Delay in Delivery: 13 Causes and How to Avoid Late Deliveries

on Apr 18, 2023

Because of how rare delays are with deliveries these days, customers have come to expect to receive their package on time or even early. It's precisely because of how rare delays are that when they do happen, they have such a major negative impact on the buyer's experience.

In fact, 32% of global consumers report that delays in delivery or shipping problems are the two major drawbacks of online shopping. That's a large sum of potential customers that could avoid buying the product you sell online due to delivery delays, affecting your bottom line.

While you can't cross out all the reasons affecting delivery times, there are some measures you can take to minimize them and keep your customers happy.

In this article, you'll find 13 potential causes for delayed shipping, so you can stay aware of them. You'll also learn what to do if or when you face late deliveries.

Delays in delivery can damage your brand and your bottom line

If your business experiences delays in delivery, it can have a critical impact on your brand and bottom line. Let's review different ways delays can damage your brand.

Impact of delivery delays on retailers

Lost revenue

One of the most significant consequences of delays in delivery is lost revenue. When customers don't receive their orders on time, they may cancel the order or go to a competitor who can fulfill their needs promptly. This results in lost sales for your business.

Also, if the delay in delivery time is notable, customers may lose trust in the brand and stop doing business with them. This could have long-term financial implications for your company.

Damaged brand trust

When customers place an order, they expect it to arrive on time, and if it doesn't, it can lead to frustration and disappointment. According to a recent survey,              58% of consumers say they'd stop buying from a brand entirely after one to three supply chain delays or disruptions. This demonstrates the importance of timely delivery for maintaining customer loyalty and brand reputation.

A damaged brand reputation can have far-reaching consequences, including a decline in sales and difficulty attracting new customers.

Inventory issues

Inventory issues are another potential consequence of delayed deliveries. When products aren't delivered on time, it can result in inventory shortages, causing retailers to lose out on potential sales.

Additionally, inventory management becomes more challenging when delays occur, making it more difficult to predict and plan for future demand. This can lead to additional costs and inefficiencies for the company.

13 potential causes for delays in delivery

When it comes to shipping and delivery, there are a variety of factors that can cause delays. Understanding these factors can help you anticipate potential delays and plan accordingly.

1. Traffic

Traffic is a common cause of delivery delays, especially in urban areas. Delivery vehicles may get stuck in traffic or have to take longer routes to avoid congestion, leading to significant slowdowns in the delivery process.

2. Increased shipping volume

As the volume of shipments increases, delivery services may become overwhelmed, leading to delays. This can occur during peak shopping periods, such as the holiday season, or during special events like Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Increased shipping volume in the US

Increased shipment volumes lead to delays as packages pile up and delivery services struggle to keep up with demand.

3. Holidays or global events

Holidays, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, or global events like natural disasters or pandemics can cause disruptions in delivery schedules. Reduced schedules or unexpected changes in shipping routes can impact delivery times and cause delays.

4. Labor shortages

Shortages of truck drivers or warehouse workers can make it challenging to fulfill delivery orders on time, leading to delays. This can be particularly problematic during holidays and peak shopping periods when delivery services are already operating at capacity.

5. Weather conditions

Extreme weather conditions such as snow, heavy rain, or high winds can force delivery services to adjust their schedules or routes to ensure driver safety. This can lead to delays as delivery services may need to take longer routes or postpone deliveries altogether.

6. Unclear or inaccurate shipping labels

If the shipping label on a package is unclear or inaccurate, it can cause significant delays in delivery.

Unclear or inaccurate shipping labels

The delivery service provider may have to spend extra time tracking down the correct delivery address. They may even need to contact the recipient to clarify delivery instructions. Either way, unclear or inaccurate labels can impact predefined delivery times.

7. Failed delivery attempt

If the recipient is not available to receive the package during the delivery window, the delivery attempt can fail. This can result in delays as the delivery service will need to reschedule the delivery for another time or attempt to deliver the package to an alternate location.

8. Lost packages

Occasionally, packages are lost during the delivery process. This can occur for a variety of reasons, including mishandling or theft. When a package is lost, delivery services will need to launch an investigation to locate the package, which can cause significant shipment delays.

9. Supply chain issues

Delays can occur when there are issues within the supply chain, such as delays in the manufacturing process or problems with sourcing materials. These issues can impact the delivery timeline, causing delays in the shipping process.

10. Lack of visibility

When delivery services lack visibility into the shipping process, it can be challenging to determine the location of packages or estimate delivery times. This can lead to delays as delivery services may need to spend extra time searching for lost packages or tracking down missing information.

11. Customs

When shipping packages across international borders, customs can cause significant delays.

Customs clearance delay causes

There's a whole set of issues that can cause customs clearance delays:

  • Poorly packaged goods: Goods that aren't properly packaged may require additional inspection by customs officials, which can cause delays in the clearance process.
  • Incomplete or incorrect documentation: Missing or incorrect documentation, such as commercial invoices, can cause delays as customs officials may need to request additional information or clarification from the sender.
  • Incorrect product description: Providing an incorrect description of the product being shipped can lead to an additional inspection.
  • Incorrect value or quantity: If the value or quantity of the product being shipped is incorrect, it can lead to additional inspection and, therefore, delays in the clearance process.
  • Incorrect product code: Providing an incorrect product code can also lead to an additional inspection.
  • Seasonal holidays: During peak shipping seasons or holidays, customs officials may be overwhelmed with the volume of shipments, causing delays in the clearance process.
  • Political events: Political events, such as changes in trade policies or border closures, can impact customs clearance times and ultimately lead to delays in the shipping process.

12. Inadequate technology

Inadequate technology can significantly contribute to shipping delays, especially when it comes to outdated systems that struggle to handle large volumes of shipments or provide real-time tracking information. Outdated technology is also more prone to errors, which can lead to inaccuracies in shipment information and further delay the delivery process.

Delivery Solutions offers a single unified omnichannel platform to enterprise retailers. This platform provides flexible options for consumers, making sure their fulfillment experiences are smooth and seamless. The unified platform not only provides flexible options for consumers but also helps merchants stay ahead of the game by allowing them to innovate at scale. This ensures that they are up-to-date with the latest technological advancements and can avoid any technological inadequacies that may lead to delays in delivery.

13. Vehicle problems

Vehicle problems, such as mechanical breakdowns or traffic accidents, can cause significant delays in delivery times. If a shipment is on a vehicle that experiences issues, it may need to be transferred to a different vehicle, causing further delays.

What you can do when faced with delayed deliveries

In some cases, there's nothing you can do to avoid delivery delays. But there are things you can do to minimize its negative effect on your business:

  • Notify customers: If a package is delayed, notify the customer as soon as possible to manage their expectations and provide them with the most up-to-date shipping information.
  • Offer discounts or incentives: Providing customers with discounts or incentives for future purchases can help mitigate the negative impact of delayed delivery and maintain customer loyalty.
  • Investigate the cause of the delay: Analyzing the cause of the delay can help identify potential areas for improvement and prevent similar issues from happening in the future.


Delivery delays can have a significant negative effect on your business. It can lead to lost revenue, damage to your brand trust, and inventory issues.

There are numerous potential causes for these delays, such as traffic, weather conditions, inadequate technology, and customs clearance delays. While you can't control all of the reasons that slow down your delivery process, you can take proactive steps to avoid some of them.

Unfortunately, you can't cross out delays completely. But showing your customers that you care about them can help keep their loyalty.

About the author

Caitlyn Metzker

Caitlyn Metzker, a professional with 9 years of experience, brings a wealth of insight to her Sr. Enterprise Account Executive role. As a University of South Carolina graduate, Caitlyn has honed her skills within the industry previously with Roadie and Kabbage. Originating from Philadelphia, her multifaceted interests include traveling, hiking, soccer, swimming, and boating, reflecting her adventurous spirit. Her favorite getaway is the picturesque Kauai, Hawaii. Caitlyn's business philosophy underscores the importance of continuous learning, as she believes that "there is always more to learn; absorb as much as you can." When not devising groundbreaking strategies, Caitlyn unwinds by delving into books or enjoying the serene beach. Adding a unique touch, she cherishes the privilege of occasionally working alongside her sister and mother as part of the UPS Digital family. Caitlyn's profound industry knowledge and passion make her an invaluable asset to our B2B SaaS sales and marketing team.


Topics from this blog: Delivery Solutions Shipping

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