Porch Piracy: A Hidden Cost Of Last Mile Delivery

[This blog is part of a four-part series. Using SurveyMonkey, we surveyed 2,000 shoppers to understand sentiments around Amazon, and uncovered key trends revealing that the key to Amazon’s success is its industry-disrupting shipping offering.]

During 2019’s peak season, one man became sick of thieves robbing him of deliveries left on his porch. He packaged up a camera, a glitter bomb, and an odor spray, and disguised it as an Amazon shipment, waiting for a thief to come steal it. 

While this tactic seems like it’s straight out of Home Alone, it’s becoming a norm for the average consumer. With eCommerce sales increasing at breakneck speeds, package theft, otherwise known as porch piracy, has skyrocketed. In New York City alone, 90,000 packages vanish from doorsteps every day. According to a 2019 Package Theft Report, 1 in 4 Americans have had packages stolen from their porches. 

Not only are consumers going through incredible lengths to stop porch pirates, retailers have the most to lose with angry customers, increased “Where is my order?” calls (WISMO), and added costs to re-ship new items out to customers. Retailers can’t afford to leave their customer happiness in the hands of thieves, but by giving customers better visibility and control over delivery, they can gain advantages in battle against porch piracy. 

Porch Piracy Is Costly To Both Retailers And Consumers

We surveyed 2,000 Amazon shoppers to understand buying preferences and customer preferences around Amazon delivery, and one response stood out: Package theft was the biggest concern for 30% of shoppers.

30% of packages will be stolen from my porch

Consumers are getting incredibly creative with ways to combat the problem of porch piracy. Shorr Packaging Corporation’s 2019 Package Theft Report captured some significant changes in shopper behavior, including:

  • Nearly two-thirds of package theft victims have shipped packages to an address that is not their home to avoid theft.
  • More than three-quarters of respondents who experienced package theft have rearranged their schedules to make sure they were home to receive a package with no signature requirement.
  • Over half of package theft victims said they will alter their online shopping habits during the holiday season because of the increased risk of theft.

Shoppers also take on labor-intensive activities like contacting the seller (83%), contacting the carrier (60%), and checking with neighbors (48%). That means shipping packages to work or a home-bound neighbor’s house, putting lockboxes on their porches, installing video cameras to deter thieves, and alerting neighbors on social networks like Nextdoor and Facebook. 

Retailers Are On The Hook for Package Theft

Porch Piracy is costly for retailers as well. For online shoppers reporting package theft, the average cost to replace a stolen package is $109. And the highest cost for retailers? Their customers! 83% of customers will not shop with them again if they experience poor delivery. With 98% of shoppers stating that they base their brand loyalty on the shipping experience, the stakes for retailers are incredibly high. 

Porch piracy

Amazon is taking sweeping measures like creating pick-up and drop off locations (PUDO), installing lockers at 7-Eleven and Whole Foods stores across the country, and offering “Proof of Delivery” photos (otherwise known as POD) when they drop off packages. They’ve even introduced Amazon Key, a service for customers willing to let authorized delivery people into their home to secure packages, and Amazon Ring, an automated doorbell that has a camera built inside.

Porch piracy

Aside from Amazon, concierge services like Doorman and locker rental facilities like Parcel Pending are popping up all over the country. Flock Safety offers license plate cameras to catch criminals in the neighborhood. There’s even legislation on the books in Texas and Michigan to punish porch piracy, with fines in Texas ranging from $4,000-$10,000 and between 180 days to 10 years of jail time.

Porch piracy

Ultimately though, the onus is on retailers to address the problem. They have the most to lose: customers who experience theft blame the retailer, and take their money elsewhere. A large portion of shoppers in Convey’s recent survey responded that they shop with Amazon because it is “easy” and “convenient.” If that experience changes, they’ll likely walk.

Porch piracy

So what can retailers do to reduce the instance of package theft? While they can’t eliminate it altogether, retailers can put processes in place that will allow the highest levels of visibility and flexibility for themselves – and their customers.

Provide Flexible Options To Give Customers Control Over Delivery

With package theft being the top concern for shoppers, the best way for retailers to address it head-on is to be upfront that flexible delivery options exist early on in the customer journey. That way, the customer can make decisions well before they have to click “purchase.”

Let’s say Sally’s laptop recently burned out and she needs to purchase a new one quickly. She goes to a consumer electronics retailer online and navigates to the laptops section. In the search fields, Sally is able to search for both the laptop attributes and her shipping requirements. She chooses laptops that are available to buy online, pick up in her local store (BOPIS) within 24 hours and finds one that fits the bill.

Bob might be looking for a new coffee table. He feels uncomfortable shipping such a large piece to his office, but he’s not at home during the day to accept the delivery. His search may start with a request for all cherrywood coffee tables where he can schedule a delivery time outside of his work hours.

Whatever the scenario, customers need functions that tell them how delivery can happen and when – for how much. And that combination of flexibility, speed, and cost is critical: 

  • 71.7% of Prime shoppers in Convey’s 2020 survey reported that they would ditch Amazon if delivery took more than 4 days. 
  • Nearly 80% reported that they use Amazon because of fast, free shipping. 
  • 63% said they were not sure if they would use Amazon if they had to pay for shipping. 

Follow Through With Frequent, Relevant Communication

While offering a range of delivery preferences covers a big hurdle, it’s not the end of preventing package theft. Let’s face it: even though retailers may offer buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS), locker delivery, and appointment scheduling options, some shoppers will still choose to have packages delivered to their doorstep. 

However, real-time information about an impending delivery can help shoppers prevent package theft themselves. Sally might find that the laptop with the attributes she wants is available sooner if she has it delivered to her house. 

If she can sign up for text alerts at every step of the delivery process, she may be able to rearrange her schedule to be at home when it arrives. Or if she can’t be home, Sally might add a neighbor to the text alerts and ask him or her to pick up the package as soon as it arrives.

It’s not enough anymore to just give a delivery date or a large time window. Amazon has set the bar high, and 40% of Convey’s survey respondents expect other retailers to keep up. By giving customers instant updates on packages, they can do their part to prevent packages from being stolen.

Evaluate Processes Regularly To Optimize Your Delivery Network

So, you’ve given customers a range of delivery options. You’re providing them up-to-the-minute information on their shipments. Retailers need to regularly analyze customer touchpoints and feedback to understand delivery issues. This means looking at internally-recorded data and customer feedback.

Let’s go back to Sally: she went to the consumer electronics retailer site and searched for laptops with specific attributes that could be picked up in-store within 24 hours. But, there’s a delivery delay: the laptop won’t be available as promised. In order to prevent a negative brand experience, retailers can be alerted to delivery delays in real-time. Then they have the option to alert the customer or reship an expedited package. 

What if the retailer isn’t alerted about the delay and Sally’s delivery arrives late? Are other customers experiencing the same problem – i.e., the BOPIS date says one thing on the website but ends up being much later? Pulling reports that include the promise-by date as compared to the actual availability date will help answer this question – and determine proactive measures to prevent future occurrences.

In another case, Sally signs up for text alerts on her at-home delivery, but the text message is severely delayed. Sally receives a text notification about her delivery hours after the delivery has happened, and a thief has already snapped up her package. Sally sends an email to customer support or calls the retailer to request a replacement. The retailer captures her comments on texting and can log them with other issues.

When it comes to preventing package theft, retailers must be vigilant. Creating internal reports that target problematic trends and looking for customer feedback will help retailers to get ahead of issues that can lead to porch piracy.

Preventing Porch Piracy Requires A 360-Degree View

It’s worth repeating that nearly 100% of shoppers in a recent Convey survey determine their brand loyalty based on the shipping experience. Even though porch piracy seems out of a retailer’s control, it can still have drastic effects on lifetime customer value.

Consumers, businesses, and even legislators are doing their utmost to combat package theft, but the party with the most to lose in this equation is the retailer. In order to reduce the instance of theft as much as possible, retailers must provide flexible shipping options from the start, send relevant, real-time notifications about delivery, and evaluate processes constantly to identify gaps.

This blog is part of a series around how Amazon grew its logistics arm, why consumers enjoy its services, and how the eCommerce fulfillment behemoth drives customer delivery expectations sky-high. Read the rest of the blogs in the series below, and download our retail consumer research to learn more about last mile delivery and Amazon.