A Matter of
We’re all familiar with Amazon. Part of the reason they have grown so big, and have become a household name, is because they understand how important it is to provide a quality delivery experience from start to finish.
When you’re setting up an ecommerce website that sells a physical product, one of the major things you have to figure out is the shipping and fulfillment process. How you get your product from headquarters to your customer’s door, and make it feel seamless and timely while keeping costs appropriate for both you and the buyer, is a complex problem. And there is a lot that depends on your unique business and offerings.
Thankfully, some companies have figured out the nitty-gritty and can support you with the process.
Now, you might be wondering why a user experience firm is talking about shipping. We’re all about enhancing your customer experience so that people keep coming back, and one of the most important parts of your customer journey is what happens after they submit their online order. How fast will it arrive? Do they understand tracking? Will they know when it arrives? What condition will it arrive in? How will they feel when they open it? It’s all a part of the user experience.
If a customer has a poor or confusing shipping experience, they are far less likely to become a repeat customer, regardless of how great your product is. Exceeding expectations in these areas and evoking positive emotions is how you truly connect with a customer. They feel good and want to order again – and will even talk about your business to others.
It’s Amazon’s not-so-secret secret, and you can take advantage of it too.
Understanding the Shipping Ecosystem
To your customer, the journey looks simple – order confirmation, shipping confirmation, delivery confirmation, desired product in hand! Behind the scenes, there are a few more systems at play.
Once an order goes through on your website, you are alerted via email of the sale, and the order details are processed in your website’s backend and sent to your shipping software if you’re using one (more on that soon). From there, you can print labels, fulfill the order and get it into the hands of your selected shipping carrier (via dropoff or pickup). Tracking is sent from your carrier to your software, back to your website and over to your customer via email. Thankfully, your software and website are managing most of the heavy lifting here. Once your product is delivered, confirmation is sent all around, and the sale is complete!
The big players in the carrier business (USPS, UPS, FedEx and DHL) have wonderful customer support to help you get set up and make the best business decisions for your company. Most shipping software companies have readily available chat/email support available as well. Once configured, these systems do most of the talking and work (nearly) seamlessly in completing the process from A-Z.
If you’re shipping at a larger volume, you may consider utilizing a 3PL (Third-Party Logistics) company to manage onsite inventory, packaging and carrier coordination for you. Let’s breakdown some of these terms and how they work:
Ecommerce stands for electronic commerce and refers to the platform on which your website’s online shop and products are built. Where your website and ecommerce store is built should be the driving force for your shipping solutions and not the other way around. We are partial to WordPress development which allows for WooCommerce or BigCommerce extensions on your site. Other popular ecommerce solutions include Shopify, Squarespace and Magento.
Shipping Carriers (or Shipping Providers)
Unless you’re relying solely on local pickup, you will need to select a carrier to provide shipping. This will help determine shipping rates and options for your customers at checkout. Once you’ve done your research and have a business account created, you will connect the carrier to your ecommerce store, typically via a plugin extension. The most common carriers are those you’re already familiar with including USPS, FedEx, UPS and DHL. Having a direct relationship with your shipping provider is beneficial in negotiating the best discounted rates and getting counsel on shipping costs, packaging and more.
In most cases, your ecommerce website can manage inventory and order completion, assist with printing shipping labels, and automate customer tracking and delivery emails with the help of plugin extensions. However, this build-out can get complex if you’re working with a fulfillment team, drop shippers, have special shipping needs of any kind or if you’re shipping at a moderate to high volume.
Utilizing a third-party shipping software offers value in negotiating better shipping rates with your carrier, providing user-friendly interfaces, helping manage fulfillment and shipping tracking, and integrating automations that help seamlessly communicate with your customers and your ecommerce store.
Third-Party Logistics (3PL)
While ecommerce websites, shipping carriers and software are the three main players in the online shipping ecosystem, companies shipping larger volumes, or those without the ability to hold inventory in their headquarters or local warehouse, may want to take advantage of a 3PL (Third-Party Logistics company). Essentially, 3PLs allow you to outsource the warehouse section of your business and wipe your hands clean of the day-to-day packaging and fulfillment process. In most cases, this doesn’t come into play until year 2 of your business, once your brand is established and shipping volume has increased past what your team can handle. It’s also becoming more common for fulfillment services to be available through shipping software platforms.