By: Maggie M. Barnett, Esq., COO at ShipHero
The COVID-19 pandemic brought brick and mortar business operations to an abrupt halt, rapidly increasing the burden on eCommerce fulfillment. Unfortunately, as online shopping orders skyrocketed, so did package thefts in the United States.
As a business owner, stolen and damaged goods can affect your bottom line significantly. Damaged good claims generally translate to returns or refunds, which could mean lost revenue.
However, in both package damage and theft, accountability matters a great deal. Is your own fulfillment staff stealing inventory? Is your carrier responsible for the damaged goods? Did your customer leave the order vulnerable on their front porch for too long? Does a police report have to be filed?
Liability determines who takes the fall, so it’s important to take every precautionary measure in your capacity as a business owner. But first, you need to identify why your packages are being damaged or stolen so that you can come up with a relevant solution.
Why Do Packages Get Damaged or Stolen?
Porch pirates stealing local boxes off your customers’ doorsteps wasn’t uncommon during the global pandemic. But are your warehouses suffering from inventory theft? And what factors are damaging your delivered goods?
Here are some reasons that might be to blame:
No use of cushioning materials
Until teleportation becomes an option, delivering items invites risks and potential damages. However, you can reduce the odds of goods being damaged from shock, vibrations, or external force by using cushioning materials.
Cushioning materials form a protective layer that absorbs impact; pillows, bubble packs, and styrofoam sheets are popular choices. When deciding which material to use, consider the type of product you’re shipping.
Is it a large item or a small one? Do you need a more resilient, shock-absorbent material? You might also need to consider temperature-sensitive packaging for certain goods.
Packages are too big
Using oversized packages leaves room for the goods inside to move around during the delivery process. Consequently, they might get damaged from impact against the box’s walls or by falling on top of one another. This is why you need to use packages with the right dimensions for secure delivery.
Larger packages also require more cushioning material/padding, which increases your costs. If you reduce the padding, the goods are more likely to get damaged, inviting damage claims and order return/refund costs.
Thus, avoid using packages with the wrong dimensions to improve your customers’ experience and reduce costs.
Your package moves through several hands in the fulfillment process before reaching the delivery people. Every person handling the package poses a risk of damage or even theft. You can wrap your parcel in red tape labeled ‘Fragile material,’ and there is no guarantee that you’d receive it undamaged.
With the mass increase in shipping, mishandling is inevitable to some extent. However, the shipping company you use also plays a massive role in secure delivery. Some companies directly deliver the package to the recipient, while others leave it on the front porch.
A survey found that 1 in every 5 Americans fell victim to porch piracy during the early pandemic days. Package theft statistics also reported spikes in theft during the holiday season.
Holiday package theft can cost you heavily in returns and refunds if you’re held liable, so it’s vital to take safety precautions beforehand.
Unfortunately, efforts like a neighborhood watch, security systems, home security cameras and doorbell cameras do little to protect customers against package thieves. If customers feel your delivery process is at fault, they might hold you liable for the lost package.
However, since most package theft cases occur after the product is delivered to the doorstep, you typically won’t be held liable. If in-transit theft or damages occur (although they’re quite rare), you’ll need to take care of the replacement or offer a refund.
You can schedule package retrieval or leave the parcel in package lockers (instead of at the doorstep), Amazon Key, or Amazon lockers to reduce the risk of package theft and your brand’s liability. And make use of email or SMS delivery alerts to notify the resident that their package has been delivered.
While the chances of package infestation are low, you shouldn’t completely rule out the possibility. Infestations are easily transmitted, and if your packages come into contact with them, they’ll happily set up camp.
International packages are at a greater risk of infestation because of crowded conditions on freight ships. So when you’re shipping internationally, exercise caution to prevent rodent and insect infestations. If you’re delivering consumables, the packages should be leak-free for protection.
Fluctuating weather conditions are a nightmare for logistics companies. They slow your deliveries down and increase the risk of package damage. If it’s pouring down rain, delivery personnel have to be extra careful to protect packages from water damage.
Unfortunately, weather conditions aren’t the only cause of water damage. When packages are shipped via sea, the air and cargo’s moisture can seep in and cause packages to peel away somewhat.
How to Prevent Shipping Damage
It’s impossible to prevent shipping damages entirely, but there are tried-and-tested strategies to mitigate it.
Use the right packaging
Avoid oversized packaging like the plague – they’ll damage your goods and drive your costs up in the long run.
Beyond the package size, you also need to account for factors like the material itself and what padding you use. Natural fiber packaging is generally preferred for foods and consumables, but it’s expensive. Carriers generally use more budget-friendly packaging like food-grade cardboard or plastic for delivering items.
Don’t leave empty space in packages
You won’t always have the right-sized packages on hand, especially when you have large orders to fill. You might need to use larger containers at times like this, but you can mitigate potential damage by filling empty spaces with dunnage.
Kraft paper is the most economical choice for dunnage, and it’s eco-friendly too. Foam is generally used for electronics and sensitive items like medical equipment, and air pillows are used to protect goods from slipping out of place.
If you don’t use dunnage or padding, your product will move around, knocking against the walls of the container. The goods are also more susceptible to impact damage.
Wrap each product in protective material
When shipping fragile products or goods that are prone to leakage, you need to wrap them in protective material. The protective material you use depends on the items.
Bubble wrap is a top choice for fragile items like glass while packing paper or plastic covering works for more durable items.
Review data on shipping damages to see where improvements can be made
Reviewing previous shipping damages helps identify problem areas and improve your order fulfillment process. According to a HuffPost report, 1 in every ten eCommerce packages arrives damaged.
The damage may be caused in transit, in which case the shipment company is to blame. By studying past situations, you can better understand where the problems occur and why they keep repeating.
Online retailers need to review any holiday package theft to avoid refunds on lost packages.
Use shock/impact indicators
Impact indicators monitor any shock or damage the package endures, calculate it and report it back. It also alerts handlers in real-time to be cautious. Indicators aren’t expensive and they can protect your packages from costlier damage, making them promising long-term investments.
They also give you peace of mind, as you’ve taken the necessary shipping precautions from your side. The rest is up to the carrier.
Can I Hold a Carrier Liable for Shipping Damage?
You can hold a carrier liable for shipping damage if you can prove that the parcel was in good condition before it was handed over to the courier. Carriers like FedEx, USPS, UPS and others all have policies in place that can help you determine if the damage was caused by them.
After the package is passed to the carrier (in good condition), if any damages or delays occur, or if the package doesn’t arrive, you can hold them liable.
How ShipHero Reduces Shipping Damage
ShipHero Fulfillment helps brands and 3PLs reduce shipping damages to cut back on losses and improve their customers’ experience.
Fully-trained & professional fulfillment staff
ShipHero’s dedicated teams of fulfillment experts pick, pack and ship your orders with care.
We use the right packaging for each order
We don’t use boxes that are too big, and our fulfillment team is trained to use the best cushioning and dunnage for each item.
Insurance claims for shipments
ShipHero Fulfillment offers shipper’s insurance that covers both damaged and missing goods at a declared coverage rate of $1 per $100.
Package damages and theft result in losses and affect your bottom line, so it’s crucial to take thorough, protective measures. If your customers receive damaged goods or have them stolen, it’s important to identify the cause.
Sometimes, your company won’t be liable, and if it is, identifying the cause saves you from repeating the problem. If you need help guaranteeing reliable, secure delivery, then reduce your shipping damages with ShipHero. We’re already helping Fortune 500s and thousands of fast-growing DTC brands deliver orders safely.
If you’re new to ShipHero Fulfillment, please schedule a meeting today with our experts to learn more about how we can help you get your orders picked, packed and delivered with our fulfillment service. No setup fees, simply pay as you go. ShipHero works to ensure that organizations invest in the solutions that match their needs, to improve productivity, revenue, and success.
Click HERE to Schedule a Meeting Today
Maggie M. Barnett, Esq., COO
About the author: Maggie M. Barnett, Esq., is the COO of ShipHero. She is responsible for planning and executing the overall operational, legal, managerial and administrative procedures, reporting structures and operational controls of the organization. Barnett’s greatest strengths are leadership, risk mitigation, change management and a passion for business transformation. She is known for her expertise in delivering operational excellence and an ability to provide guidance and mitigating risk. Her leadership of ShipHero is grounded in a servant mentality, always doing the right thing for our stakeholders. Her passion for ShipHero comes from the ability to drive operational excellence throughout the organization impacting the lives of our employees, customers, and partners.