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The Rise Of Porch Pirates & What You Can Do About It

Porch pirates: their history, methods, and how you can prevent them from targeting your own customers.

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Many people are shopping online these days. However, this also makes people more likely to get their packages stolen from their porch. This is a huge problem for eCommerce companies and their customers because it can be very costly for businesses and it can also be dangerous for the person who ordered the package.

 

In fact, over 35% of consumers have reported getting their packages stolen at least once in 2020, whereas over 10% of consumers have said that they had their parcels stolen 3 times that same year.

But what are the actual numbers? As a matter of fact, research finds that 35.5 million Americans said they had been a victim of package theft, and $5.4 billion was the total value of stolen packages in the U.S. in 2019 and almost $6 billion worth in 2020.

This can lead to dissatisfied customers, lost shoppers, countless support emails and calls, and huge additional costs for businesses. No one wants to deal with that.

 

Fortunately, there are a few things your company can do to help reduce the chances of packages being stolen. For instance, one is to have tracking information on all of your shipments so you can see where they are at all times. Customers can also require a signature for delivery or have the package held at a local post office or UPS store if they know that you won’t be home when the parcel arrives— but more on this later.

 

First and foremost, you need to know exactly who you’ll be dealing with:

Who is a porch pirate?

Porch piracy is the term used to describe situations in which someone takes a package or piece of mail from someone else’s porch. This type of theft has been on the rise in recent years, as more and more people are shopping online and having packages delivered to their front door. Package theft is no joke and often comes with legal repercussions.

When did porch piracy become a thing?

So when did package thieves become a “thing”?

 

Although the act of stealing is probably as old as humanity itself, porch piracy is a relatively new phenomenon, and it’s one that has been on the rise in recent years.

 

Several factors have contributed to the increase in porch piracy, including the growth of online shopping and the proliferation of home delivery services.

 

In most cases, porch pirates are looking for valuable items that they can ultimately sell or trade. However, they may also steal packages out of curiosity or simply because they’re immediately within their reach.

 

Whatever their motive may be, porch piracy is a serious issue that causes a great deal of inconvenience and even financial loss for victims, but that also puts businesses in jeopardy.

 

The phrase porch pirate dates back to the early 2010s, the newly-coined term being entered on Urban Dictionary in 2011 and debuting on the social media platform, Twitter, also in 2011 (Source).

 

Ever since, more and more consumers have been falling victim to this practice, as the numbers below show:

But how did porch piracy evolve over the past decade? For instance, the Denver Police Department responsible for tracking package theft has seen incidents rise every year since 2015.

 

A 2015 study shows that 23 million Americans had their packages stolen from their homes before they could get their hands on them. That same year, delivery service provider USPS received over 96,000 complaints regarding stolen packages. In 2017, about 1 in 5 U.S. homeowners have been a victim of porch piracy.

 

More recently, research found that 35.5 million Americans said they had been a victim of package theft and that the total value of stolen goods in the U.S. in 2019 was $5.4 billion and almost $6 billion worth in 2020.

 

As the numbers suggest, porch piracy is still going strong, and it doesn’t show signs of stopping anytime soon.

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How to prevent porch pirates?

In some cases, porch pirates will follow delivery trucks in order to find out where they are going and what houses they are stopping at. In other cases, thieves will simply drive around looking for porches where there are packages sitting unattended.

 

There are several ways in which you can prevent and stop porch pirates, and we put them into two main categories to help you better organize your efforts: pre-sale and post-purchase.

Pre-sale prevention methods

What are some things you can do before your customer even makes a purchase on your website? Below are some of the most common ways to be one step ahead of porch pirates. By taking these measures into account, businesses can help to protect their products and their bottom line:

Prepare for the holiday season & other shopping events

The holiday season is a busy time for everyone, but it’s also a prime time for porch piracy. These individuals take advantage of the fact that most consumers are receiving more packages than usual, making it easier for them to steal items that have been left on doorsteps. Plan ahead and have an efficient order tracking system in place, but also consider an insurance policy for your goods.

Make in-store & curbside pickup available at checkout

One way to avoid porch piracy is to let customers choose in-store or curbside pickup options at the checkout. With these options, they can pick up their packages from the store or have them delivered to their car by your staff. They’ll know for sure that their order will be safe and sound until they are able to get to it, for instance, on their way home from work.

Provide estimated arrival dates & scheduled deliveries

In order to combat porch piracy, you can provide estimated delivery dates to let them know the approximate date of arrival so that they can organize their schedule around it. If your carrier allows it, you can even enable customers to schedule deliveries for a specific day and time, especially if in-store and curbside pickup are not the right solutions for your business or you’re handling lower volumes of orders.

Post-purchase prevention methods

What can you do to prevent porch piracy once the customer has proceeded with their purchase? Here are some efficient ways to help customers take charge of their packages and fight against unwelcome porch pirates:

Provide order tracking pages and delivery notifications

You can’t always count on the fact that customers might own security cameras to monitor the package delivered to their house. This is why the next step is to proactively communicate with them throughout their journey with real-time delivery notifications and enable them to track their orders at all times, without putting a strain on your customer care reps.

Let delivery personnel require a signature at delivery

Another highly efficient way to deter porch pirates is by requiring a signature for delivery. This means that the customer needs to be present to sign for the package, which makes it more difficult for porch pirates to steal it.

Enable customers to leave delivery instructions

Customers might want to take the matter into their own hands and take other measures to protect their packages, such as having them delivered to a secure location or requiring a security code for entry. Your customers can go as far as installing fake packages to prevent porch pirates from stealing actual orders and have delivery people leave the parcel in a secure location.

Final thoughts on Porch Piracy

No doubt, porch piracy is can be a major inconvenience for both consumers and online retail businesses.

 

Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to stop porch pirates from targeting your customers, as we’ve discussed in the sections above.

 

Although this type of situation is not entirely under your control, you can confidently move in the right direction by offering pre-sale and post-purchase options to prevent porch piracy and mitigate any negative effects.

 

If you want to learn more about order tracking, delivery notifications, and in-store or curbside pickup services and how these can help you raise your customer experience game, check out our platform demos.

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