Retail

Woolworths cancels orders as online delivery system goes down: How will Amazon change customer’s shipping expectations?

Dominic Powell /

Woolworths’ online ordering systems have been disrupted and taken offline over the past two days, forcing the retailer to cancel all orders made in that time and leaving many customers disgruntled.

ITNews reports the retailer’s online ordering systems were knocked out due to “technical issues”, leading to the retailer notifying customers via social media and SMS that orders had been cancelled.

“Unfortunately due to technical issues, we will be unable to fulfil your order today. Your order will be moved to the same time tomorrow,” Woolworths told customers via text message, reports ITNews.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Shoppers then took to social media to complain about the outage, many criticising the retailer for providing short notice and still allowing customers to shop while the services were actually down.

In a statement to SmartCompany, Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci said the company was looking to refund all affected customers and apologised to them “unreservedly”.

“Sunday and the start of the week are critical shopping days for our customers, including via online, and we are extremely disappointed to have let these customers down and apologise unreservedly,” he said in a statement.

“As well as a full refund we will be reaching out to each of these customers personally and will be compensating them with a $100 eGift card for the major inconvenience caused.”

A spokesperson for Woolworths told SmartCompany the system had experienced a “major delivery system outage” affecting deliveries on both Sunday and Monday afternoons.

Are Australian retailers ready for Amazon’s shipping expertise?

As customers groaned at Woolworth’s outages, a recent survey of Australian consumers suggests that logistics and shipping are becoming more important than ever.

The swift response from Woolworths over the error comes at the same time experts speculate the arrival of logistics king Amazon will make consistency of delivery services more important than ever.

A recent survey conducted by shipping software platform Temando, collated responses of over 1200 Australian consumers and 250 retailers and compared them to international results. The findings included that nearly 60% of shoppers would be put off dealing with a retailer again after one poor shipping experience.

Additionally, 51% of retailers surveyed acknowledged that technology platform compatibility was an issue and an additional 47% said they had challenges with automated shipping and fulfilment. Despite this, only around a quarter were planning on improving these issues over the next year.

Speaking to SmartCompany, Temando founder Carl Hartmann said his company conducts these surveys yearly across “primary e-commerce markets” across the world, and notes the “overall gap” between customer expectation and what retailers are providing is getting higher.

“For retailers, the future belongs to those who can close that gap,” Hartmann says.

“When we’re talking about technology, it’s not just the delivery system. Customers expect stuff to work, and when it doesn’t they’re pretty unforgiving.”

Hartmann believes with the impending arrival of Amazon on Australian shores, it won’t take long for consumers to adopt to the online retailer’s streamlined approach to delivery, saying as a consumer, “it doesn’t take very long to make it your default behaviour”.

“The experience is very refined. There are so many options for delivery, and if an item is going to be late or cancelled, you find out about it from Amazon before you even figure it out,” he says.

“This might sound like the bread and butter of delivery services, but it’s pretty much the base level of what customers want. They want trust, they want control, and they want transparency.”

Hartmann doesn’t believe all retailers will feel the pain of Amazon’s expert approach to logistics, claiming Australian retailers are some of the best educated around the world. Despite that, he notes any businesses resistant to change and innovation will be suspect to someone coming in and “doing it better”.

“Businesses are only at risk if they’re not best practice. If they are, then there’s no problem,” he says.

“Australian retailers are some of the best in the world, but consequently consumer expectations are also at a high level. Once Amazon comes and starts offering their services and you’ve got a big player doing the whole gambit, then that becomes the baseline for all other retailers.”

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the former features and profiles editor at SmartCompany.