illustrated graphic of a burglar stealing a package.

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The Rise of Porch Pirates and What Brands Can Do About It

Jul 20, 2021

We’ve all heard it before: Package theft is getting more common by the day. And as more packages are sent, more are getting stolen. Cruising stoops, mailboxes, and front doors seem to be a package thieves specialty, and nabbed purchases are especially common around the holidays every year.

There’s not a lot that brands can do to fully stop package loss. Once a package leaves the warehouse, the post-purchase journey may feel like it’s fully out of a brand’s control. Short of hand-delivering every package yourself, it could seem like the best bet to a secure delivery is simply a hope and a prayer.

While there are measures to help thwart this surge in porch piracy—doorside lock boxes, video doorbells, public delivery lockers, smart home security systems, moats full of gators—adoption means having a bunch of spare cash, space, time, or transportation. All commodities that aren’t as accessible as our own doorstep.

Don’t lose hope, though. Now is not the time to let thieves win, and resolving this leading problem in online shopping should be just another facet in the evolution of ecommerce. Explore some ways to minimize your store’s package theft rate and the effect it has on your bottom line. With simple steps like knowing which packages and goods are at the highest risk, and how to turn around the customer experience when packages do get stolen, porch pirates simply won’t thrive.

What are porch pirates?

Porch pirates is a colloquial term for package thieves who steal packages delivered to a homeowner’s front porch. There seems to be an increase in consumers ordering packages online and thieves have used this as a crime of opportunity simply by spotting packages on someone’s doorstep and taking them.   

What Are Package Thieves Stealing, Anyway?

The unprecedented number of packages sent during the pandemic definitely exacerbated the porch pirate problem—Americans’ ecommerce spending was up over 30% quarter-over-quarter during Q2 of 2020 at the pandemic’s start, more than anyone could have predicted.

As the pandemic stretched on, 43% of consumers claimed they had a package taken by a porch pirate. This number has risen from previous years; only 36% of consumers had a package stolen in 2019. Package theft will even lead to about half of consumers avoiding the purchase of expensive goods online

However, not all packages are created equal. Some are more at risk of theft than others. Your packaging plays a part. For example, flashy packaging, like placing loads of logos on the box, can lead to higher theft rates. Brands should save the branding experience for the inside of the box to avoid stoop cruisers looking for hot and trending brands.

And when your store is shipping to areas with denser populations, it’s a given that metro areas are, of course, more at risk of package theft. You can see in the map below from Shorr Packaging Corp. depicting where package theft is highest when it comes to Amazon purchases alone. 

map of package theft occurrences in the US.

The rash of theft has left a lot of shoppers scrambling, but remember that your customers are doing as much as they can. They’re doing their best to be at home during the expected time of their delivery (when it’s communicated), but it seems like no level of presence, security cameras, or smart doorbells is enough to dissuade the boldest burglars among us. 

And even if every trick in the book was at the disposal of consumers, there still needs to be an earnest effort to prevent and resolve the problem at its core by ecommerce brands. After all, the online stores that band with shoppers in this modern-day plight are going to earn the trust and loyalty of folks long before apathetic or uncaring brands.

How Package Theft Impacts Ecommerce Brands

Package theft is obviously never good news. In a dream world, every single customer would be happy with the products and the experiences they have shopping online. Every interaction would be personal, every transaction would be seamless, and earning a repeat purchase would be practically effortless. However, one stealth moment from a thief can turn the whole experience sour. And from a business perspective, there’s even more than meets the eye.

An influx of claims and support calls about missing purchases costs your team time and money, and if it happens enough, it can be overwhelming for your staff. More refunds, more time required with customer service agents, more inventory shipped to replace stolen goods—it all weighs down on your bottom line. 

Beyond your bottom line, package theft can leave customers wary of shopping with your brand in the future (or, if it continues to happen, they may stop shopping online altogether). While this may be out of your control, some consumers may associate the loss with your brand, especially if it’s a high-value item that gets nabbed.

Finally, high anxiety and increased theft provide more opportunities for negative customer experiences. Unfortunately, these aren’t totally within your control, but it still creates opportunities for customers to blame the merchant. Ultimately, you could lose revenue or profitability and receive negative reviews that damage your long-term reputation and opportunities.

How To Stop Porch Pirates and Protect Your Customers

The problem of porch pirates is unlikely to vanish anytime soon, but there are ways businesses can prevent thieves from stealing your customers’ purchases. To help customers feel more confident about purchasing online despite the risk of package theft, online retailers must do what they can to ensure they’ve got those customer’s backs.

Clearly communicate anticipated delivery timelines

This helps customers choose their own delivery adventure upfront – they can choose a time that’s more convenient for them, so they can be home when the package arrives. If your customer is there to get the package, the delivery person won’t need to leave it sitting on a porch.. Especially during the busy holiday season when delivery times can be impacted by sheer volume, it’s crucial to give your customers visibility into when they should expect a package to show up.

Let them know when to expect a package delivery in real-time

Real-time package tracking allows customers to keep tabs on their online orders so they know exactly when they can expect to see a package show up on their doorstep or in the office mailroom. At Route, for instance, we help retailers manage this issue by offering consumers access to Visual Tracking™, which automatically allows them to visually track all in-transit packages in one place.

Provide an option for shipping insurance directly at checkout

Another way to ease your customers’ anxieties about the risk of package theft is by making it as easy as possible to handle the issue if it does in fact occur. Including the option for customers to add package protection at the point of checkout helps drive conversions because it guarantees they won’t be stuck empty handed in the unfortunate case of theft. Route offers one-click claim filing and reordering in case of package theft, for instance, all within a branded experience that instantly brings customers back to your site.

What To Do When Porch Pirates Strike

Let’s say the worst happens and a customer gets their package stolen. What now? 

First and foremost, be accessible and available when the worst happens. When a package is swiped, your customers are worried, angry, frustrated, and more all at once. Don’t tack onto the headache by being inaccessible. Include clear guidance on what to do if a package is stolen on your website, in order confirmations, and in customer support channels. Plastering the right info everywhere will help calm angry customers in their most heated moments.

 Next, take steps to turn the negative experience they’ve had into a positive one. Show customers a great experience through easy claim filing, resending products, or refunds. Avoid being tedious, slow, or argumentative. With Route’s one-click claims process, customers can easily report their item as stolen and Route will automatically process a new order or refund. 

Making the annoyance of a stolen package even more annoying shouldn’t be any brand’s strategy. By making it as easy as possible, brands can keep customers coming back, lower their anxieties about ordering online again, and expand the customer lifetime value. The best experiences are the differentiators online — Route helps brands create great post-purchase experiences even when things go awry.

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