Are shipping delays holding you back? Here are 9 ways to prevent them

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Shipping delays – every retailer’s worst nightmare. 

Whether it’s the suspense of a package stuck in transit or the frustration of explaining delays to customers, shipping mishaps can greatly hinder your growth. 

But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom…

In this guide, we’ll explore some practical steps to keep your shipments sailing smoothly and show you how Linnworks can help streamline your shipping operations. 

Shipping delays in 2024

First, let’s look at the state of shipping delays in 2024.

The Panama Canal continues to grapple with higher costs and longer queues, and as a result, ships are detouring to the Suez Canal, adding about a week to their journeys. And as freight rates continue to skyrocket – Asia-N. 

Europe rates are up around 173%, prices for Asia-Mediterranean routes have doubled, and carriers are implementing surcharges ranging anywhere from $500 to $2,700 per shipping container – it’s not just the supply chain and logistics departments that are suffering the blow, shipping delays and costs are a key concern for CFOs in 2024.

Meanwhile, strikes at key U.S. ports threaten to throw even more wrenches in the works, forcing businesses to either wait it out or chart new routes​.

The impact on your bottom line? Let’s say it’s more than just a hiccup. 

What causes shipping delays?

Understanding what triggers shipping delays can help you strategize more effectively to avoid or mitigate disruptions. 

So, what’s really rocking the boat?

Increased ecommerce demand

Ecommerce sales are expected to grow 8.8% by the end of 2024

This surge continues to strain logistics networks globally, and with online shopping volumes only projected to rise, fulfillment centers and shipping infrastructures are being pushed to their limits, leading to delays.

Port congestion

Major shipping ports face unprecedented congestion due to increased global trade volumes and stringent health protocols. 

As mentioned earlier, labor strikes and health and safety measures have exacerbated already significant delays at U.S. ports.

Carrier capacity shortages

As the demand for shipping services exceeds supply, there’s notably a shortage of available carriers. There simply aren’t enough boats in the ocean to keep pace with the increasing demand.

This imbalance has resulted in a double-whammy for many – delayed shipments and higher transportation costs.

Customs and regulatory delays

Crossing borders in 2024? Prepare for a wait.

International shipments are particularly vulnerable to delays caused by customs and tax duty regulations. With ever-changing trade rules and heightened security measures expected in 2024, expect to see longer processing times at borders.

Weather and natural disasters

reddit shipping delays issues

Last on the list is Mother Nature herself.

Extreme weather conditions and natural disasters happen every year and weather phenomena disrupt shipping routes and logistics networks across the globe as a result. Plus, the increasing frequency of these events continues to pose significant risks for timely deliveries.

The cost of shipping delays

When shipping grinds to a halt, the ripple effects can drain your business faster than you’d think. 

Skyrocketing operational costs

Every day your goods are stuck in transit or at ports, the tab runs higher. 

Think warehousing fees that add up, rerouting expenses when you’re forced to switch plans, and the premium you pay to expedite shipments that needed to be somewhere yesterday. It all adds up to a hefty price tag that eats into your margins.

Sales on the line

reddit shipping issue

Nothing tests customer patience quite like a late delivery. 

Delays often lead to order cancellations and lost sales, as customers might turn to competitors who can deliver on time. Every package stuck in shipping limbo is a missed opportunity to delight a customer and secure a sale.

Your reputation takes a hit

In the era of instant feedback and social media shares, a few shipping snafus can lead to a storm of negative reviews. 

Persistent delays tarnish your brand’s image, shake customer trust, and can dissuade potential new customers from taking the plunge. It’s a long road to recover a reputation once the damage is done.

9 ways to prevent shipping delays

We’ve talked about what causes shipping delays and the unfortunate impact they can have on your business. Now, let’s look at how you can prevent the common plague of shipping delays!

1. Communicate proactively with customers

reddit late order

When it comes to shipping, the first rule of thumb is clear communication. 

Keep your customers in the loop with real-time updates about their orders – we’re not just talking about being transparent here, we’re talking about building trust. Whether it’s a dispatch confirmation, updates on shipping progress, or alerts about potential delays, every message shows that you value their peace of mind. 

Leverage automated systems like Linnworks to ensure that these updates are timely and accurate. Set up automatic notifications via email or SMS to ensure that your customers are always well-informed. This level of communication will likely greatly enhance customer satisfaction and can turn a situation where there might be delays into a showcase of your customer service prowess.

2. Optimize delivery routes

Mastering the logistics maze can make or break your delivery timelines. 

That’s where route optimization comes into play – it ensures your deliveries zip across the fastest paths, all while keeping costs down. It’s software that’s like a seasoned local giving you shortcuts during rush hour; that’s what advanced routing tools do for your shipments. 

By integrating solutions like Linnworks, you can automate this optimization, allowing the system to analyze historical data and real-time traffic conditions to choose the best routes. This proactive approach not only speeds up deliveries but also reduces fuel consumption and wear on vehicles, making it a smarter and more sustainable choice for your business.

This setup not only impresses your customers with speedy deliveries but also showcases your commitment to efficiency and environmental responsibility.

3. Offer free shipping

Offering free shipping has gone beyond just a simple perk – it’s now a powerful strategy to buffer customer satisfaction against potential delays. It transforms the inconvenience of a wait into a value proposition, reinforcing your commitment to customer service. 

Free shipping remains a top priority for consumers, and it’s often their primary incentive to shop more online. More than 65% of consumers wouldn’t consider buying from a brand that didn’t offer a free shipping option. 

It can also help mitigate the frustration associated with delays by maintaining the perceived value of your offerings. When customers receive free shipping, any extra wait time is often viewed more forgivingly, enhancing their overall satisfaction and likelihood of repeat business.

This fosters customer loyalty and also positions your brand as customer-centric, which can be crucial for standing out in a competitive marketplace. However, implementing this effectively requires careful management of shipping logistics to ensure that offering free shipping remains cost-effective while still meeting delivery expectations.

4.  Keep on top of your inventory

Accurate inventory management is crucial in preventing shipping delays, serving as the backbone of efficient order fulfillment. 

Maintaining precise inventory records means you can ensure products are readily available when orders come through, avoiding the dreaded backorder scenario that often leads to shipment postponements.

Linnworks enables real-time tracking of inventory levels, allowing businesses to see – at a glance – which items are low in stock and need replenishing. This proactive management not only smooths out the fulfillment process but also boosts customer satisfaction by avoiding unexpected delays. Having an accurate grasp of inventory helps businesses plan effectively for peak seasons or promotional events, ensuring that they are well-prepared to meet increased demand. 

Effective inventory management also helps identify trends, allowing for strategic decision-making regarding which products to stock more of and which to phase out, further optimizing the supply chain and reducing the chances of shipping delays.

5. Use reliable shipping partners

On the surface, choosing the right shipping partner might just seem about who offers the fastest service, but it’s equally crucial to consider reliability and trust. 

Your shipping carrier is an extension of your brand and choosing the right one can either enhance or hinder your customer’s satisfaction. Their performance history and reviews are your best clues to predict how well they’ll handle your precious cargo.

Negotiating Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with these carriers can be a game-changer.

These agreements should not only specify delivery times but also include penalties for delays. This holds your partners accountable and keeps them on their toes, ensuring they prioritize your shipments. It’s like having a secret assurance policy that helps safeguard your business against the unpredictable waves of shipping setbacks.

By partnering with carriers who consistently meet their delivery promises and setting up solid SLAs, you reduce the risk of delays. You can smooth out your logistics and also fortify your reputation as a reliable seller, keeping your customers coming back for more.

6. Diversify your shipping options 

Don’t put all your shipping eggs in one basket. 

Diversifying your shipping options means building a resilient shipping strategy that can withstand disruptions and minimize risks. By using multiple carriers and considering alternative transportation modes like air, sea, rail, and road, you can ensure there’s always a plan B in motion.

This reduces the likelihood of delays while giving you the flexibility to navigate around potential bottlenecks in the supply chain. Whether it’s a strike at a major port, unexpected weather conditions, or geopolitical issues, having multiple shipping routes can keep your operations running smoothly.

Linnworks enables you to manage and integrate various shipping options directly through its platform. This integration makes it easier to switch carriers or adjust routes quickly, ensuring that your products reach their destination on time, every time. With Linnworks, you can maintain control over your shipping processes, optimize logistics costs, and deliver a consistent customer experience regardless of external challenges.

7. Implement advanced tracking systems

Advanced tracking systems are your secret weapon against shipping delays. 

With the right technology, you can provide customers with real-time tracking updates and use predictive analytics to foresee potential delays before they even happen. These systems not only enhance transparency but also boost customer satisfaction by keeping them informed every step of the way.

For example, GPS tracking tools and RFID tags allow for minute-by-minute monitoring of shipments. Software solutions like Linnworks integrate these technologies, offering a dashboard that displays the status of every package in transit. This capability ensures that both you and your customers have up-to-the-minute information on where items are and when they’re expected to arrive.

Leveraging advanced tracking technologies means you’re not only tracking packages, you’re anticipating challenges and planning solutions proactively. This minimizes the impact of delays and reinforces your reputation as a reliable vendor who values customer service.

8. Strengthen supplier relationships

Robust supplier relationships are good business etiquette and they’re also a strategic asset in minimizing disruptions in your supply chain. When you’ve built strong partnerships, you gain allies who are more willing to go the extra mile to meet your needs, especially when the unexpected strikes.

Start by enhancing communication channels: regular meetings, shared performance metrics, and joint planning sessions can all help to align your objectives and expectations. This collaboration leads to better forecasting, smoother operations, and quicker resolution of issues that could otherwise lead to delays.

Working closely with your suppliers can also lead to innovations in logistics and product development, helping both parties adapt to market changes more effectively. For instance, if a supplier is aware of potential disruptions in their region, they can alert you in advance, allowing you to pivot to alternative sources or adjust your inventory accordingly.

By investing in these relationships, you not only safeguard your supply chain but also build a foundation for sustained business growth. It’s about creating a network of support that can collectively respond to challenges with agility and resilience.

9. Increase supply chain resilience

Boosting your supply chain’s resilience is crucial for navigating the often unpredictable waters of global commerce. Maintaining safety stock ensures you have a buffer to satisfy customer demands even during unexpected supply disruptions. Regularly diversifying suppliers and assessing logistics strategies enhances your agility, enabling you to adapt swiftly to market changes or disruptions.

Keep a vigilant eye on global events and integrate robust contingency plans to react swiftly and effectively. By staying prepared, you can mitigate the impacts of delays and maintain continuous operations. Tools like Linnworks can support you by enabling efficient inventory and supplier management, ensuring you’re always ready for what lies ahead.

Take your shipping by the helm with Linnworks

Ready to sidestep shipping delays and streamline your logistics? Linnworks can help. 

With robust tools for managing inventory, optimizing routes, and automating shipping processes, Linnworks ensures your operations are smooth and your deliveries, timely. Don’t let delays hold you back – book a demo with Linnworks today and take control of your shipping success.

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Claire Rhodes


Enthusiastic tech translator. Ecommerce storyteller. Claire has worked in the B2B SaaS and tech space for the last 6+ years. With a love for words, grammar and tech, she prides herself on her product know-how and the inner workings of the complex solutions her clients offer. When not crafting B2B tech content, Claire spends her time traveling around the world, freediving, scuba diving, and making friends with the local critters.