Overcoming Delivery Exceptions: Meaning & Causes


Overcoming Delivery Exceptions: Meaning & Causes

Delivery exceptions can cause all kinds of problems for online retailers and eCommerce businesses. While referred to as “exceptions”, shipping exceptions are more common than you would think. 11% of shipments experience delivery exceptions in some form.

5 percent online orders dont reach their destination

These shipping exceptions can lead to a damaged brand reputation and loss of customer loyalty.  41% of customers blame the retailers for shipping problems and 58% of online shoppers said that they will not buy from a brand after a bad delivery experience.

With all the trouble associated with it, brands need to understand what delivery exception means and how to handle it. Let’s begin by understanding this phenomenon.

What is a Delivery Exception?

A delivery exception is when a package gets delayed in transit. This phenomenon is also called a shipping exception or shipment exception. This delay is usually temporary. Although sometimes, exceptions can also lead to failed deliveries. These delays usually stem from unforeseen circumstances. Anything from vehicle breakdowns to natural calamities can cause delivery exceptions.

It’s basically shipping jargon for “Oops! We’ve got a flat tire” or “Sorry, there’s a hurricane blocking the road.”

What are the Causes of Delivery Exception?

A lot of things can cause delivery exceptions. Most causes for delivery exceptions are unexpected problems or circumstances. But, oversights or inefficient delivery management also caused shipping exceptions.

Let’s look at some of the most common reasons for delivery exceptions:

1. Customs Clearance

Your order can get held up by the customs clearance authorities during export or import. This is usually the reason for delivery exceptions in international couriers. 55% of eCommerce customers experienced a delay in international deliveries.

2. Port Congestions

This is yet another major reason for shipping exceptions in international deliveries. Owing to port congestion, several international shipments are delayed. The turnaround time for 77% of the world’s ports for has become abnormally long. The average turnaround time for ports was 4 days in 2019. But, it became longer than a week after 2022. Another statistic shows that only 34% of container ships arrive on time. These bottlenecks at ports are a major cause of shipment exceptions.

3. Public Holidays

Although most carriers consider public holidays when committing delivery time. But, holidays can still lead to delivery overloads. These overloads can create backlogs. Which turn into delivery exceptions. Public holidays also result in labour shortages. This too can cause shipment exceptions.

4. Weather Conditions

Poor or extreme weather can affect all modes of delivery. But, bad weather has had the heaviest impact on road freights. Bad weather is responsible for 12% of road freight delays. This becomes a major cause for exceptions in last-mile delivery.

5. Damaged Packages

On average, 2% of packages are damaged even before they arrive at the distribution centre. By this time, the package is already in transit. Once the carrier recognises a damaged package, they have to return it. Such situations can lead to exceptions in delivery.

6. Incorrect or Unclear Shipping Address

Even something as simple as a misspelt address can lead to a shipment exception. Incorrect addresses are responsible for 41% of delivery delays and 39% of failed deliveries.

7. Missing Labels or Documents

This causes a similar problem as an incorrect address. Labels and documents carry important delivery information and are also necessary for customs clearance. If the carrier does not have the required documents or the shipping labels are damaged, it can lead to a delivery exception.

8. Absent Recipient

Even when everything goes well and the package reaches its destination on time. But, there is no one to receive the package. As courier companies run on a tight schedule, they move on to other deliveries. In such cases, missed deliveries are put under shipping exceptions.

9. Lost or Stolen Packages

On average, over 1 billion shipments get lost or stolen. This can happen at any stage of the order fulfilment process. In such cases, the carrier either has to retrieve the package or replace it by contacting the sender. Until the issue is resolved, the delivery is marked as an exception in delivery.

10. Vehicle Breakdown

Sometimes vehicles can break down during deliveries. This can be because of a flat tire or engine failure. The carrier has to use other vehicles from their fleet to resolve this issue. Until the vehicles get back on track, the delivery is marked as a shipment exception.

The carrier needs to resolve each of these issues in different ways and take different time frames to resolve.

How Long Does Delivery Exception Take?

Delivery exceptions rarely last longer than a day. Most shipping exceptions get resolved within a few hours. So you can get your package the very next day. The time in clearing shipment exceptions depends primarily on the cause and the carrier’s ability to resolve them.

Some causes may hold up your packages longer than others. For instance, if customs clearance caused your delivery exception. Then you might even have to wait a few days to receive the package.

A delivery exception does not necessarily mean that your package will not arrive on time. Sometimes, shipping companies just want to alert you about probable delays. They still might complete the delivery with no delays at all. In such cases, a shipping exception message is a precautionary measure.

How to Handle Delivery Exceptions?

Delivery exceptions can cause a lot of problems for all parties involved. This includes the customers, carriers, retailers, and eCommerce businesses. On average, retailers lose $200,000 a year because of failed deliveries and shipping exceptions.

While you cannot control all delivery exceptions. There are a few ways to prevent and handle delivery exceptions when they occur:

  • Use GPS Tracking

GPS tracking can help you track the real-time status of deliveries. If something goes wrong, you will know it immediately. 45% of online shoppers want brands to show accurate delivery time. You can extend this feature to your customers as well. 96% of customers said that they would like GPS tracking for their packages. It helps establish transparency between the sender, the carrier and the receiver.

  • Communicate with Customers

Alongside offering tracking options, it is necessary to communicate the details regarding delivery exceptions with the customers. You need to inform the customer about the expected delays and the reasons behind it. This communication establishes transparency between the brand and the customers. It will help you build trust and foster customer loyalty.

  • Provide Alternative Delivery Options

This option can help you avoid shipping exceptions for last-mile deliveries. It can also help you serve the customers in case of shipment exceptions. 88% of customers want the option to redirect their deliveries. Additionally, 35% of customers are choosing self-pick options for order fulfilment. This can help you prevent last-mile delivery exceptions.

You can also prevent delivery exceptions by optimising your delivery management and order fulfilment processes. Both little and large things can cause shipment exceptions. While you cannot control the large ones, you can pay attention to details to control the little ones.


Sometimes delivery exceptions are unavoidable. There is nothing you can do about a storm blocking delivery routes or congested sea ports. But, many times shipment exceptions are caused by oversights and inefficient processes. 

Regardless of the reason, they cause a lot of damage to a brand’s reputation. They are also costly to rectify. When you have to reschedule deliveries, you will have to employ additional resources.

Image source: Loqate

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