More than 1.7 million packages are lost or stolen every day in the United States.

While it’s difficult to break down how many packages simply got misrouted compared to how many were stolen from a customer’s porch or doorstep, in either case, it presents a big problem for both your brand and your customer.

However, there are numerous precautions that you can put in place to track down misdelivered packages, and to stop package thieves in their tracks. In this article, we’ll share some tips on keeping packages safe – and what you can do to remedy the situation if a customer’s package goes missing in spite of your precautions.

The problem of package theft.

While ecommerce has become a faster and more reliable channel for selling products than ever before, the rise in ecommerce popularity has also made packages on people’s porches an easy target for opportunistic thieves.

Over the past year alone, 49 million Americans have dealt with package theft, with the average value of stolen packages estimated at $50. 

It’s a problem that strikes every type of community in America, and while many households have invested in home-security systems that include cameras, that doesn’t always stop offenders. 

Package theft is an “easy” crime that police rarely invest resources into following up on, meaning that most package thieves go unpunished.

Unless you have video or photos that show the package at a customer’s doorstep, it can be difficult to know whether the package was actually stolen, or simply misdelivered – but if the carrier isn’t able to locate the package, the end result is the same.

As a result, merchants and customers most often pay the price. 

How to avoid package theft and misdelivery.

In order to avoid package theft and misdelivery, there are a number of steps that you can put into place as a merchant.

  • Verify the customer’s address
    Sometimes a customer will accidentally enter the wrong address when ordering a package in the first place. When they’re completing their transaction, verify the address they submit against the USPS database to ensure accuracy. You can also ask them to set a “default” address that they won’t need to input in the future, helping them avoid potential typos that might result in lost mail.

  • Set up real-time tracking and delivery alerts
    By providing your customers with tracking numbers for all of their packages, and sending them notifications via text or email when their package is getting close to its destination, you can ensure that they’re on alert for a delivery and won’t let it wait outside for long.

  • Use signature verification
    For high-value items, and fragile items that may be damaged by poor weather conditions, consider using signature verification, so that customers are required to be home and sign for the item. In this case, you can enable the customer to schedule delivery through an approved window of time, so that they can be sure that they’re there to accept it. 

  • Provide “pickup locker” options
    If you’re selling on Shopify or Amazon, both platforms provide the option to change the delivery location from the customer’s home or office to a storage locker, where they can claim the item at their convenience from a secure location.

But what if a customer still doesn’t receive a package that’s showing up as delivered? Who’s responsible, and what are the next steps from there?

What to do when a package goes missing.

When a package is lost or stolen, your customer will be looking for a replacement – and, unless the carrier can track down the missing package, it will generally be on you as the merchant to provide it.

That’s why it’s critical to make sure that every delivery you send out includes shipping insurance, which will pay for the replacement cost of the item in the event that it goes missing. While most major carriers include free liability coverage for up to $100, it may be worth signing up for a third-party shipping insurance policy that includes more flexible terms, much higher coverage limits, and faster reimbursement. That means, if a package is lost or stolen, you’ll be able to get reimbursed for the value of the item, and expedite a new order to your customer.

In some cases, especially if you use a traditional carrier insurance policy, your customer may need to wait several days to file a claim, just in case it was accidentally processed as delivered ahead of schedule. If your carrier provides photo proof of delivery, the customer can examine the photo to see if it matches a nearby house, and contact the resident if they feel comfortable, or let the carrier know that the package was misdelivered. In that case, they may be able to get the original package dropped off or redelivered to their house without the need for a replacement.

But if your carrier isn’t able to track down the package, your customer will anticipate getting a replacement item free of charge.

In this case, providing a great customer experience is important: You should provide a replacement of the original item within an expedited time frame if possible. Even if your brand wasn’t responsible for the original loss, you want to ensure that the customer isn’t forced to pay twice.

The only exception is when the customer has a history of filing missing package reports. If this is a frequent occurrence, you can use data analytics tools to identify customers who should not be granted a refund or replacement item, and set policies for customers who you believe may be abusing your replacement policy.

Customer wants a refund? Consider an exchange.

In most cases, your customer will want you to immediately replace the lost or stolen item – but in some cases, especially if they needed the item for a specific event and the date has already passed, they might decide to request a refund instead.

That’s when your business really loses out. Not only are you losing the profit from the item – but you’re also losing the ongoing relationship with the customer, and the chance to drive ongoing revenue from them and their network of friends and family.

That’s why it’s important to incentivize exchanges as an alternative to refunds. 

By using an automated returns solution like Loop, you can support your customers with a self-service platform that enables them to easily report a missing package. They can then directly request a replacement, refund, or an exchange for another item with no need to engage a live support agent.

If a customer requests a refund, your platform can automatically offer them “bonus credit” that they can use to purchase any item from your available inventory, recommending similar products to the one that they’d previously purchased, or showcasing a catalog of your bestselling items to inspire them. 

By offering them additional credit to replace the item they no longer want, a little can go a long way. Stacking an extra $10 in credit on top of a $50 purchase price might mean that they decide to purchase an even more costly item – an $80 sweater, for instance – so you’ll actually end up generating more revenue from the purchase than you would have initially. That’s one reason that Loop merchants typically retain 40% of all return revenue through exchanges.

Incentivizing exchanges also helps you keep the customer in your pipeline, ensuring that they stick around and will continue to purchase more products from your brand in the months and years to come. Going the extra mile to ensure your customers stick with your brand in the short term can help you drive ongoing revenue and loyalty in the long run.

Want to learn more about Loop? Book a demo today.