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Navigating attempted delivery in e-commerce: Strategies and solutions

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Imagine placing an online order and eagerly awaiting its arrival. But when you check your tracking number, you see the words nobody wants to see: ‘delivery attempt failed’.

Attempted delivery simply means that just that; whether a delivery attempt was successful or not hinges on the overall efficiency of your delivery operation, as well as how well you communicate with customers.

If an attempted delivery is unsuccessful, your customer may have to arrange for a second delivery attempt to take place, a process which is time-consuming and stressful – and may leave them questioning whether to shop with your brand again.

In this blog post, we’re diving in the problem of attempted deliveries and their implications for e-commerce businesses. Plus, some actionable strategies to reduce the number of attempted deliveries that are affecting your bottom line.


  • Attempted delivery refers to a parcel carrier’s effort to deliver a package, aiming for a successful handover to the recipient. A failed delivery attempt means the delivery process is incomplete due to recipient unavailability, incorrect addresses, or other issues.
  • Failed delivery attempts impact e-commerce businesses by increasing customer inquiries, lowering satisfaction, raising costs, and damaging brand reputation.
  • The First Attempt Delivery Rate (FADR) measures the percentage of shipments successfully delivered on the first attempt. It helps assess logistics efficiency and customer experience.

What is attempted delivery?

An attempted delivery refers to parcel carrier bringing a package to the intended address with the goal of leaving it in a secure location or in the hands of the customer. A successful delivery attempt occurs when the carrier is able to mark the package as safely delivered. Meanwhile, a failed delivery attempt or missed delivery means that a courier has tried to deliver a package, but has been unable to complete the delivery process.

If a delivery attempt fails, this could be due to several causes such as an incorrect or incomplete address, not being able to access the delivery address, or customer absence. These delivery attempt incidents may also be referred to as delivery exceptions.

The number of delivery attempt efforts made will depend on the courier company and their delivery workflow. Some carriers will make multiple delivery attempts until a package is successfully received, while others will leave it up to customers to arrange a second delivery attempt and select another delivery location if needed. After several failed delivery attempts, the package will be returned to the post office it was sent from, and then back to the distribution center.

How to calculate first attempt delivery rate (FADR)

First Attempt Delivery Rate (FADR) measures the percentage of shipments involve successful first delivery attempts that don’t require any follow-up delivery attempts or re-shipments. FADR helps to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of your logistics operation and identify where attempted deliveries are going wrong and why.

It’s important to note that FADR differs from Perfect Order Rate (POR). Perfect Order Rate takes into account a much wider range of touchpoints across the fulfillment and delivery experience than a successful first delivery attempt. Both metrics should be used by e-commerce brands to identify areas of friction in the customer experience.

E-commerce businesses can calculate FADR with the following formula:

FADR = (Total deliveries – total failed first attempts) / total deliveries) × 100

A solid First Attempt Delivery Rate sits somewhere between 90%-100%. While an FADR of 100% is unrealistic due to mistakes by both customers and shipping companies, e-commerce brands should be doing everything they can to keep the number of delivery attempts as low as possible.

Why do failed delivery attempts happen?

There are a range of reasons for attempted delivery in e-commerce, due to either errors on the part of the customer or the courier company. There may also be problems outside of the shipping company’s control, such as adverse weather events or labor activity which make failed delivery attempts more likely to take place.

The most common reasons for unsuccessful delivery attempts

Recipient unavailability. Some e-commerce deliveries may require the delivery driver to obtain a signature to leave the parcel, especially if it’s a high-value item. If there isn’t anyone at the delivery address at the time the courier arrives, they will have no choice but to take the parcel with them and make a second delivery attempt.

Damaged package. If the courier is aware that a package has been damaged in transit or the customer identifies damage upon receiving the package, the delivery attempt cannot proceed as planned. A new order will have to be fulfilled and re-shipped from the distribution center, which will seriously delay delivery.

Incomplete or Inaccurate Address. If the customer provides an incomplete or wrong address, or the business incorrectly communicates this information to the shipping carrier, this results in missed or failed deliveries where the postal service may have to retrieve that package later for re-delivery.

Restricted Access. If the correct address is given but there is no way for delivery attempts to be made i.e. due to locked gates, the driver may not be able to leave the package in a secure place and must log an attempted delivery.

Unsecured Delivery Location. If there is no secure location at the delivery address to leave a package that’s away from street view i.e. an enclosed porch, the delivery driver may make the decision not to leave the package due to concerns about porch piracy.

Missed delivery window. Bad traffic or weather conditions may result in delays to a delivery round, meaning some parcel deliveries may be missed and scheduled for a future delivery round.

How do failed delivery attempts impact e-commerce businesses?

Increase in WISMO queries

When an unsuccessful delivery attempt happens, this can cause confusion and anxiety for those customers who are eagarly awaiting delivery. If the tracking number registers that a failed delivery attempt was made, customers may need to arrange for a new delivery attempt or confirm the correct address. Depending on how easy the shipping company is to contact, e-commerce brands may discover that these enquiries end up rebounding into their customer support team, resulting in WISMO (Where is My Order?) enquiries that need to redirected to the courier company.

A high volume of WISMO requests can put customer service teams under serious strain, especially during peak season when more delivery attempts are taking place. This takes valuable time away from managing more complex and serious issues, which may lead to more serious escalations.

Lower levels of customer satisfaction

Today’s online shoppers have high expectations for seamless delivery experiences. If a first delivery attempt is not successful, customers will feel frustrated and inconvenienced – and this is only going to grow with each subsequent failed delivery attempt.

According to Descartes and SAPIO Research, 73% of consumers surveyed in 2022 said they had experienced a delivery failure when shopping online, while 23% said they did not order from that retailer again. In the age of social media and age of online reviews, it’s never been easier for negative delivery experiences to become public knowledge. Over time, this reputational damage can cause business growth to stagnate.

Higher operational costs

Every failed delivery attempt that an e-commerce business has on their books adds to the total cost of shipping and delivery. If an order requires a second or even a third delivery attempt before delivery is successful, the total shipping cost for that order may be three times as high as you’ve budgeted for. Moreover, if redelivery attempts continue to be unsuccessful or an order is lost during the redelivery process, a fresh order may have to be fulfilled and re-shipped, which adds to overall shipping cost per order.

While e-commerce brands do have the option to pass these costs onto customers, doing so will result in unhappy customers – especially if the failed delivery attempt was not their fault. This means that avoiding damage to your brand’s reputation can definitely come at a cost to your bottom line.

How to reduce attempted deliveries in e-commerce

Ensure that address information is verified

An incomplete or wrong address is one of the most common reasons for failed delivery attempts in e-commerce. This can happen for several reasons, such as the customer inputting the address incorrectly at the checkout. However, this can also happen if customer information is ommitted or incorrectly formatted when transmitted to the shipping company, resulting in delivery drivers being routed to the wrong address. Implementing address verification software at the checkout and your WMS helps these mistakes to be caught before the shipment takes place and a delivery attempt is made.

Offer multiple shipping methods

E-commerce businesses need to offer a variety of shipping options to cater to diverse customer preferences and needs. Some customers may want rapid shipping for items they need urgently, while others are happy to wait longer if it means they have to pay less for delivery. Allowing customers to choose from a variety of shipping speeds – from expedited shipping to standard shipping – means they can select the option that best suits their schedule so they can be present for the delivery, helping to reduce the number of redelivery attempts needed.

Refine your pick and pack operation

While damaged packages are most likely to occur during the delivery round when parcels are dropped or squashed, this can be mitigated during the e-commerce fulfillment process. Making sure that all orders – especially those containing fragile items – are being appropriately packaged and labeled helps to prevent damage in transit and costly re-shipments of replacement orders. Consider working with a 3PL like Ryder E-commerce who can put automated packing rules and advanced cartonization in place.

Real-time tracking pages

Offering a self-service tool to track orders helps to dramatically reduce WISMO requests and keep customers informed about estimated delivery dates. E-commerce businesses can either host their own branded tracking page, or direct customers to third-party carrier tracking websites. Branded tracking pages have the advantage of offering customers a cohesive brand experience and additional valuable content, such as product recommendations and new promotions. Consider also allowing customers to sign up to email and SMS to push notifications to their device about shipping delays or imminent delivery.

Schedule automatic notifications for delivery

Sending customers a proactive notification via email or SMS when their parcel is out for delivery gives them a heads up about an upcoming delivery attempt, rather than them only finding out after a failed delivery has taken place. This gives customers the opportunity to reschedule a trip out of the house to run errands to be present for the package handover, boosting your success rate of deliveries.

Future trends in e-commerce deliveries

Blockchain for address verification

Blockchain technology has a large number of applications in the shipping and delivery process, given the amount of information which needs to be transferred seamlessly between the customer, the business, and the shipping company. Distributed digital ledgers make it possible for delivery details to be stored and verified in one location where they cannot be altered either deliberately or by mistake. This also provides an extra layer of security by keeping sensitive customer information away from platforms with less robust protocols.

Personalized delivery slots

In between work and personal commitments, it can be a serious challenge for consumers to ensure they are home to receive a delivery, especially when estimated delivery date and time are often subject to change. Specific day delivery is growing in popularity as customers search for more flexible delivery options, which also helps brands to avoid multiple delivery attempts and inflated shipping costs.

Reducing the number of failed delivery attempts that take place is not only a matter of operational efficiency and saving on shipping costs, but is integral to strengthening brand reputation and customer loyalty. Every delivery attempt that takes place leads to increased customer inquiries, lower customer satisfaction, and even lost sales opportunities for e-commerce brands. In short, delivery attempts matter because the customer experience matters.

Fortunately, many of the reasons for failed deliveries can be mitigated by putting the right systems in place to pick up on errors early on in the fulfillment process. This includes address verification, better packing processes, and real-time tracking capabilities that offer more transparency to your customers. Applying technologies such as blockchain and advanced delivery scheduling also hold a lot of promise in reducing delivery attempts, strengthening you overall bottom line.

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