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How to Minimize the Risk of Lost Packages

Alex Selwitz

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    If you’ve lost a package, you’re not alone. In fact, according to research by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute done in 2020, 1.7 million packages were stolen or lost every day in the U.S.

    Although it is unavoidable, you can take action to minimize the risk of delays and lost packages. Even after it happens, it’s possible to redeem your customer relationship and end your interaction on the right foot. 

    From the moment the label is printed, up until it is in the customer’s hands, there are steps you can take to prevent lost or stolen packages. These include verifying your labels are traveling to a legitimate location, shipping in plain packaging to avoid porch pirates, choosing parcel insurance, and communicating with your customer. 

    To deliver a smooth shipping experience, it’s up to you to choose which methods will best protect your packages so they have a higher chance of arriving safely. Here’s what we recommend. 

    1. Compliant and accurate shipping labels

    Ensuring your package reaches its destination starts with a compliant and accurate shipping label. Most shipping labels include:

    • Return and destination addresses
    • The package’s weight
    • It’s shipping class
    • A tracking number with a corresponding barcode

    Without this information, a package might not find its way back to the sender or recipient if it gets lost.

    Every country has a standard layout for addresses. In the United States, this is chosen by USPS, but is also used by carriers large and small throughout the country. This includes the recipient’s name, a street address, a city and state abbreviation, and a postal code at the minimum. It may also include apartment or suite numbers, PO box numbers, or a business name. 

    Keeping this consistent makes it so that the address can be validated more efficiently and with higher deliverability.

    Pay attention to the details of the label to avoid ambiguity, too. If you’re reusing a box, ensure the previous label has been removed. If the destination is an apartment or an office building, include any necessary suite numbers or buzzer codes for the courier to complete the delivery. 

    1. Address verification

    Typos, missing suite numbers, and incorrect postal codes can all add to delivery complications. However, it is possible to verify an address’s legitimacy before a package is sent out.

    USPS developed the Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) to gauge the accuracy of addresses and confirm they are using the correct format. CASS-certified software reduces errors in addresses before labels are printed. This helps to maximize carrier efficiency while minimizing delivery mishaps. 

    The system isn’t perfect 100% of the time, but ensuring that an address is certified by CASS is a vote of confidence that the address your package is heading towards is existing and deliverable.

    CASS is available to all software developers, mailers, and service bureaus, so there is likely a means to integrate it into your shipping process. Some software can even apply these standards in the checkout, so you know that it is headed in the right direction from the moment your label is printed. 

    1. Plain packaging

    Porch pirates are on the rise. According to C+R Research, the percentage of Americans who reported having a package stolen rose from 36% in 2019 to 43% in 2020.

    Avoid package theft by using plain, brown packaging and a label that doesn’t disclose what goods may be inside. Logos, flashy colors, and other advertising means will only tempt porch pirates more. The contents will be concealed by blending in with other standard packages, and porch pirates will be less tempted to take the goods. 

    Discreet packaging does more than prevent theft – it protects your customer’s privacy. While package theft can be an inconvenience for some shoppers, it comes at a higher risk for others. Many people receive medicine and medical devices in the mail. At best, if a package containing those materials is stolen, their personal information is in the hands of someone it shouldn’t be, and at worst, the recipient doesn’t have their potentially life-saving medicine.

    If the content of what you’re shipping is valuable, you may want to consider requiring an adult to sign for the package upon arrival. This may be more inconvenient for the recipient, but it can minimize the risk of porch piracy and keep you from having to replace expensive goods. 

    1. Parcel insurance

    If a package goes missing, oftentimes the cost of the package falls back on the person who shipped it initially. In this case, many businesses will take a loss and resend the original package. However, if a package is insured, this cost can be avoided entirely. 

    Whether to purchase shipping insurance should ultimately depend on how much you ship and the value of those items. If you are shipping a high volume of expensive products, the cost of insurance will likely be worth it. 

    Prices and stipulations for insurance vary depending on your carrier. If those options don’t appeal to you, there are third-party services you can ensure your package through that tend to offer lower rates. 

    Carriers like UPS and FedEx both offer insurance for free on content valued up to $100. From there, both carriers charge approximately $1 for each $100 of content value. USPS further breaks down their insurance prices depending on the value of the contents. Their insurance rates start at $2.45.

    The benefit of having insurance is that if a package goes missing or is damaged, you’ll be able to file a claim and be reimbursed by your insurer.  While shipping insurance isn’t worth it for everyone, it can help to minimize losses and set a situation right with a customer easily.

    1. Communication

    A lost package can cost more than just money. It can also damage your reputation. That’s why communication is vital throughout the entire buyer’s journey – even beyond the customer receiving their package. 

    Strong communication begins with accurate shipping estimates during checkout. If an item is  pre-ordered or out of stock, let the customer know. That way, they are going into the purchase knowing they should expect their product later. Give them options, like expedited shipping, so if they are in a pinch and need an item quickly, they know they can come to you. Or, if they don’t mind their package arriving later, they can save some money.

    Notify the customer when their order ships and let them know when to expect delivery. If you want to go above and beyond, offer the option to receive text messages or additional emails with shipping updates as their order is processed and travels to its destinations. Don’t forget to let them know when it arrives, too.  

    If a package does happen to go missing, be honest with your customer. Notify them by email or text message, and keep them updated throughout the carrier’s search. If you send a replacement, be sure they receive a new tracking number and know when they can expect it to arrive.

    Taking the time to communicate with customers makes a difference. Especially in today’s world, where fast shipping has become the norm. 91% of consumers expect to receive their online orders – and 9% expect it the same day – according to research performed by Jungle Scout. To keep them satisfied, let your customers know what they can expect before they complete the checkout process.

    Late shipping can leave a lasting impression as well. In the same survey, 70% said they would be upset if an order didn’t arrive on time. That’s why giving accurate estimates ahead of time is essential to customer satisfaction.

    But what if my shipment does get lost?

    Customers don’t notice when shipping goes according to plan, but it leaves a lasting impression when it doesn’t. Even if you take every precaution, there is still the possibility of a package going missing or getting stolen. And the higher the volume of shipments you have, the higher this risk will be. 

    If a package does get lost, notify the carrier and request that they look for the package. Their search could take anywhere between a few days to a few weeks, so at this point, you may want to ship a package out to the customer to minimize their wait. If the carrier can find the package, you can always have them send it back to your warehouse if you send a replacement.

    If the carrier is unable to find the package, then it would be time to file an insurance claim if the package was covered. Typically, carriers will request documentation about the shipped package, including proof of its value. 

    Missing packages are unavoidable altogether, but you can minimize their risk. Taking steps to ensure you are verifying addresses and paying for insurance will cost money out of pocket but can save you money and customer satisfaction in the long run.

    Author Bio: EasyPost offers a Shipping API that solves complex logistics problems for online merchants, enabling the delivery of an online shopping experience that delights customers. Our best-in-class shipping APIs provide end-to-end flexibility and more control over parcel shipping and logistics processes for e-commerce retailers, fulfillment centers, marketplaces, and enterprises.

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