17 mar 2023
Kelli is the senior content strategist for Order Protection.
“Signature required” isn’t the slam-dunk solution brands should be counting on when it comes to protecting their customers’ purchases.
With porch piracy on the rise, it’s no surprise that many brands are taking extra steps to ensure packages reach their customers safely. A 2022 report found that 49 million Americans have had at least one package stolen in the past year, reflecting more than $2.4 billion in stolen goods. In the UK, parcel theft is up almost 300% in the last three years.
That’s a lot of porch pirates.
And while requiring a signature upon delivery is a fairly simple solution and potential good first step, there are costs and limitations to the service that may not make it the best option available.
What is “signature required”?
As the name implies, “signature required” simply means that some form of signature is required upon delivery before the courier will leave the package at an address. Depending on the courier used, there are a few different signature options.
For example, FedEx offers indirect, direct, and adult signature required options. For indirect signatures, the FedEx driver will obtain a signature either from someone at the delivery address, or from a person nearby, such as a neighbor or building manager. Direct signatures require that someone from the delivery address must sign for the package, while adult signatures require a person over the age of 21 with proper identification to be present to accept the delivery.
Other delivery courier services like UPS and USPS offer similar options. In most cases, if the requirements are not met for the delivery, the delivery drivers will leave a note indicating that they attempted delivery, and provide either a date when they will try again or instructions on where the recipient could go to retrieve their package, like a post office or other pickup location.
What are the benefits of “signature required”?
The obvious benefit of requiring a signature for delivery is peace of mind for both the brand and the customer. When a signature is required, packages will not be left unattended, lowering the risk of theft.
There’s also a legal responsibility for brands when it comes to deliveries containing alcohol, tobacco, or firearms. The adult signature option is required for these types of shipments, and removes the risk of packages being delivered to or accepted by children and those not suited to receive such items.
How much does it cost to require signatures upon delivery?
Costs vary depending on which delivery courier you use, but the prices are fairly steady across the board. For UPS, rates have increased slightly in the past five years, as indicated in the table below.
Costs for the adult signatures are slightly higher, with similar increases since 2019.
Source: Refund Retriever
Many brands will take on the cost of providing signature-required deliveries, but others are giving consumers the choice to opt-in for the service at an additional cost.
For example, this brand lists the service like a product on their website, allowing customers to add it to their cart for an additional $4.25.
What are the limitations of “signature required”?
Requiring a signature for delivery is a sort of “band-aid” approach to shipping and package protection. Outside of cases like legally-required 21+ deliveries, the signature approach does little beyond lowering the risk for theft or porch piracy.
There’s no guarantee that even if someone signs for a package, it will eventually get to the intended recipient. Human error can still take place, especially in cases where the delivery requires an “indirect signature,” like the FedEx offering we mentioned earlier. This method is problematic in a few ways.
Delivery drivers will treat the delivery as successful as long as someone who is capable of receiving the package is there to accept it, such as a neighbor. In most cases this would likely end in a successful delivery, but there’s always the chance that a neighbor could keep the package for themselves, or misplace it. And we’ve all had a neighbor we absolutely would not trust in this situation, right? The risks are similar in a shared building situation, where receiving staff may sign for a package that is later misplaced or delivered to the wrong unit.
If no one is around to receive and sign for a package, delivery couriers may end up returning that package to the sender. Before this happens, there are typically multiple attempts to deliver, or options provided to the recipient to pick up the package at a separate location as we mentioned earlier. If there are too many unsuccessful attempts, and the recipient fails to pick up the package at the post office or elsewhere, the package will have to be sent back to the brand.
Unsuccessful deliveries returned to retailers is, for the most part, a nightmare for everyone involved:
The customer never receives their package and, even if it's technically their own fault for not being present for the delivery, they’re likely going to associate a negative experience with the brand.
The delivery couriers have made multiple attempts to deliver one package, wasting time and resources.
The brand is now stuck with the package that they’ll either have to restock and possibly refund the customer, or reship and hope that it will actually reach the recipient.
Alternatives to “signature required”
Relying on required signatures as the end-all, be-all solution to delivery woes is a risky move for brands. Like we mentioned already in this article, the only issue it really solves for is porch piracy, and even in those cases it’s not an ironclad solution.
For the price brands, or even consumers, are paying for “signature required” deliveries, shipping and package protection services are a much better bang for your buck. Remember the $7.65 price tag for the UPS adult signature? For the same price—or in many cases, even less—brands can provide coverage for theft PLUS damage, lost packages, wrong items, and more.
That means for relatively the same cost, brands can provide full-coverage peace of mind to their customers, not just a reduced risk of theft. And, in the case where the customer had the option of paying $4.25 for a signature, which do you think they’d rather pay for? An extra $4 to have to be home to receive their package, or $4 to ensure they’re covered for anything that might happen to their package before it reaches them?
Signatures required at delivery is a good first step in package protection, but brands who are serious about customer satisfaction and protecting their bottom line should consider taking it just one step further. Learn more about shipping and package protection and how it could work for your brand with a custom demo today.