The holidays are typically an overwhelming time as Americans shop for gifts, prepare family meals and get their houses ready for guests.
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As the coronavirus pandemic has prompted many families to stay home this year, keeping special gifts for loved ones under wraps may prove to be more difficult. As a result, Amazon has unveiled new ways to track, receive, and pickup holiday orders to keep the season "spoiler free."
Amazon customers can now track deliveries with ease using Map Tracking through the retail giant's app, which offers real-time updates on how many stops away a driver is before a delivery will arrive.
The company will also offer Share Tracking, which allows customers to send tracking information to friends and family so they know when to expect their gifts. Once the package ships, Amazon customers can go to ‘Your Orders’ on the Amazon app, select their purchased item, and tap on the ‘Share Tracking’ feature on the tracking page.
Customers can send the link via SMS, email, or messaging apps such as WhatsApp. If the customer marks the item as a gift at checkout, once ‘Share Tracking’ is sent, the recipient can also virtually ‘unbox’ the item, send a thank you email, and more through the Amazon app.
Customers can now also utilize a Photo-On-Delivery feature for visual confirmation that their package was delivered and where it was placed by the driver. Amazon will also give a two to four-hour estimated delivery window to allow customers to plan ahead of time to ensure they will be home to receive the delivery.
For customers worried about keeping packages safe from potential weather damage, Amazon offers "Key In-Garage Delivery," which will now be expanded to Prime members in over 4,000 cities and towns across the United States.
"Key In-Garage Delivery' lets eligible Prime members with a myQ smart garage door opener receive packages securely inside their garage. Customers simply link their myQ app with the "Key by Amazon" app and then select this delivery option during checkout. Once their package is delivered, customers will receive a notification via the "Key by Amazon" app or the Amazon app.
Customers can also deliver gifts to an alternate Amazon Hub locations in more than 900 cities and towns across the United States, which offer easy, convenient and contactless package pickup options.
Amazon Hub is available for tens of millions of items sold on Amazon.com at no additional cost with the same fast shipping as home delivery, including free Prime Same-Day, One-Day and Two-Day shipping. Non-Prime members can also get free shipping for orders over $25.
Starting this holiday season, Amazon customers can also select an "Amazon 4-star" or "Amazon Books" location for delivery. Prime members can also get free same-day shipping with no minimum purchase amount required this year.
To deliver to an Amazon physical retail store or an Amazon Hub location, customers search and select the most convenient location for them when prompted at checkout. Once their package has been delivered, customers will receive an e-mail notification with details about how and where to pick up. Customers then simply visit their selected Amazon Hub location to collect their package.
Customers have between three and 15 days to pick up their order depending on the Amazon Hub or Amazon physical retail location.
In addition, Amazon Alexa will hide the name of items for loved ones to avoid spoiling any surprise, even if a customer asks “Where’s my stuff?” or checks their delivery update notifications. Alexa will also avoid revealing the names of items marked as a gift during checkout.
Customers who want to be extra cautious or who are worried they might forget to mark an item as a gift during checkout can also change their settings for item names in the Alexa app to hide all titles.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) projected Monday that holiday sales will be "very robust" this season despite concerns about the pandemic.
Sales are forecasted to rise between 3.6% and 5.2% from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, generating between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion, Matthew Shay, president and chief executive of the nation’s largest retail trade group, said during the company's 2020 Holiday Sales Forecast teleconference. Online and other non-store sales alone are projected to increase between 20% and 30%, notching between $202.5 billion and $218.4 billion, up from $168.7 billion last year.