First impressions matter, and for ecommerce brands, shipping is the first physical impression your online customers have with your brand. The holidays heighten the stakes of this first experience, when many buyers are purchasing gifts for the people they love and care about the most.
There is also no silver bullet to ensure shipping goes without a hitch 100 percent of the time. Even Amazon was recently thrusted into the spotlight due to the accidental shipping of 65 pounds of marijuana to a Florida customer who wanted empty bins. Oops. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to ensure the shipping experience goes as smoothly as possible, and for that, we spoke to our friends at ShipperHQ.
So how do you ensure your ecommerce and retail holiday shipping list is checked, twice? ShipperHQ and WebShopApps Founder Karen Baker shares some words of wisdom:
Timing and First Impressions
Timing is everything. Customers want to know when they will get their goods and are often prepared to pay more to receive their package via Expedited shipping, giving you an opportunity to increase shipping revenue and possibly offset any free shipping offerings or holiday promotions you may have.
It’s now a requirement in the world of ecommerce to offer:
- Expedited shipping options
- Delivery dates at checkout, with ability to select delivery date for perishables/gifts/etc
- Store Pickup, where applicable
With shipping, it’s important to realize that this is the first physical touch point with the customer. It is utterly vital to get it right if you want them to return to your store. One bad experience and you could lose a customer forever.
Know When to Let Go
There are three reasons to bring in a third-party to assist with shipping rate calculations:
- You are losing money on shipping currently, and that’s not part of your business strategy
- You are looking to increase conversion rates while managing shipping costs
- Rating accuracy where you have goods that are awkward, heavy, etc and need a specific shipping strategy
We have found that businesses, both large and small, benefit from the introduction of shipping rate management software. Large businesses that can tweak a few cents at a shipping method level can increase their revenue significantly in some cases; small businesses can often be stung by products that cost a lot to ship due to say dimensional needs and eat into their profits if not managed correctly.
Offering a better mix of shipping options and information leads to higher conversion rates and customer satisfaction by matching customer needs to services offered.
Brands need to include more information on shipping, for example they should display delivery dates and give the customer more shipping/pickup options. One of the most common causes of returns is delivery later than the customer expected, even if it’s on time.
Giving a customer a delivery date is fine, but you then need to understand what day to dispatch to meet that date of delivery (and how to do at the least cost). You don’t want to be forced into is offering customers ground delivery or free delivery then distributing via Next Day just to get there on time. You need a process in place right from the checkout through to fulfillment that is seamless and easy to manage.
Meeting Customer Expectations
Shipping is the most critical part of the post-purchase customer satisfaction. It doesn’t matter how pretty your site is or how frictionless your checkout is. If the order arrives late or damaged, you’ve got an uphill battle to get that customer to come back.
Let’s be honest the holidays are a time for excitement, surprises, and anticipation. When people buy gifts, they imagine their child’s reaction or their grandparent’s joy. If you do not meet their expectations that’s affected that experience, and I’m sure many of you can relate to this having happened, it’s something you don’t forget because it’s attached to that holiday memory.
The holidays play a vital role in bringing in new customers, delight them with quick shipping at a reasonable rate, options that match their expectations, good tracking information during fulfillment and shipping, and outstanding packaging.
If you do this, you stand a good chance of winning their business year-round.