There is no escaping it. The corona virus is spreading around the world at a rapid pace and is also affecting e-commerce and e-commerce logistics. In this article, we will answer all your burning questions: how the coronavirus could impact e-commerce in Europe and how you can continue business during this period, especially with the delivery of your packages.
Read on to get the latest carrier updates, what you can expect if the situation changes, important developments in online orders and some tips to get through the period without any problems.
We receive new updates from carriers daily and will follow all developments. We will continue to update this article, so stay tuned here for the latest info.
The impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on e-commerce
The Corona study carried out by the German retailer association in early March provides the first representative figures on the situation. 55% of online retailers already expect or have experienced losses in day-to-day business due to the coronavirus.
Consumer confidence in “Made in China” is also currently disrupted, with 82% of all online retailers expecting the situation to get worse.
At least until the beginning of May, the following measures have been applied by governments across Europe (and the world), and they can change or be extended every day.
- Lockdowns have been introduced in several European countries, including France, Belgium, Italy and Spain and Germany.
- Lockdowns can have a major impact on delivery, such as significant delays or even no delivery.
- Transporters are taking various measures, particularly to protect their staff (although they are trying to keep services running as normal).
Other possible impacts to operations include:
- Supply chain and stock levels could be affected due to the virus spread and/or lockdowns in various countries, particularly if you outsource manufacturing abroad or import products.
- There is higher economic uncertainty so people could be hesitant to spend.
Increased growth of online sales
On a positive note, on March 17th, Logistiek.nl published their prediction that E-commerce is expected to grow by 50%, with Digital Commerce also reporting a 52% increase in online sales, and even an 8.8% increase in online shoppers since the coronavirus began.
Many people are avoiding physical stores, and online ordering is the perfect way to still shop, especially for those necessities or comforts to make this turbulent time more manageable.
Health products have been a key driver in this short-term growth. Data below shows the percentage increase of sales in the week of Feb 22-29 compared to the week before.
- Hand sanitiser sales increased 420%
- Disinfectants sales increased 178%
- Bottled/packaged water sales increased 78%
- Vitamins sales increased 78%
- Tissues sales increased 43%
- Hand soap sales increased 33%
- Toilet paper and paper towels sales increased 26%
Amazon have even announced they will be cancelling their FBA services except for household essentials and health products.
Number of parcels sent since the first preventive measures across Europe
At Sendcloud, we have seen a significant increase in the number of packages sent since the week when many countries within Europe began to implement preventative measures. When we compare the week of 6th of april (week 15) with the week before the first preventive measures were implemented (week 11), we see an astonishing increase of 90%.
INCREASE SINCE FIRST MEASURES
Are the carriers still operating during the coronavirus crisis?
Maybe one of the most important questions that you might be asking yourself now is “will my orders be delivered to my customers?”
At the moment, the delivery of parcels is not (yet) prohibited by the corona crisis. However, delivery across Europe has been affected in certain areas. Carriers also are taking measures to protect their staff, including strongly enforcing hygiene and distancing measures. Therefore, you may find there are changes to their normal services.
Also note, border control is becoming stricter as countries block tourism and non-essential travel. In Europe, this currently does not include the movement of goods. But it does mean there may be extra checks at border crossings and this generally could cause delays in shipments. Next to this, governments are forcing shops to close across Europe if they are considered non-critical (for example clothing stores, flower shops etc). These are also locations for Pick-Up and Drop-Off (PUDO) points. Therefore the amount of PUDO points can be significantly lower in different countries depending on current measures. It is advised to ship as many parcels as possible directly to the consumer.
DHL Coronavirus Measures
- Cash on Delivery shipments are currently not possible and will be returned to the sender.
- Due to strict border controls and spring rush, packages may be delayed by one or two days throughout Europe.
- It is no longer possible to send packages to servicepoints in France, Spain and Poland. If you have sent a package to a closed service point, these will be returned.
- All other DHL locations are closed to visitors.
- As an extra hygiene precaution, the courier will sign for a delivery in front of the customer instead of the customer signing, to limit contact.
For further information, be sure to keep an eye on DHL’s website.
DPD Coronavirus Measures
- DPD will carry out all deliveries and collections wherever it is not officially prohibited.
- They no longer completes signatures for receipt.
- Through the DPD predict service, recipients can give the delivery person permission to deposit the package in a designated place. As soon as the package has been delivered there, the recipient will be notified.
- They have requested customers only deliver consignments where goods can be taken over.
- Shipments that cannot be delivered will be returned to the sender because they are unable to store the shipments.
- DPD DE have suspended all redirection options until further notice. This means the entire delivery and collection process in the parcel shops has been suspended due to the closure of the shops. All parcels with a direct delivery to a parcel shop will be automatically returned to the sender.
For further information, view the consequences of the coronavirus per country in this overview of DPD.
GLS Coronavirus Measures
- Shipment of goods remains possible.
- Cross-border services are available throughout the entire European network as borders for the transportation of goods are open.
- All international linehauls are fully operational, but there may be some delays.
- Recommended that you do not make shipments to undeliverable zip code areas and closed businesses. These shipments will be returned to the sender.
- Signatures cannot be guaranteed due to different country regulations in place. However, the full name of the recipient and date and time of delivery will be provided.
For further information, you can find it on GLS’s website.
UPS Coronavirus Measures
- UPS is continuing to operate with regular service.
- To limit physical interactions, signatures for receipt are not longer necessary. They will use the code UPSID instead.
- As of March 26, the UPS Money Back Guarantee for all shipments has been suspended until further notice.
- Within some countries, parcel deliveries may not be possible due to the closure of shops or businesses, and restrictions within various postcodes.
- Undeliverable parcels will be returned to the sender.
For further information, check out UPS’s alert page.
Undeliverable Areas & Carrier Operations:
In some areas and countries, it goes as far as suspending collection, storage, and delivery services until further notice. The situation in each European country is different, and can change very quickly. Below is an overview of the major impacts but please be sure to check with the carriers you work with – especially if you partner with local couriers for your last-mile delivery – on which specific postcodes or areas are affected. You can also check for the latest information on carrier operations during the coronavirus period on our help centre.
- Italy is the country in Europe that is being affected the most by the coronavirus. This has, of course, also impacted delivery. Various areas are under lockdown, and although carriers are trying to continue as best they can, pick-ups and deliveries can be suspended in certain areas due to government restricted Red zones. We highly advise reading (translating if necessary) our Italian coronavirus blog for the full list of affected post codes, restrictions and advice on delivery in Italy at this time.
- Spain: Spain has also been hit hard by the coronavirus, and is also under a lockdown but delivery services are trying to continue. Land borders have been closed but this does not include the movement of goods, but this can still cause delays. Parcel delivery and pick-ups may be temporarily suspended in various areas, particularly for certain carriers so please ensure to check out our Spanish coronavirus blog for more up to date information.
- France: France is also currently in a lockdown, causing factories and businesses to close in France. This has of course also affected the logistics and transport sector, with different carriers implementing various measures and restrictions. Again, we recommend checking out our French coronavirus blog for the latest updates and lists of operations.
Also note: shipping to pick-up points is not possible in France, Italy, Belgium and Spain due to stores being closed during lockdown. More countries can be added to this at any time depending on new measures introduced by retrospective countries. Keep an eye on the website of the carrier(s) you ship with.
Or you can visit our native blog posts that focus more on local operations and restrictions. Please note these are written in their retrospective languages.
What happens when there is a lockdown?
When a country is in full lockdown, no one is allowed to go out onto the streets, unless there is a valid reason. Depending on the situation in each country, carriers might not be able to enter a specific zone anymore. Keep in mind that parcels and handling claims will be delayed. If carriers cannot enter a specific part of a country, then delivery to these areas will be impossible.
It also means that no one inside the area is allowed to leave. This can affect your supply chain (read on for advice on handling this).
Keep track on your carrier’s website for updates surrounding the coronavirus to see if delivery to a specific area or country is still possible.
How do I avoid disruptions to my supply chain?
China dominates our supply chains. But cheap production has its price: enormous dependency, and this has now consequently interrupted supply chains, with extreme delivery bottlenecks and a reductions in availability for online shops. In economic terms, we are therefore facing extreme challenges.
If more parts of the world start locking down due to the coronavirus, your supply chain could be significantly impacted depending on where you source from or the import route your products take.
Despite the situation improving in China, it’s still vigilant to be prepared:
- Ensure you find back-up or alternative suppliers for your raw materials or products, or find alternative manufacturers.
- Try to expand your product range. Adding alternative products from various suppliers helps to spread the risk if one supplier fails with their fulfilment
- Keep track of supply chain shipment routes, and ensure to plan back-up/alternative routes if possible.
- Stay in touch with your supplier. Make sure you have a good relationship with your suppliers and ask for regular updates. Keep in mind that it will be a stressful time for your suppliers too. Stay polite and respectful of their own struggles, otherwise you could risk damaging your relationship with them indefinitely.
What do I do if I don’t have anything in stock?
Currently, there is a higher risk of delays or stockouts than normal. It’s crucial that you have 100% accurate inventory management during this time to avoid disappointing your customers, especially if they were relying on your products at this time.
Use inventory management systems like: Fishbowl Warehouse, TradeGecko, DEAR Systems, Primaseller, and ZaoERP Inventory. And consider setting up “Back In Stock” notifications as well to keep customers up-to-date.
What do I say to customers?
Remain honest with your customers, particularly with stock or delivery issues. Don’t shy away from sharing the struggles you as a business are facing with the coronavirus. We’re all in this together as a society, and it’s not admitting to a failure or fault of your business. Most customers will likely respond positively, understand the situation, and may even surprise you by offering their support. The key is to inform your customers of the potential problems before it leaves them disappointed.
Also inform your customers about the coronavirus protection you have introduced.
Keep up to date with current affairs. Take note of the measures being implemented, and calculate how they will affect your supply chain, delivery capabilities and to what markets, your workforce, and your general operations.
Bonus: 5 COVID-19 tips for e-commerce stores
- Start a collaboration with an offline retailer. Offline retailers are significantly struggling in these times. By working together you can both increase your sales and broaden your target audience. Think, for example, of discount promotions on certain products from a local business, which you can then facilitate the delivery of. You can also look into working with more local suppliers, or selling products from local creators.
- Communicate and advertise at the right time. The shelves of the supermarkets are stocked at fixed times a day. If you sell products that are also available in the supermarket, schedule your ads in the times where the shelves are likely to be empty and people will start searching online for an alternative.
- Make sure your website is running at optimum capacity. It is possible that you see an increase in traffic to your website. Make sure it is not overloaded and does not crash.
- Provide flexibility in delivery. Do not focus your pillars on just one carrier, but look at several options. Switch, for example, when a carrier cannot handle the crowds or cannot reach a certain destination. You can also look into alternative local carriers like bike couriers as an alternative.
- Be prepared for any change. What applies today may be different tomorrow. Therefore, make sure you are as flexible as possible and keep your customers proactively informed of changes and delays in deliveries.
Last but not least: think about your own health and that of the people around you.
Do you have any questions about your shipments in this uncertain time, or want to know more about e-commerce logistics? Feel free to leave a comment or contact us via the live chat in your Sendcloud environment.
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