Far from sailing the open seas or commandeering online media, the latest pirates are plundering American doorsteps. Porch pirates are thieves that steal packages from shopper’s doorsteps or porches. The concept is not new, but the rise in ecommerce, and ecommerce holidays, in particular, has also lead to an increase in package theft. “Stolen packages stink,” says Roberta Perry, owner of ScrubzBody Skin Care Products. “But, they are one of the realities of being an online business,” she tells Independent Retailer.
Porch pirates are keenly aware of shopping holidays, just like the rest of America. According to Nextdoor, the largest neighborhood social media app, during Amazon Prime Day posts and comments around package theft increase by 85%. Overall, as many as 30% of Americans have had their packages stolen. In 2017, 26 million Americans reported stolen packages during the holiday season alone.
When shoplifting happens in-store, retailers are responsible, but because this theft is happening in transit, it becomes a grey area that disproportionately places the burden on the consumer. As a result, shoppers are changing their buying behavior in anticipation of package theft. A survey by Shorr Packaging revealed that 41% of people say they have avoided some purchases online for fear of package theft. 53% of shoppers have also changed their plans to be home for a delivery, even though it did not require a signature.
Shoppers buy online because of the convenience factor. However, if people are changing their schedules based on package deliveries, or not ordering items because of theft concerns, buying online loses some of that convenience factor. Especially considering that a majority of shoppers don’t feel like retailers are taking responsibility to address the issue adequately. Shorr Packaging found that 61% of consumers think online retailers are not doing enough to prevent package theft.
Retailers can increase sales, customer service, and brand loyalty through the way they approach porch piracy:
Advertise Prevention Methods
The first step is to educate shoppers on how they can avoid stolen packages. Have a tip or FAQ section on your checkout page for best practices around online orders. Encourage shoppers to have packages delivered to their place of work, a friend who is home during the day or has a doorman service, or a family member’s house. 71% of respondents in Shorr Packaging’s survey said they would be open to having their packages sent to a secure address.
Include Tracking With All Orders
Customers should be able to track their packages every step of the way so that they can anticipate the delivery time and plan accordingly. Even if it’s not convenient, many people like to collect their package immediately after it is delivered to prevent theft.
Follow Specific Delivery Instructions
Let shoppers leave specific delivery notes such as “place inside screen door” or “leave at the back door.” While this won’t completely prevent theft, having the packages placed out of plain sight can reassure many shoppers.
Offer Package Insurance
53% of people are willing to pay more for a product if it comes with theft insurance. Bloomberg reports, “When packages go missing, most major mail carriers agree to be liable for about $100, leaving the retailer to refund the remaining dollar amount or send a new item.” By offering package insurance, retailers can provide shoppers with peace of mind while still protecting their profit margins.
“Re-issuing product delivery isn’t cheap,” says Jason Yau, VP of E-Commerce at CanvasPeople. “Every time that happens, it’s the same from a financial standpoint as a buy-one, get-one-free deal. If this happens enough times, it can absolutely have a noticeable impact on profit at the end of the year.” Jason tells Independent Retailer, “As a retailer in a world where home delivery is already the norm, it’s absolutely worth having insurance that accounts for some of the loss accrued from stolen packages
Use Discreet Packaging
Ecommerce holidays like Amazon Prime Day are a porch pirate’s dream partly because of the recognisable smile on Amazon’s packaging. If pirates can’t see the branding on the package, it is less enticing. 37% of shoppers are even willing to pay more for discreet packaging.
Consider Alternative Delivery Methods
Several startups are trying to take on retail’s porch pirate problem. Vyllage is a service that allows individuals to sign up as “Vyllagers,” or homeowners that go through a background check. Shoppers can pay a small service fee to have their package delivered to a nearby “Vyllager” who is guaranteed to be home when the package is delivered.
70% of consumers won’t return to an online store after a bad delivery experience. Shrugging off the problem is the worst thing a retailer can do when responding to package theft. “I hate when the call or email comes in,” says Roberta of ScrubzBody Skin Care Products. “The customer says that the order was placed a week prior and the package had still not arrived. I do a tracking search and find that the package was indeed delivered. But obviously, not into the correct hands. Thankfully it doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I send a replacement package right away, erring on the side of believing the customer.” Becky Beach, the owner of MomBeach.com, agreed. She tells Independent Retailer when customers report stolen packages, she “sends another item to them immediately.” Porch pirates are a frustration for customers and retailers alike, but the cost of a replacement product is lower than the value of a lost customer.