Deliverr joins Shopify 🚀 Building the world’s most merchant-centric logistics solution

What to do when your deliveries are late

Late deliveries are extremely dangerous for your eCommerce business. When you deliver late, you also put your customer lifetime value is at risk.

However, in a world where online orders are booming, and shipping speeds are getting faster, delivering orders on time is becoming increasingly challenging. 

In this article, we tackle what to do when your deliveries are late, and how to put right an order gone wrong. 

Why late deliveries are dangerous for your eCommerce business

You know the importance of being on time for meetings, appointments, and weddings. While an eCommerce delivery date might not seem as important, late deliveries are highly dangerous for your eCommerce business, for many reasons. 


A late delivery means that you haven’t provided a service your customer has paid for. Not only can this be frustrating and disappointing, but it could mean a ruined birthday, someone has to go to the store, or someone has to go without something they urgently needed – not a good start to the customer relationship.

Customer churn

13% of shoppers will never return to an online retailer following a late delivery. Late deliveries suggest that your business isn’t professional, that you don’t value your customer’s time, and that you can’t be trusted. 

Unexpected costs

51% of shoppers expect a shipping refund if their order doesn’t arrive on time. Missing a delivery estimation costs you shipping and replacement order fees, minimizing your profits and increasing your overheads. 


Two-thirds of shoppers contact customer service if an order arrives even one day late. You must talk with your customer, investigate what happened, and resolve the issue – taking time better spent elsewhere. 


When you advertise shipping speeds on your website or online marketplace, you’re making a promise to your customers. A late delivery breaks that promise and breaks their trust. This damages your reputation for that specific customer and anyone else they speak to in person or via their review. 

Fast shipping programs

If your deliveries routinely arrive late, online marketplaces will swiftly remove you from their fast shipping programs. This impacts your visibility, buy box eligibility, and audience reach. 

Common reasons for late deliveries

Delivery delays can occur during any stage of the fulfillment chain for a variety of reasons, the most common reasons for late deliveries being:

1. An inefficient warehouse

An inefficient warehouse prolongs the time between receiving an order and delivering it to your shipping carrier – giving them less time to deliver on time. Inefficiencies commonly arise from manual order processing, unclassified stock, unstaffed teams, and ineffective warehouse layouts. 

2. Overselling and backorders

Manually managing inventory and syncing stock between sales channels is commonly behind late deliveries, because if you fall behind on your manual processes you can inadvertently start overselling products. This nearly always results in delivery delays, while you wait for your supplier to replenish products before you can send them to customers.  

In the meantime, if you allow customers to place backorders for an item not in stock but on its way, you risk even more late deliveries. A backorder is when you sell a product that your supplier is currently shipping to you, and you give customers an estimated delivery date further into the future – a bit like a pre-order. Backorders commonly lead to delivery delays because you’re relying on that inbound shipment arriving on time, which doesn’t always happen. 

3. Late orders

If you don’t clearly state your order cut-off times, customers will order products late into the day, under the misconception that they still qualify for two-day delivery. While technically the delivery isn’t late, in your customer’s eye, it is. 

3. Poorly packaged and labeled orders

Badly packaged items can lead to damage, and poorly labelled packages can lead to confusion. These both take time to rectify during the delivery stage, delaying your shipping carrier and, therefore, your deliveries. 

4. Peak seasons

In peak seasons, such as the holidays, your fulfillment team and shipping carrier can become so overwhelmed with orders that delivery times slip. Volume-related delays can occur unexpectedly too, which you’ll remember happening to Amazon during the pandemic. 

5. Delivery exceptions

A delivery exception is when an order is temporarily delayed in its journey. This could be because of poor weather conditions, traffic, vehicle problems, or delays at customs – either way, chances are your product is arriving late.  

6. Delivery issues

Many delays occur at the point of delivery. They’re not always your fault, but customers may still attribute blame to you. These include doorstep theft, customers not being in to receive items, or shipping carriers struggling to find or access remote locations. 

7. Ability 

Finally, one of the most common reasons for late deliveries is that you simply can’t match the delivery speeds advertised on your website or marketplace stores. This could be because you don’t have the resources, time, hands, or knowledge to deliver as quickly as you want. 

What you can do to avoid late deliveries

There are things you can and should do to avoid late deliveries, including:

Use fast shipping countdowns

Add a fast shipping countdown timer to your product pages so customers know when they must order by to receive products on a specific date. This sets realistic customer expectations and prevents orders from slipping through your cut-off times. 

Case study: See how Chassis got double digit growth on Shopify

Optimize order processing

Streamline your order processing to give shipping carriers the most time possible to meet delivery deadlines. You can achieve this using:

  • Order management software to download orders, print shipping labels, and generate pick lists in real-time. 
  • A SKU system to classify, organize, and quickly locate products. 
  • A warehouse with sufficient space, staff, and resources to handle demand. 

Tip: Deliverr optimizes your order process and deliveries further by distributing inventory to multiple warehouses across the country, giving orders less distance to travel to customers. 

Get nationwide 2-day delivery with Deliverr

Enhance inventory efficiency

Inventory efficiency ensures you have a balanced turnover of stock to meet demand without wasting resources – allowing you to avoid delays caused by overselling and backorders. 

Use the right shipping service

Select a shipping service appropriate to the time your orders are ready for delivery. If you take a full day to pick and pack orders and use a two-day delivery service, your orders will likely arrive in three-days, not two. Use the right shipping method for your advertised speeds or start advertising realistic delivery estimates. 

Track orders

While order tracking doesn’t stop an item from arriving late, it can alert you to potential delays. Depending on the order’s contents and value, you can implement immediate damage control, such as arranging a replacement to arrive just in time. 

Use a reliable shipping carrier

Cheaper isn’t always better, especially for shipping. Choose a reliable shipping carrier with positive reviews from other sellers and customers for both speed and quality of service. 

Consider an outsourced fulfillment partner

If you struggle to deliver orders on time in-house, consider using an outsourced fulfillment partner to help. An outsourced fulfillment partner uses a network of warehouses to spread your products across the country – all fully staffed and supported by reliable shipping carriers. This powers you to offer and deliver fast shipping speeds of up to next-day, without worry. 

What to do when a delivery is late

Even with the best will and shipping partners in the world, sometimes a late delivery is unavoidable. When a delivery is late, do the following immediately:

Inform your customer

Alert your customer and apologize as soon as possible about the potential delay and reasons why. Provide them with a realistic new date and time of delivery and keep them updated throughout. 

Fix the issue

Rectify any issues that a delayed delivery causes your customer. This might involve shipping a replacement on expedited delivery or refunding the entire order. 

Refund any shipping charges

If your customer paid for delivery, refund the fee in full. They’ve paid for a service you’ve not delivered – it’s the least you can do. 

Consider credit

Turn a bad situation into a positive one by compensating your customer with store credit for their inconvenience. It won’t undo your failure but it could appease them and it gives you another chance to demonstrate that you can deliver on time. 

Implement lessons

Investigate why the delay occurred and put measures in place to prevent it from happening again. You might also want to let the customer know what you’re doing to overcome the problem too, thanking them again for their understanding. 

Avoid late deliveries by using Deliverr for reliable nationwide 2-day delivery

The quicker delivery expectations become, the harder it becomes to deliver orders on time. However, with the right resources, partners, and attitude, you can avoid late deliveries and minimize the potential consequences when they do occur.

Related Tags

Join 50,000+ merchants that receive the latest eCommerce and DTC insights straight to their inbox.

You might also like