Nov 2, 2023
Kelli is the senior content strategist for Order Protection.
The holiday season is a time of joy, giving, and celebration, and for eCommerce businesses, a time for increased sales and shipping volumes. But this time of year also rings in a concerning trend—the rise of porch pirates.
Porch pirates are a growing menace to retailers and their customers. As an eCommerce brand, you're not only racing against the clock to deliver orders on time; you're also up against the increasing threat of these real-life Grinches.
And the most recent data shows that this threat isn’t slowing down any time soon. Nearly half of all Americans (44%) have had a package stolen at some point, including 17% (44 million people) in the past three months alone. These are the statistics before we hit the mad rush of holiday shopping, so those numbers are sure to jump even higher after BFCM sales.
Ensuring you have a strategy in place to protect your shipments against these crafty thieves will not only provide a better customer experience this holiday season, but it will safeguard your brand’s reputation and bottom line. In this article, we’ll explore the rise of porch pirates and provide you with data-backed solutions to secure your eCommerce shipping during the holidays and beyond.
Understanding porch pirates: who are they and how do they operate?
Porch pirates are the modern-day version of pirates, targeting packages instead of ships. These individuals seize the opportunity to steal packages left unattended on doorsteps, porches, and mailboxes, operating with cunning, often following delivery trucks or scouting neighborhoods on foot or in vehicles for potential easy targets. To outsmart these thieves, it's essential to understand their tactics and motivations.
So, how can you spot a porch pirate? Unfortunately, they’re not likely to fly skull-and-crossbones flags, or have identifiable features like eye patches or peg legs. In fact, according to a study by a professor of criminal justice administration, porch pirates look like your typical Average Joe. Among their findings:
Porch pirates are split between men (49%) and women (51%)
94% of the thieves were under 45 years of age
54% were White
67% came from the middle class
And just as porch pirates don’t stick to a certain demographic, they’re not choosy about where they strike, either. The 2022 Package Theft Annual Report found that the concentration of package theft victims is lowest in Maine and nearly two-and-a-half times higher in Alaska. Delaware, Nevada, and New York followed Alaska as the states where package theft was most likely, while Wisconsin, Alabama, and Georgia trailed Maine as the safest spots for delivery.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, porch pirates are more likely to strike in denser areas, or where there are more opportunities to steal. According to Wakefield Research:
34% of porch piracy occurs in cities
20% of thefts occur in suburban areas
13% of incidents are in rural areas
While the who and where might not be as predictable, the timing of porch piracy is often directly correlated to peak shopping events. For example, Security.org expected package theft in the week following Prime Day to rise by at least 40%, based on its own research as well as Google Trends. And data from the 2022 holiday season showed a 38% increase in reported porch piracy incidents.
Ultimately, porch piracy is a crime of convenience—the same conveniences that contribute to the rise of online shopping and eCommerce draw in these thieves looking for quick, easy gains.
The increasing prevalence (and threat) of package theft
The statistics surrounding porch pirates are sobering. According to the 2022 Package Theft Statistics Report:
Package theft increased by 54% compared to the previous year, reflecting a worrying trend.
In 2022, 43% of all Americans reported experiencing package theft.
During the holiday season, package thefts surge, with an average increase of 38% in reported incidents.
The total cost of stolen packages in 2022 reached an astounding $5.4 billion.
eCommerce businesses have no choice but to deal with this growing threat, considering the losses they can incur without a strategy in place, especially during the holiday season. Almost a third of all retail sales happen between Black Friday and Christmas Day, and a recent report suggests that 2023 holiday purchases through online marketplaces could reach $253 billion globally. That’s a lot of potential packages ripe for porch piracy, meaning the stakes to provide some sort of package protection are higher than ever before.
The impact of porch pirates on businesses and customers
Porch pirates don't just steal packages; they have far-reaching consequences for eCommerce businesses and customers alike.
Financial losses: The typical stolen package is worth about $50, according to the 2023 Package Theft Annual Statistics and Trends. In addition to the cost of the product, retailers like Amazon with a “no questions asked” refund policy will be on the hook for costs related to shipping and potential refunds.
Damaged reputation: Incidents of package theft can harm a brand's reputation, especially if a brand has no policy for package theft. Customers may perceive the business as unreliable and unhelpful, and are more likely to leave negative public reviews that can impact the brand’s image.
Customer churn: Customers who experience package theft may take their business elsewhere, resulting in customer churn. This issue relates back to financial losses, considering repeat customers generate 300% more revenue than first-time customers.
Inconvenience: Stolen packages cause frustration and inconvenience for customers who were eagerly anticipating their deliveries.
Financial impact: Customers may be forced to repurchase stolen items, incurring additional costs.
Trust erosion: Package theft can erode trust in eCommerce businesses and discourage repeat purchases.
How to prevent and protect against porch pirates: tips for secure eCommerce shipping
The rise of porch pirates calls for a proactive approach to secure your shipments and protect your customers. Here are some data-backed tips to keep porch pirates at bay:
Schedule deliveries wisely: Consider offering delivery time slots when customers are more likely to be home to receive their packages.
Provide secure pickup locations: Provide options and encourage customers to choose secure pickup locations like lockers, post offices, or nearby stores.
Use discreet packaging: While branded packaging can provide a more enjoyable customer experience, it can also draw attention to valuable items. To play it safe, consider using plain packaging without revealing the contents.
Offer package tracking: Enable customers to track their shipments, so they know when to expect delivery and can make arrangements to be home. The ability to check delivery status and track orders was the most important account feature for 56% of online shoppers, according to eCommerce research from the Baymard Institute.
Notify customers: Send delivery notifications in advance to ensure someone is present to receive the package. In general, customers expect high levels of communication from brands after placing online orders. Trustpilot’s ‘Holiday Trust in Spending’ Survey found that consumers would consider not shopping online with a business again during the holidays if they did not receive confirmations of shipments (61%), delivery (56%), or information on how to return (41%).
Offer shipping protection and insurance
Perhaps the most efficient and effective tactic to protect against porch piracy and stolen packages is a shipping protection or shipping insurance offering. Shipping insurance covers the value of the items being shipped, providing reimbursement for lost or stolen packages and protecting not only the customer, but also your business’s bottom line. Because even if you take all of the above steps to prevent porch piracy, there’s no perfect solution to eliminating package theft.
Offering shipping protection shows customers that your business cares more about the sale and wants to ensure their packages reach them safely, helping to build trust and loyalty for your brand. And by working with a provider like Order Protection, you can rest easy knowing that even if a customer experiences porch piracy, they’ll have 24/7 access to support agents who will respond quickly to their claim and provide a refund or reshipment. So even in a worst-case scenario like packages being stolen, your customers can still have a great experience with your brand.
Building customer trust with communication and transparency in the shipping process
Brand trust is an extremely important part of the customer experience, and critical for your business success in an increasingly competitive market. One of the best ways to earn customer trust is through honest and transparent communication throughout the entire buyer journey, including post-purchase and the shipping process. And, as we mentioned earlier, timely communication during shipping and delivery can play a part in preventing package theft and porch piracy.
Be sure to provide:
Real-time updates: Notify customers of the status of shipments, including tracking information, in real-time.
Customer notifications: Keep customers informed about their deliveries through email or SMS notifications.
Dedicated customer support: Offer responsive customer support to address concerns and inquiries promptly. When your partner with Order Protection, customers get access to 24/7 support where agents provide resolutions in just 14 minutes, on average.
Take proactive steps to outsmart porch pirates this holiday season
Porch pirates are a growing concern for eCommerce businesses, and their impact is significant. To protect your shipments and customers, it's essential to be proactive and implement data-backed solutions. By following the tips outlined in this article and leveraging technology, shipping protection, and insurance, you can outsmart porch pirates and ensure that your customers' holiday cheer remains unspoiled.
As we navigate this holiday season and beyond, it's crucial to stay one step ahead of porch pirates and take measures to secure your deliveries. By doing so, you not only protect your business but also foster trust and confidence in your customers, creating a win-win scenario for everyone involved.