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Online customers had to wait longer for their parcels in 2021 than in 2020



Published on: August 18, 2023

Updated: September 7, 2023


Munich, January 12, 2022 – The delivery speed in German online retail is continuously decreasing and reached its absolute low in the pre-Christmas period of 2021. This is shown by an evaluation of the Munich-based specialist for Operations Experience Management, parcelLab, which analyzed the delivery data of its more than 500 retail customers in German-speaking countries for this purpose.


  • The percentage of orders for which a first delivery attempt is made within 24 hours dropped from 29.7 to 18.7 percent from 2020 to 2021.
  • On average, customers in Germany have to wait three days for their orders.
  • A particular amount of patience is required in Austria, where delivery times are four days.

While the first delivery attempt was made on around 45 percent of orders within 24 hours before the start of the Corona pandemic in January and February 2020, the unexpected growth in online orders at the start of the Corona pandemic in April last year ensured that delivery staff only rang customers’ doors in 27.32 percent of orders within 24 hours. And apparently, retailers failed to scale logistics to handle the growing volume. On the contrary, the number of orders with delivery times of up to 24 hours in 2021 was 18.7 percent, well below the previous year’s figure (29.7 percent).

In turn, the number of orders delivered within two days increased by 10.6 percent from 23.5 percent in 2020 to 26 percent in 2021. The proportion of orders that took retailers three days to deliver even grew by 20.5 percent to 19.4 percent. On average, the delivery speed in Germany deteriorated from 2.8 days in 2020 to 3.0 days in 2021. The situation is even worse in Austria, where times slowed from 3.2 to 4.0 days. Switzerland also experienced delays, from an original 3.5 days to 3.8 days now.

Christmas 2021 brings retailers into fulfillment difficulties

The comparison of delivery times in this year’s pre-Christmas business is even more drastic: while 23.6 and 20.1 percent of orders were delivered for the first time within 24 hours in November and December 2020, respectively, this figure was only 4.2 and 3.86 percent in the comparable months of 2021. Instead, the number of orders that took retailers two and three days to deliver in November and December 2021 climbed to 25.5 percent from 21.3 percent a year earlier. The proportion of orders that took four days to reach the customer doubled well from 8.5 to 17.9 percent.

An analysis of the problems that can arise during delivery, on the other hand, shows a comparatively constant picture compared with previous years. The biggest problem for retailers and delivery staff is that deliveries fail because the recipient cannot be found at the delivery location. However, this figure has fallen compared with 2020, which can be explained by the high proportion of employees working from home. In 2020, 53.4 out of 100 delivery problems were “failed attempts,” but this figure fell to 33.87 percent. In contrast, the problem of shipments being routed to the wrong carrier depots has doubled. The number of shipments that get stuck somewhere along the route between carrier and end customer has also increased. Lack of carrier updates in the delivery process now accounts for 15.6 percent of delivery problems. Last year, the figure was 6.8 percent. The number of shipments that drivers were unable to deliver during their working hours due to overload fell slightly year-on-year, but increased noticeably during Cyber Week. While the average share for 2021 as a whole was 9.1 percent of all delivery problems, the figure climbed to 12.13 percent on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Longer delivery times require transparent communication

“In view of the fact that delivery times have slowed down, status emails about the current status in the shipping process are gaining in importance,” explains parcelLab co-founder Anton Eder. This is shown by the analysis of the opening rates of shipping communication emails, which are significantly higher in November and December 2021 than in the same period of the previous year. According to the study, the highest open rates in the pre-Christmas period of 2021 were recorded by messages about delivery delays, followed by information that the shipment has been registered with the carrier. Information about failed delivery attempts and the message that the goods had been loaded into the delivery vehicle also attracted a very high level of attention from customers.

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