In the world of ecommerce, shipping is so much more than moving items from point A to point B. In fact, a positive shipping experience helps to increase customer loyalty and brand recognition. A negative experience can have the opposite effect – turning customers, repeat or potential, off to your product.
Shipping is one of the most important stages of the whole life cycle of an ecommerce business. It has a huge impact on overall user experience of your company. The shipping experience is vital to the point that it can make or break a business.
Clearly, a good shipping policy is one of the keys to success for any company in the competitive, ever-expanding ecommerce industry. Read on to learn the best tips, practices, and ideas to make your shipping process shine.
A robust shipping policy indicates that the seller is doing business responsibly and aspires to give the best service possible to its customers. It doesn’t just help to keep your clientele intact, but also improves the conversion rate. A shipping policy is best when it ensures the customer will not encounter any surprises. Go above and beyond consumer expectations by being transparent with your shipping process. Over-delivering on the logistics experience is a great way to improve brand loyalty and positively impact future conversions.
So, what should you be sharing? First, estimated delivery lead time (the amount of time that passes after a customer places their order until they receive it). This include the time it takes to manufacture or source the product, package the product for transport, and ship the product according to existing transit schedules and delivery attempts.
Customers expect sellers to provide an estimated delivery date. While purchasers generally prefer speed and convenience, they would also rather receive an item early than late. Being generous with your delivery estimation builds in time for any potential missteps in the shipping process without further disappointing your customer.
Tracking numbers have become all but expected. The vast majority of ecommerce companies provide a web link or tracking number for customers to follow exactly where their order is in the shipping process. Where is the order shipping from? Where is it now? When will it arrive? These details can all be provided through shipping companies. But which carrier should you choose?
UPS and FedEx both offer traditional tracking links for all packages. But newer startups are seeking to provide a more boutique shipping experience. Narvar, for example, is a company that provides a “premium post-purchase experience beyond the buy button” preferred by popular brands like Nike, J. Crew, Gap, and Levi’s, as well as more indie brands like Glossier, Away, and Everlane. Since Narvar’s debut in 2012, other companies like Linc and Aftership have joined the marketplace offering similar services.
There are so many options for carriers, so choose the one that delivers the experience you want for your customers and share it with them! Providing the contact information for your shipping carrier when a customer places their order gives them another point of contact should they have a question or concern about their package during transit.
One of the most important policies a customer looks for when placing an order online is the return policy. Not being able to try, or even see a product before buying makes a proficient return policy mandatory. A strong customer-centric return policy encourages buyers to be more comfortable when clicking the checkout button.
A good return policy should be clear and easy to access on your website. Include details like:
- How many days after delivery does a customer have to request a return?
- How can a customer escalate a request for a return?
- Details on how to package the product for return.
- Which shipping carrier should be used for returns?
- Are returns prepaid by the company or will they come out of the customer’s pocket? If the latter, include information about how the shipping costs are paid. Upfront, or deducted from the amount of the return?
Be candid about your return policy and its terms and conditions. A policy that is too loose or too complex can discourage customers from buying from your business.
Offer Multiple Shipping and Delivery Options
When it comes to shipping, customers increasingly prefer to have options.
Simply suggesting “Standard” and “Expedited” shipping options at checkout is no longer enough. Make sure to include a few specific options based on how fast your customer expects the product to arrive.
Here, it’s possible there may be a mismatch between what you think your customers need and what they actually want, especially when it comes to shipping speed. If you can, include options for both overnight shipping and express shipping (two- or three-day) as well as standard shipping. There is no expectation for your company to absorb the heightened cost of faster shipping methods – customers in a hurry typically expect to pay more to receive their packages early. Limiting options for customers only limits their experience.
But there are more choices to be made than just shipping speed. The current ecommerce marketplace increasingly favors omni-channel delivery options when possible. Omni-channel delivery means you are not necessarily shipping a package in every case. Customers are given the choice of how their products are delivered. For example, perhaps they would like to pick up their order in-store. Include the option to order and reserve an item from your physical store’s inventory. The customer can then pick up their order in-store at their convenience.
The delivery options can go even further though: ship to another store, ship to store, ship to home from store, ship to post office, etc. Ecommerce is increasingly about creating a format for the customer to choose their preferred experience.
Another option to consider offering is consolidated shipping vs. partial shipping. Some retailers let the customer choose whether they want to receive their shipment in parts or all together. This option becomes necessary if an item is backordered or if the same order contains items that need to ship from different locations.
Consolidated shipping is cheaper for both the retailer and the customer but is usually slower. Partial shipments are faster, but more expensive. Partial shipments are shipped in multiple packages, and each package must go through the shipping process separately. While you may not want to pay more for shipping, it’s nice to give the customers the option should they need something more quickly.
Communication with your customer shouldn’t end when the box ships. Instead of going dark, keep your customer up to date to stay top of mind.
Consider sending an email when the customer’s delivery arrives. This email could include questions about how they like their item, a request for a review of the product, or information about your return policy. Following up with your customer can offer insight you may not have otherwise received, as often only unhappy customers reach out on their own. Providing your customers with an easy, intuitive way to provide feedback can ensure you receive both positive and negative responses.
Communication can even come from inside the box. For example, share information about upcoming promotions or in-store deals, events, next season’s products, or even coupons. Including information like this gives your customers an easy reason to shop with you again. You could also include exclusive offers, samples, up-sells, cross-sells, gifts with purchases, and more! Essentially anything that a customer in-store would walk away with in their bag. These small extras make your customers feel special and encourage them to try new products you offer.
But don’t forget the outside of your box. Branded boxes make your packages more recognizable and could even encourage potential and future customers to check your company out. Delivering an aesthetically pleasing package that highlights your company will build brand identity and ultimately increase customer conversions. Think of it like packing a customer’s purchases into a branded bag at your physical stores, only this way your brand is seen by delivery workers, passersby on the street, and occupants of the same apartment buildings of your current customer instead of people in a mall or on the street. You could even design the packaging for your online orders and purchases from your physical store to work together, making the design instantly associable with your brand and creating a memorable end to the shopping experience.