How should retailers prepare for vacation shortages? – RetailWire

Dec 14 2021

A survey in November found that 77% of American consumers fear they will have problems shopping for gifts online this year. Top concerns include gifts that don’t arrive on time (cited by 45%), are more expensive (42%), and are not available (33%).

The concerns expressed in the survey of 1,000 US consumers of messaging software provider Intercom have heightened expectations, 94% of whom want retailers to notify them of delays without having to ask them questions. Seventy-nine want alerts about delays and back orders before they checkout or make a purchase.

However, a survey of 500 customer service reps found that 38% believe their company is not doing enough to set expectations for item availability and on-time delivery.

The survey results come amid numerous media reports of supply chain disruptions as consumers face bare shelves and rising prices.

In the end, it will be the front-line workers in stores and customer service centers who will bear the brunt of the vacation shortages.

The Intercom investigation found that customer service requests were on the rise due to increased concerns about delivery delays and product availability. Of the customer service reps surveyed, 60% think it’s harder than ever to fully resolve customer issues, and 52% are considering quitting their jobs due to stress.

Among other related surveys:

  • Transmit by the fifth of project44 annual vacation survey found that the top consumer concerns this year are out-of-stock items (50%), shipping delays (46%), higher prices (46%), and higher shipping costs (41 %). Sixty-two percent wanted the ability to track packages on the way, 98 percent wanted retailers to let them know if their delivery would be late, and 67 percent pledged to stop buying with a brand after a bad delivery experience.
  • The “14th Annual Global Buyers StudyBy Zebra Technologies found that only 38% of shoppers fully trust retailers to fulfill online orders as promised and 51% of retail associates fully trust their business to fulfill online orders.
  • an oracle survey taken in September revealed supply chain disruptions leaving consumers frustrated (61%), impatient (46%), anxious (45%) and angry (34%).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What should retailers do now in anticipation of possible stockouts, late deliveries, and other holiday shortages resulting from supply chain disruptions? What strategies or messages would you have for customer service teams and in-store workers when faced with shoppers’ angst and anger?


“The customer service folks are going to bear the brunt of the disappointment of buyers, they always do. For those brave souls, I say, do your best.”


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