Amazon aims to keep holiday deliveries ‘spoiler free’

Photo: Amazon
Nov 30, 2020
Tom Ryan has introduced a number of holiday delivery options designed in part to ensure gifts stay “spoiler free” by helping keep them a surprise.

“This year many customers and their families are opting to stay home so the challenge of keeping those special gifts under wraps from family, friends or loved ones is going to be greater than ever,” explains John Felton, VP of Amazon Global Delivery Services, in a statement. “We’re helping customers keep their orders a surprise this year and have a number of ways we’re providing them more flexibility, control and convenience over their deliveries.”

The options, some old and some new, are also designed to provide consumers with a higher level of convenience and to reduce anxieties around packages arriving on time or getting stolen.

Amazon aims to keep holiday deliveries ‘spoiler free’
Source: Amazon

Among Amazon’s delivery options:

  1. Map tracking: Consumers can view the progress of deliveries on a map in real-time when the driver is close. 
  2. Share tracking: Tracking information can be sent to friends or family so they know when to expect their package.
  3. Photo-on-delivery: Customers can receive a visual delivery confirmation that their package was delivered and where it was placed by the driver. 
  4. Estimated delivery window: Customers can sign up for a two-to-four hour estimated delivery window to ensure they’ll be home to receive their delivery.
  5. Amazon Day: A Prime-perk allows members to receive all of their orders on one day of the week, reducing the number of packages “and making it easier to protect holiday surprises from being discovered by your household.”
  6. Key In-Garage Delivery: Eligible Prime members are able to receive packages inside their garages. 
  7. Hub deliveries: Amazon will reroute shipments to alternative pick-up locations, including Whole Foods, Rite Aid, 7-Eleven and GNC stores. Amazon 4-star or Amazon Books were added as Hub drop-off points this year.

Amazon’s Echo Devices, which also announce when packages arrive at a household, will refrain from audibly disclosing what’s in new boxes that arrive during the holiday season to avoid giving away any surprises.

A new survey from ShipStation found that while U.S. consumers are patient with extended delivery times amid the pandemic, 79 percent agree that their experiences this year have increased expectations around brand communications when it comes to delays or cancellation updates. 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is spoiling the surprise a serious problem for online holiday shoppers? Would extensive delivery options like Amazon’s make sense for other retailers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"This is potentially a huge area of differentiation for Amazon."
"I think Amazon is on point for thinking about this – they can promote Household too which separates family orders and notifications."
"This should be something Amazon implements for all gift-giving occasions, having options in place to cater to this segment."

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18 Comments on "Amazon aims to keep holiday deliveries ‘spoiler free’"

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David Naumann
David Naumann
Marketing Strategy Lead - Retail, Travel & Distribution, Verizon
5 months 5 days ago

Canceling Amazon Echo devices from announcing what is in the packages that arrive is a smart decision for the holidays and maybe always, as there may be surprise gifts for other holidays, like birthdays. Some of the other advanced delivery options offered by Amazon are difficult for smaller retailers to execute such as in-garage and hub deliveries. I think the processes that deter porch pirates are more important during the holidays than spoiling the surprise.

Oliver Guy

This is potentially a huge area of differentiation for Amazon. This year families are being asked to travel less than in previous years so the need for family Christmas presents to be delivered is higher than ever. The giftwrap option has been available for a long time but other options act as a point of differentiation from other online retailers – many of whom still do not offer the wrap option. Christmas 2020 is the year when this was needed.

Ryan Grogman

Even outside of avoiding package spoilers, delivery flexibility has seen an increased demand from consumers over the past several years. As online and digital retail grows closer and closer to real-time fulfillment, modern customers want the ability to not only track that order in real-time but to have control around how, where and when it gets delivered. Given the added aspect of having the majority of the household at home, delivery flexibility takes on a new dimension as certain shoppers don’t necessarily want gift recipients bringing in and/or opening packages as they are dropped off at front doors. Outside of Amazon, many direct-to-consumer brand retailers are also seeing increases in demand for spoiler-free packaging, so that it may not be directly explicit where the order is coming from upon initial inspection.

Neil Saunders

We have Amazon for the household so Alexa announcing the details of what is arriving risked spoiling gift surprises. However now this has been turned off we are more comfortable buying gifts on Amazon. Having a whole range of delivery options to ensure gifts remain secret is smart and is an example of great customer service. Amazon always thinks about these little things, which is one of the reasons why it is so popular!

Gary Sankary

I think it’s great idea, personally I would appreciate a way to opt out (There may be one, I haven’t researched) as I was a bit frustrated to have to dig to figure out what was coming to help me decide if I should be excited about an arrival or not.

Raj B. Shroff

Ironically I just shut my Alexa delivery notifications off this morning. Our kids heard their scooters had arrived at our relative’s house last year and we were ticked to have forgotten to turn the notifications off then. I think Amazon is on point for thinking about this – they can promote Household too which separates family orders and notifications. It’s definitely tricky to keep gifts secret when getting lots of items ordered to your home. Lockers are a good alternative but less convenient.

I do think other retailers should think about how best to manage households but it’s too late for 2020 if they aren’t already dialed in.

Andrew Blatherwick

Whether it is a problem or not, once again Amazon marketing has it right with this initiative. They show they care and are trying to be very customer focused while introducing some good add-on options and some that are already in place. Whether this will make a difference this Christmas is questionable as most shoppers are going to be short of time to shop this year and many more will be nervous about visiting stores, so Amazon will be in a very strong position anyway. Retail chains really need to hit back hard with their click and collect/BPOIS and curb side options that are equally important if someone really wants to keep their surprise gift a secret. What will keep more customers awake this year is worrying about their gift arriving on time and in good condition, and all retailers need to make sure that in this unprecedented year they really deliver against that measure and take full benefit of the opportunity.

Ricardo Belmar
These small details are yet more ways Amazon distinguishes their delivery capability for consumers and shows how they keep the customer experience at the forefront of everything they do. While not all of these options are new, letting customers know they can use them and defaulting to having Echo devices refrain from announcing package contents are all great convenience factors that will encourage consumers to shop with Amazon over other retailers. Some of these capabilities are similar or equivalent in theory to what other retailers could offer For example, retailers shipping with UPS could rely on customers using UPS apps to track their packages and see on a map when they are delivered The difference is retailers are not in control of these capabilities the way Amazon is with their own logistics network. However even Amazon can’t guarantee this for all deliveries. In my neighborhood, for example, Amazon delivery vans appear throughout the day right alongside UPS and USPS deliveries of Amazon packages. Not all of the options described in the article are available to… Read more »
Steve Montgomery

In today’s world it can be very difficult to make a gift a surprise. One sure way is to go to the store and buy it with cash but that is far less likely to happen today. Amazon has taken some great steps to do what it can to keep the surprise element alive.

Will it work in all cases? No, but it will likely help in many. Having all these options is a point of differentiation for Amazon and acts as a barrier to entry for others because of all the requirements to make these options work.

Rodger Buyvoets

Considering Amazon’s omnichannel offering it’s clear that keeping gifts a surprise is harder for this e-commerce giant (imagine having Alexa reveal your spouse’s surprise gift before her birthday). This should be something Amazon implements for all gift-giving occasions, having options in place to cater to this segment. Like ShipStation data reveals, shoppers want efficiency, whether shopping from Amazon or otherwise. This means slower deliveries should be communicated, delayed deliveries should be accounted for (offering perks or apologies), and centralized pick-ups should be made available.

Gene Detroyer

COVID-19 has made changes accelerate. Most notably with online shopping. There will be no turning back.

Amazon has taken it to the next level. Their philosophy is not just sell and deliver, they have looked at the entire delivery process from the customer’s point of view. It is as if they keep asking “How can we make this easier, more convenient and comfortable for our customers?” They are setting a standard that will be hard for others to duplicate.

Bindu Gupta

I love the thought process by Amazon here to keep the excitement and thrill of opening presents alive when all loved ones at are home. I especially appreciate the Hub deliveries such as Whole Foods, Rite-Aid et al. as alternative pick-up locations, that’s such a great use of the Amazon network.

Cynthia Holcomb

There is a lot of tracking going on at Amazon. Offering the mass of millions of Amazon shoppers even more intelligent tracking conveniences inside and outside of their homes. Sure, who wants to spoil a gift? Do other retailers have this depth of customer tracking intelligence to compete with Amazon? Doubtful. Good to know Santa will still be able to surprise kids of all ages throughout the holiday season, including on Christmas morning.

Georganne Bender

Consumers must be grateful for all of the options that Amazon is giving them for having their holiday packages delivered – if they are aware of them. I know that if my kids were still little I would be out of my mind trying to get to those packages before they even had a hint they had been delivered. Keeping the magic of Christmas this year is just a little bit harder for parents so I am glad that Amazon has thought this through.

Craig Sundstrom

If whole households are housebound together — whether it’s “still” or “again” — then yes, there is a “surprise” problem. Can these options help? In some cases, but of course only if they’re fulfilled; and I’d caution any retailer against over-promising, especially if they’re having difficulty just filling orders as it is.

Meanwhile, the number for the day is two: that’s the number of Amazon vehicles I encountered double parked, obstructing traffic. Are they the only ones who do this? No … but the only ones (I encountered) that had someone’s name written on the side.

Casey Craig

We have seen an increase in online shopping for most of this year and there is no sign of that trend slowing down for the holiday season. Setting up these features is a great way for customers to still buy those surprise gifts without having to worry about all the ways they will need to hide the gifts.

Retailers should be thinking of various ways they can meet their customer’s needs while they shop online. Simple features like this will help retailers set themselves apart as more and more companies move everything online.

Mel Kleiman

This will be a win for Amazon and a win for the customer. All of the ideas they are implementing will not only be helpful for holiday shipping but will be very useful all year long.

Kai Clarke

This is Amazon at its best. Each of these delivery options not only keeps clients happy, but safe. Most other retailers are not setup to do the majority of these things, which keeps Amazon unique in the online retailing space.

"This is potentially a huge area of differentiation for Amazon."
"I think Amazon is on point for thinking about this – they can promote Household too which separates family orders and notifications."
"This should be something Amazon implements for all gift-giving occasions, having options in place to cater to this segment."

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