What Does Delivery Exception Mean? (And How to Deal With It)


What Does Delivery Exception Mean? (And How to Deal With It)

With the continued growth of global eCommerce, the issue of failed deliveries is also growing bigger. 

For instance, take a look at some of the below statistics that surfaced from Loqate’s research:

  • 1 out of 20 online orders never make it to the correct address
  • 65% of retailers said that failed or delayed deliveries add a significant cost to their business
  • On an average, failed deliveries cost nearly $265,000 a year per retailer
  • 62% of the shoppers have experienced delivery exceptions

As an e-store owner, you can’t control the entire order fulfilment process since you’d have to rely on your logistics partner and carriers. 

However, you can certainly control some of the factors that cause such delivery exceptions. 

In this guide you’ll learn:

  • What does delivery exception mean
  • The factors that cause delivery exceptions
  • How delivery disruptions impact your business
  • How to deal with them effectively
  • Tips to avoid the delivery exceptions

Let’s begin. 

What Does Delivery Exception Mean?

A delivery exception means that your shipment is temporarily delayed or held in transit due to emergent circumstances. These conditions include road closures, port congestions, bad weather, vehicle breakdowns, or anything else that could impact the transport. 


So when such circumstances arise, your deliveries may get impacted and carriers generate “delivery exception” code in the order tracking system.


Sometimes, delivery exceptions can also happen due to occurrences like shipping address errors, incorrect labelling, recipients not being available at the time of delivery, etc. 

Thus, there could be various reasons for a delivery exception. However, it doesn’t always mean that shipment will be delayed or impacted significantly. 

It may also happen that the packages get delivered as scheduled despite such deviations. So at times, it’s more of contingency information to keep the customer informed about their package and prepare them in case it gets delayed. 

With that, let’s dig deeper into the reasons that cause delivery exceptions.

Causes of Delivery Exceptions

As discussed above, there could be innumerable reasons that could cause delivery exceptions. But here are some of the most common factors. 


Public Holidays 

Most carriers don’t operate on public holidays. So your packages usually wouldn’t get delivered during these days. 

For international shipments, it may also happen that a public holiday comes in the destination country while the package is still in transit. Moreover, the deliveries could be further affected due to the accumulated backlogs of such non-working days. 

So you need to account for such conditions while committing a delivery date. 

Weather Conditions

Reputed carriers plan and organise shipment transportation meticulously to get them delivered on time. However, they still can’t control weather conditions. 

So when natural disasters like wildfire, hurricanes, floods, etc. strike, it can disrupt your shipments’ deliveries. 

Although customers don’t complain about such delivery exceptions, they can be avoided if there’s inclement weather at the point of origin. When you partner with an expert logistics services provider, they can help you store your inventory at multiple locations. Thus, you can ship packages from a different warehouse.

But if the weather conditions are bad at the destination and surrounding areas, there’s little that can be done. 

Delays Due to Customs

This factor mainly applies to international shipments. Sometimes your packages can be held up at customs departments for a long time due to their backlogs or documentation issues. 

While there’s little you can do about the department’s backlog, you can certainly control the delays that happen because of the missing documents or incorrect documentation. 

Incorrect or Ruined Labels

Sometimes the packages are undeliverable because of shipping label issues like:

  • Incorrect shipping label
  • Unclear or worn-out label 
  • Incomplete address, etc. 

It’s quite common for shipping labels to get destroyed during the transportation process. So when important details are unscannable, it can generate a delivery exception code. 

Unavailability of Recipient

For the packages that require the recipient’s signature, the absence of the recipient can result in a failed delivery attempt. Additionally, it may also happen that no one else is available at the address to receive the package. 

In such cases of failed deliveries, carriers make another delivery attempt on the next day. But they charge the retailers extra for repeated delivery attempts. 

To avoid multiple delivery attempts, you can provide your customers with the carrier’s delivery management link (if your shipping carrier has this facility) so that they can choose their preferred time. 

Damaged Items

Shipments often get damaged during transportation. In fact, eCommerce packages get dropped 17 times on average when they’re en route. 

This increases the probability of products being damaged. So the delivery attempt may fail and raise an exception code. More importantly, the customer gets disappointed.

So if you’re shipping fragile items ensure you take extra care while packaging them. For instance, secure them with cushioning and apply appropriate “fragile” stickers so that carriers would handle them accordingly. 

Lost Items

At times, the packages get lost in transit. This is one of the most extreme types of delivery exception — a nightmare for carriers and eCommerce companies.  

Just like damages-in-transit, lost items also put your brand reputation at stake along with financial implications. 

Other Mistakes from Carriers 

Besides damaging or losing packages, there are other types of shipping mistakes that carriers make occasionally. They include: 

  • Errors while sorting the shipments in carrier facility
  • Loading shipments in the wrong vehicle
  • Missing to load shipment before delivery vehicle leaves, etc. 

Such errors can also lead to delivery disruptions. So ensure that you partner with established and reputed carriers since they have robust systems and infrastructure in place that mitigates such mistakes. 

Impact of Delivery Exceptions


Although it may seem like minor disruptions, delivery exceptions have deeper implications if they keep happening too frequently. 

Here are some implications you certainly don’t want. 

They Hurt the Brand Name

Customers know your brand and that’s why they shop from you. So even if the deliveries are disrupted by carriers, ultimately it’s your customers who are at the receiving end. They don’t see whose mistake it is. For them, it’s a brand experience. 

So while they would not mind delayed deliveries due to uncontrollable circumstances, they would definitely take note of human errors. And thus, perceive your brand accordingly. 

They Hurt Your Revenue

Delivery reattempts come with a cost. Besides the inconvenience to customers, they also put a dent in your profit margins. For instance, 51.4% of the shoppers expect a refund or discount on shipping charges if a retailer misses a delivery date. 

Let’s say, you sold a product for $20. The selling price also includes the $3 that you’ll pay for shipping. And your gross profit on this product is $5. 

Now due to the delivery exception, you couldn’t fulfil the order by the committed delivery date. So you apologised to the customer and offered a refund of delivery costs. So now your profit is just $2 on this sale. 

They Decrease the Number of Recurring Orders 

Delivery exceptions also negatively impact customer loyalty and so the recurring orders that come with it. 

Statistics suggest that 69% of the customers wouldn’t shop again with an online retailer if they take more than two days to deliver a product after the promised delivery date has passed.

Now imagine, if delivery deviations keep on happening frequently, you’d end up losing your customers’ trust in your brand. This can be a much bigger challenge in the longer run. 

How to Deal with Delivery Exceptions?


Although you should try and do everything in order to fulfil the orders on or before the promised date, as an e-store owner you’d have to rely on carriers and logistics partners. So you can’t nullify the delivery deviations completely. 

So if the delivery exceptions are inevitable, rather use them as opportunities to convert adversity into positive customer experiences by acting proactively. 

Let’s see how. 

  • Keep an Eye on the Order Status

First, you need to treat this situation as a priority and be on top of it with constant tracking of the order status. If you’re shipping in high volumes, you can use a tool like ShipStation to get all the tracking information in one place. 

Also, keep a tight communication with the carrier or third-party logistics (3PL) partner and try to get a grip of the situation. Further, get a realistic revised delivery day or time from them so that you can notify your customers accordingly. 

  • Inform your Customers

As soon as you see a probability of a delivery exception, reach out to your customers and let them know about the situation. Communication is crucial in such cases. 

You can use platforms like AfterShip or ClickPost that can track your orders, automatically update the system, and send messages to customers when deliveries get affected.

Then, once you have an update on the revised delivery time, update your systems and inform the customers about it. Note that your customers would value prompt communication especially when the deliveries are disrupted. 

  • Issue Refunds/Resend Package

Next, offer your customers a refund of shipping charges if you’ve already missed the delivery deadline. And in case the products are damaged or lost in transit, resend the products immediately. 

Although it would cost you now, it’ll earn you a loyal customer for a long time. Moreover, if the delivery is impacted by the carrier’s mistake, you can also claim a refund from them. 

  • Follow-Up With the Customer

Empathy goes a long way in building long-lasting relationships with customers. So besides informing and rewarding them, ensure you follow up with them until they receive their order. 

Additionally, it would also make an impact if you talk to them after they’ve got their shipment. These little gestures show that you value your customers, their time, and their association with your brand. 

Tips to Avoid Delivery Exceptions



As we discussed earlier, as an eCommerce business you can’t control the entire shipping process since you have to rely on the 3PL partners and carriers. 

But here are a few areas you can control that can help you avoid the potential delivery exceptions. 

#1 Get the Packaging and Labelling Guidelines Right

All major carriers have specific packaging and labelling requirements. 

So, ensure that you have a pre-shipping checklist for all the carriers so that it reminds you of these guidelines while packaging and labelling your shipments. 

This would eliminate the possibility of shipments being held at the carrier facility due to incorrect packaging and labelling. 

#2 Use Weather-Proof Labels

It’s a common occurrence to have the deliveries affected due to damaged or worn-out shipping labels. When that happens, carriers can’t read or scan the important details on the label.

You can resolve this issue by using weather-resistant labels with plastic coating. They are more durable and can withstand weather conditions as well as rough handling during transit. 

#3 Verify the Accuracy of the Delivery Address

Another way to avoid a failed delivery attempt is to verify the accuracy of the customer’s shipping address. If you’re a low-volume online store, it’s possible to reach out to a customer and verify the address over the phone.

On the other hand, if you’re a high-volume shipper, you can automate this process by installing address verification software in your e-store. It would verify the shipping address in real-time as the shoppers fill in their address details. 

This way, you can minimise the occurrences of delivery failures due to incorrect addresses. 

#4 Prepare Extensively for International Packages

For international shipments, you need to account for factors like:

  • Shipping regulations of the destination country
  • International shipment packaging guidelines of carriers
  • Duty and customs’ documentation requirements
  • Calculating the shipping costs for various countries
  • Public holidays in destination countries
  • Carrier network in specific countries, etc. 

Thus, if you proactively prepare for the above factors and other country-specific requirements, your shipments are less likely to get stuck in transit. 

#5 Allow Customers To Track the Package

If customers know when their orders are arriving, they can stay at the shipping address to receive them. So provide your customers with the tracking resources such as order tracking number, tracking link, etc. 

Moreover, you can consider sending them notifications to inform about the delivery time window a day prior or/and same day morning. This way, your customers can also make alternate arrangements in case they’re not available at a given time. 

At the same time, you’d be saved from charges of multiple delivery attempts. 

#6 Partner with a Competent 3PL Provider

As you grow your eCommerce business, handling all the logistics in-house can consume a lot of your time. And it can deviate your focus from marketing and growing your business to managing deliveries. 

And considering that managing logistics is not your core expertise, as the shipment volumes rise, the chances of shipping errors may also increase. 

That’s where partnering with an established 3PL services provider can help. With their advanced systems and infrastructure they can help you: 

  • Minimise the packaging and shipping errors that lead to delivery exceptions
  • Store inventory at multiple strategic locations so that you can route your shipments from a different location in case there’s bad weather at origin
  • Optimise warehousing and inventory operations
  • Optimise your shipping costs by getting corporate rates from carriers
  • Manage reverse logistics cost-effectively

Thus, you can focus more on growing your business while your experienced 3PL partner handles your logistics. 

#7 Partner with a Reliable Freight Reseller

Let’s say you want to retain your warehousing operations in-house. In this case, you have to be extra careful about all the packaging and shipping errors that can occur at your end. 

When you partner with a Freight Reseller such as PACK & SEND, you get access to multiple carriers at heavily discounted rates.  With more carrier and service options, you can pick and choose different carriers for different lanes and goods, to ensure you get the best of all carriers and avoid any areas of weakness or high costs on certain lanes.

Wrapping Up

While delivery exceptions are inevitable, a little proactiveness in identifying their causes and avoiding such errors can help you keep these disruptions to a minimum. 

At the same time, if there’s no possibility to avoid delivery deviations, ensure that you contact the carrier, get a grip of the situation, and inform your customers about the realistic revised delivery timeline. Also, note that overpromising in such a situation can damage your brand name. 

So follow the above guidelines to mitigate most of the controllable factors that cause delivery exceptions. Other than that, your customers wouldn’t mind delivery disruptions that are beyond your control.  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a Delivery Exception?

A delivery exception is when your shipment is stuck in transit due to any reason. These reasons can include situations like inclement weather, port congestions, incorrect shipping address, damaged shipping label, and many more. 

As a result, your deliveries may get impacted and carriers generate a to“delivery exception” code in the order tracking system. 

Is a Delivery Exception bad? 

If the delivery exceptions happen due to errors that you or your carrier could’ve avoided, it’s certainly bad. The customers usually get disappointed with delivery disruptions due to such errors. 

At the same time, if it happens because of situations that are beyond your or carrier’s control such as weather conditions, road closures, pandemic, etc. then there’s hardly anything that can be done. And customers would be more accommodating in these cases. 

How long does delivery exception take?

How long it can take depends on the cause of the delivery exception. Sometimes, it may get resolved quickly and may not even impact the delivery time. And in case, there’s a serious situation, it could also take a few days. 

Why do I keep getting delivery exceptions?

As discussed earlier, delivery exceptions can arise due to multiple reasons like weather conditions, delivery vehicle breakdown, carrier mistakes, etc. 

How can you avoid delivery exceptions?

You can minimise delivery exceptions by:

  • Following the packaging and labeling guidelines
  • Using weather-proof shipping labels
  • Verifying the accuracy of the shipping address
  • Preparing extensively for international shipments
  • Providing customers with accurate order tracking information
  • Partnering with a competent 3PL service provider
  • Partnering with reliable Freight resellers


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