could be adding out­side help for some de­liv­er­ies. (FedEx con­firmed it tem­po­rar­ily rents ve­hi­cles to ac­com­mo­date in­creased pack­age vol­ume dur­ing the hol­i­days.) "This year the de­mand must have been re­ally high," she said. "It's only go­ing to get busier."

Prime's growth is es­ti­mated to be 50 per­cent over last year, and most of that growth hap­pens dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son, she said. "Con­sumers are get­ting frus­trated by store shop­ping," she said. "If you need some­thing by a cer­tain date, it be­comes re­ally easy to sign on to Ama­zon Prime."

Matthew Hall, a stu­dent in Den­ton, Texas, plans to take ad­van­tage of his stu­dent dis­counted-Prime mem­ber­ship and pick up movies and cof­fee-re­lated items for his par­ents on­line. "Shop­ping on­line is eas­ier than just walk­ing up and down the aisles, think­ing 'Oh, they might like this," he said. "If I'm on­line I can scroll through pages of stuff with­out hav­ing to worry about, 'Oh, I should have grabbed that,'" he said. Ex­pe­dited ship­ping is a must, he added. "I'm cut­ting it pretty close to the wire," he said. "I plan on do­ing every­thing two-day de­liv­ery if it's avail­able. If not, I'm just not go­ing to buy that."

Tak­ing a Zen ap­proach

Fa­vian Que­sada, a graphic de­signer at a TV sta­tion in Tyler, Texas, plans to rely on one-day shop­ping on Ama­zon be­cause he's wait­ing un­til he gets paid Fri­day, just two days be­fore Christ­mas. He said he's con­fi­dent that things will get to him on time be­cause on­line de­liv­ery has got­ten much bet­ter over the years. What if pack­ages get de­layed? "I un­der­stand it's busy this time of year, and it's my fault for or­der­ing last minute," he said. "If it doesn't get here on time, it will get here when it gets here. Hol­i­day is not about presents, it's about hang­ing out with fam­ily." — AP

AP

MI­AMI: In this Mon­day, Dec 12, 2016, photo, an on­line shop­per searches a site, while logged in from Mi­ami, Florida. —

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