6 Shipping Tips and Tricks that Add Up
By Brandi Smith, Marketing Director
With ecommerce becoming the driving force in retail, a major factor in delivering a consistent customer experience for ecommerce businesses can be your shipping strategy. Having effective and efficient shipping operations can improve customer experience for retailers while decreasing business communications complexity.
With the largest companies setting the bar high for fast, cheap delivery, customers increasingly look for retailers who can make their purchases easier. It can all feel very daunting for smaller businesses trying to break into established markets via the web. In this blog, we will explore ways to help small businesses transform their shipping operations into an asset rather than a nuisance. Focusing on quick wins that deliver great customer experiences over time will add up and can improve profit margins. When properly executed, these tips will help instill a sense of discipline and enlighten you to the benefits of a killer strategy.
1. Real-time tracking is your and your customer’s best friend
A storm delays delivery service. A courier loses a parcel. Someone steals a package from a porch. These are scenarios that online retailers are all too familiar with. The good news: These scenarios don’t automatically spell disaster for your brand, as long as you keep your customers informed and provide a quick response.
Studies have shown that 83% of U.S. ecommerce shoppers believe regular communication with a retailer is a must. Fifty-three percent wouldn’t make a purchase if they don’t know when a package will arrive. This means you have to provide regular updates on order status. Many shoppers are willing to buy from an ecommerce site that keeps them up to date throughout the shipping process and offers clear communication.
Make sure you select a shipper that provides real-time shipment tracking and customer updates so you and your customer can pinpoint a parcel’s exact location at any time. It could mean the difference between a repeat customer or a one-time sale. Even though your courier may be to blame for a late delivery, the customer often blames the retailer instead. However, staying on top of things lets your brand shine and turns one-time customers into loyal, repeat buyers.
2. Managing costs
While shipping is usually viewed as just a cost of doing business, this shouldn’t prevent you from finding ways to reduce those costs. This can help you achieve a successful free shipping strategy or simply prevent you from leaving money on the table.
Comparing couriers and delivery options for each order is the first step. For example, your deliveries with a regional courier may be more cost effective with simple, transparent flat rate pricing than with a larger courier that goes across the country but has a series of hidden fees and surcharges that end up on your monthly shipping invoice.
In addition, it’s important to determine the box size and weight before selecting a courier. Incorrect information can lead to delays causing impatient customers and additional costs impacting your bottom line that weren’t accounted for. Using these simple tips will help bring down your cost of shipping.
3. Courier variety is a smart approach
A common mistake that retailers and ecommerce sellers make is putting all their shipping eggs in one courier basket. Many companies get overwhelmed by the number of options and services offered. They’ll often choose one that they feel works and stick with it. Comparing rates and the best delivery type for each situation helps you save money in the long run, especially if you offer free shipping.
4. Make customers happy with easy returns
Customers return things they buy, even more so with online orders. However, difficulties with a returns process can turn someone who is unsatisfied with your product into someone who dislikes your company. By making returns as easy as possible, including use of return labels and providing status updates on refunds or exchanges, you’ll be in a better position to turn a negative customer experience into a positive one. This can spell the difference between losing that shopper forever or making them into a loyal customer.
5. Typos are expensive
Nobody’s perfect. As much as we try to avoid them, errors happen. Of course, it’s best to learn from mistakes rather than repeat them, but wouldn’t it be great if we could catch them before they cost us money?
Retailers who select shipping providers that offer address verification in their platforms can make this happen. With accurate customer data and address verification built in, retailers minimize the possibility of address correction fees or delivery delays if a customer’s address is typed incorrectly. These address verification tools spot errors in how addresses are typed and suggest verified addresses. For example, ShipperBee’s Shipper Portal leverages Google to verify or suggest correct addresses before you schedule your parcels for shipment. This will save you money in extra address correction fees after a package has been shipped, while also making sure it gets to the right location without unnecessary delivery delays. Eliminating small human errors within a process saves you both time and money in the long run. Sometimes, it’s the small steps that can make the biggest impact.
6. The free shipping conundrum
Thanks to Amazon, the popularity of free shipping has become the norm for many online customers. This can be a double-edged sword, as the retailer is left footing the shipping bill trying to keep up. While Amazon Prime members enjoy the next day delivery experience, not all consumers want this.
More and more consumers, particularly Millennials and Gen Z’s, are beginning to take a hard stance on selecting more purpose driven brands that have a strong sustainability focus—which includes a company’s shipping practices. To remove this uncertainty, it’s important to really know your audience and what will keep them happy. A good approach is to offer different shipping and service levels at checkout and consistently meeting your delivery promise and communicating a specific arrival time to the customer. One way to accomplish this is to offer the real-time GPS tracking information, mentioned earlier, to your customers once their order has been shipped.
We also suggest that you test your free shipping strategy by building the cost into the product price, or only offering free shipping for select products. A/B test your conversion rates to see if free shipping positively or negatively affects your bottom line.
Investing in Your Shipping Pays Back Dividends
Although Amazon and the other giants often make the headlines, small-to-medium-sized businesses are still the lifeblood of the economy. Nobody starts off as an industry leader. Through patience, hard work and smart investments, SMBs grow into titans of industry over time. Investing in the right areas of your business not only takes money but also planning. A proactive approach in all areas, including shipping, leads to cost savings that will fuel business growth. By avoiding small errors that add up to big bucks and taking the time to find the right shipping solution for the right price, you can invest in other areas of your business while keeping customers happy.