Consolidate Orders Online and Stop the Senseless Waste Now!

Consolidate Orders

During the pandemic more people have been shopping online than ever before. It stands to reason that with lockdowns in place and many physical stores being closed, that ECommerce ordering and shipping is a great alternative to face to face shopping. And customers typically except sellers to consolidate orders they place.

Along with online shopping the never ending push for fast delivery has continued unabated, whether it’s really necessary or not.

The result of this however is that more and more online orders are being fulfilled and delivered piecemeal. An order of 3 or more items more often than not results in the delivery of 3 separate packages. There is no focus to consolidate orders at all. It’s insane.

Unless there is an urgent need for a specific item companies should be consolidating their items in fewer packages and avoiding all of this waste.

The Intent

To increase the attractiveness of Online shopping, in particular as compared to Brick and Mortar retail, ECommerce companies have focussed intently on rapid delivery. By providing delivery options, if not standard delivery services, including one hour, same day, or next day delivery these companies are looking to make Online shopping as convenient as possible. You don’t even have to leave your house and your goods will appear at your door.

Beyond marketing this level of convenience this rapid delivery model has further become a basic expectation. If you, or your rivals, do or don’t provide this service offering it now becomes a source of competitive differentiation. With customers now trained to expect this rapid response they will go to your competitor as quick as it takes to click a button if you can’t compete on delivery terms.

During the pandemic offering an online ordering and delivery capability has further become mandatory for survival of many companies. Physical retail channels have been closed temporarily at a minimum. This has forced the quick creation of online channels and fulfillment engines in response to still provide a revenue stream, however small that may be.

Whatever reason customers are generally happy to get this rapid delivery service. It helps them get over any stigma or reluctance to shop online.

But for all of these benefits there are some real issues with blindly focussing on fast, online delivery.

The Reality

My wife recently placed an online order with a company for about a dozen items. The first sign of a problem came through email. For each individual item on her order she got a separate email when the order was received, when the order for each item was dispatched to their Distribution Centre, when each item was fulfilled, when each item was shipped, when each item was in transit and when each item was delivered.

She received dozens of emails for a dozen items. But even more astonishingly she received 8 separate packages for a single order of 12 items. 8 SEPARATE PACKAGES! She didn’t ask for expedited delivery, and she wasn’t even given that option.

But in the company’s haste to fulfill her order they obviously have no process for consolidation but rather they have over-rotated on delivering individual items as fast as possible with absolutely no consideration for cost, efficiency, environmental impacts or the actual customer experience.

And it wasn’t as if each package was filled to the brim with no room for other items. For most of the packages less than 25% of the cubic space in the box was occupied by the item, or items, therein. We’ve discussed this before in “Stop Shipping Air and Empty Boxes“.

The level of disregard for the negative impacts of this approach is beyond comprehension.

She didn’t need any of the items quickly. She didn’t want to be inundated with dozens of emails and multiple packages. She would have been more than happy to receive a limited number of notices and as few packages as possible. But she wasn’t even given the option.

This is not an isolated experience. It happens all of the time with companies big and small. In blind pursuit of providing quick delivery they have truly ignored the cost implications, the carbon footprint impacts, the packaging waste, and the negative customer experience.

There are exceptions. If you order a pair of socks and a lawnmower on one order there is no realistic way, or need, to consolidate those items in a single order. But that is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about items that are of sufficiently similar size and shape that they can reasonably be consolidated and fit in a single box.

Next Steps

There is no reason to continue to perpetuate this irresponsible behaviour. Resolution should be very simple. When someone places an online order they should be asked:

  1. Would you like your order to be consolidated in as few packages as possible?
  2. Are you ok if your delivery takes a little longer as we wait to consolidate your items in as few packages as possible?

These questions as I’ve presented are somewhat wordy, but the intent is there. Give people an option on checkout as to whether they want to consolidate their items, even if it may mean a longer delivery time. Allow people to consolidate orders.

There is no doubt that some people will say no. They want their items fast. To those people I would just ask them to really, really genuinely decide whether they need those items as quickly as they can be delivered.

For many more people I expect that they will select this option of consolidation. These people will be the true stewards of the environment. They will help reduce unnecessary costs. They will reduce unnecessary shipping costs and carbon footprint impacts. And when as few packages arrive as possible they will be much happier than opening package after package after package after package.

Companies do the right thing and give your customers the option to consolidate orders! Customers do the right thing and demand that those companies give you that option to consolidate orders!

Originally published on April 20, 2021.