Monday, 30 December 2013 11:11

last-minute shopping online poses far too great a risk of spoiling their holiday cheer.

Trish Regan  Anchor, Editor-at-Large Trish Regan Anchor, Editor-at-Large Bloomberg Television

This Christmas many Americans learned the hard way that last-minute shopping online poses far too great a risk of spoiling their holiday cheer.

Let’s face it. We are a nation of procrastinators. Down-to-the-wire holiday shopping is part of who we are – for better or for worse. Year-in and year-out, stores and shopping malls are packed every Christmas Eve. And, although brick and mortar retail has ceded tremendous market share to online shopping, last minute Christmas shopping may be one occasion with a barrier to entry that online shopping will have a hard time overcoming. The bottom line is: Christmas morning is one time when a gift absolutely has to be there - so, to paraphrase FedEx, “when it absolutely, positively has to be there" …perhaps it’s just smarter to buy the item at your local store. (Watch link here.)

This is the realization hitting Americans and it will have a lasting effect. News that overcapacity at UPS caused thousands of Amazon packages to be delayed and not reach their destinations in time for Christmas will dampen the final online rush in 2014. It means less potential revenue for online retailers in the final week preceding the holiday – and more sales for brick-and-mortars. (Either that, or we’ll all have to get our act together and finish our shopping ahead of schedule. Doubtful.)

Amazon customers are angry but, the company has (rather skillfully) deflected the debacle onto UPS, reminding customers it was the mail carriers’ fault. Still, Amazon was the organization promising its customers Christmas Eve delivery and, as such, runs the risk that it will lose customer trust. Customer trust is the intangible, and most important quality, a retailer can offer. To its credit, Amazon is offering free returns, $20 gift cards, and a refund on shipping costs. But, it still doesn’t make up for gifts that didn’t arrive. After all, certain things, cannot be corrected after the fact.

The good news is: While this year’s holiday delays may not only force UPS and FedEx to better streamline their systems, they may also provide an incentive for Amazon to focus more attention on its delivery modes, including more research into the so-called “prime delivery drones” that Jeff Bezos is testing.

In the meantime, the bad publicity is bound to affect online shopping. This Christmas, millions learned that gifts are in the hands of organizations that have yet to prove they can manage increasing demand. We should all think twice before believing in the delivery system again.

Author: Trish Regan

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