Imagine someone visits your website. They look around, eventually navigate to the product they want and add it to their cart. They choose a shipping method and enter their billing information. They click order. Now, they anticipate their package delivery. They check the tracking updates often. At last, IT arrives.
How do they feel at this point? Are they delighted with their shipping experience, encouraged to return in the future, or are they disappointed?
Maybe they didn’t even make it this far because they got stuck on one of the steps above – or one of the many that weren’t listed for the sake of this article’s introduction.
Delivery experience isn’t an industry buzzword we throw around lightly; it’s a vital component of your customer experience strategy. It turns out 84% of online shoppers won’t return to a company after a bad shipping experience.
We don’t blame them.
They’re paying for that experience as much as they are the product, and famous online retailer Amazon has convinced the population they can have it all: seamless, free, two-day shipping for a package that arrives with a smile on its face.
Now you have to get competitive. You can have the best damn website in the world, but shipping makes up the final interaction(s) a customer has with your business. It leaves a lasting impression.
And a good ecommerce shipping strategy begins long before a shopper hits the order button.
Choose Your Shipping Options Carefully
Delivery times and costs are two of the first factors a customer will consider when deciding if an online purchase is worth it. You want both to be reasonable and competitive.
The tricky part of choosing a shipping cost is that a growing number of consumers expect shipping to be free – 75% to be exact. Unless you’re offering free shipping, you’re not exercising one of the best competitive advantages available.
The problem is that free shipping eats into the budgets of many small online stores that have to absorb the cost. A frequently used alternative for many small retailers is free shipping for orders over a determined amount.
As an ecommerce store, you also have many delivery options to choose from. The most popular include:
- Same-day shipping
- Next-day shipping
- Two-day shipping
- Standard shipping
- Express shipping
- At store pick-up
To satisfy a larger audience with various preferences, needs and budgets, provide as many delivery options as you can.
Your shipping options for ecommerce platforms, carriers and software will influence your delivery timelines and costs.
Be Transparent About Your Shipping Policies
Make sure that your shipping options are easy for customers to understand. Each delivery option should be clearly stated with expectations for cost and timeline spelled out. Fees and taxes should be readily apparent.
Some carriers and stores have shipping restrictions in terms of order size or distance. Don’t let customers get to the purchase page before they find out their order isn’t feasible.
If you’re offering a special discount such as free shipping after a purchase minimum, express the rules of the discount. You could lose customers who would have been inclined to purchase if they knew about the offer, or you could upset customers who didn’t realize there was an order minimum required to get free shipping.
You should understand your shipping process before making decisions about or providing information on your delivery policies.
Expert Tip: Provide order cutoff times for receiving an order by a specific date. For example, if you offer next-day shipping but the customer has to order by 5 p.m. to get it, make it known. You can even provide a small countdown, like Amazon does, to motivate customers to act fast.
A growing number of consumers expect online companies to have an easy returns process. This means it’s no longer a differentiator for your business, but it is a requirement. Allowing returns shows confidence in your products and gives shoppers the confidence to try them out.
Once you settle on your returns policy, be straightforward about it with your customers. Let them know if you take returns and any restrictions you have in place.
When a consumer returns a product, make sure the process is simple and efficient, and give them the tools and time they need.
Nail Down the Date
Another trend on the rise is an increasing preference for delivery date estimates. Consumers want you to provide the exact date their order will arrive before they even purchase a product. Shipping carriers and software have the tools to give estimates, so use them.
Telling a customer that a package will arrive in 3-5 days is vague and confusing – do you mean business days? What if there’s a holiday in that timeframe? Take the guesswork out and tell them it will arrive on Thursday, January 2.
Knowing the date an item will arrive is especially valuable in the context of needing it by a specific date, whether it’s for a holiday or event. Sometimes it even helps when consumers want a quick replacement, like my dire need for a new coffee maker last week.
If you aim to impress, provide an estimated time of day as the delivery gets closer. Shoppers will feel comforted knowing their package is definitely on the way, and they can bring it inside as soon as it arrives, warding off the wicked porch thief.
And let’s not forget the extra excitement that builds when you know exactly when your package will arrive. This excitement is precisely the kind of thing that makes for a memorable experience.
Be Smooth: Make Checkout Easy
You got ‘em convinced to buy, but that isn’t always enough to seal the deal. Your potential customer still has to wade through the fiery pits of your checkout process.
To get to the point, making your checkout experience easy to follow and fast will increase the number of visitors who complete it. Require as few form fields and clicks as necessary to reach the finish line and follow web form best practices.
Improve Communication With Your Shipping Facility
Perhaps your business has grown enough that you no longer handle the warehousing, packaging and distribution of your products by yourself. As soon as you’re no longer the only person handling your product, it’s critical to implement a communications strategy for everyone involved.
Choosing a good shipping software can help streamline the communication process and improve your customers’ shipping experience.
To prevent errors, make sure all employees and teams are updated on inventory, orders placed and shipping strategy. Record inventory numbers every time new inventory is ready and each time an order is placed and shipped.
Conduct Quality Checks
Quality checks are a great addition to your customer experience strategy. The purpose of a quality check is to ensure that each package arrives at your customer’s door as intended: packaged the right way, all items included, in a properly sealed, non-damaged box.
To streamline the packing process, create a checklist that you or your employees can use before an order goes out.
Keep Customers Updated
One of the most critical aspects of customer experience management is having a communication strategy for keeping customers updated. They should have the option to choose their preference for updates, whether it be email or text, and they should be informed when their order is received, packaged, on its way and has arrived.
The delivery process is one of the most anxiety-inducing for consumers who are excited but stressed about their products arriving, let alone on time and in great condition. Keeping shoppers in the loop protects them from stress that detracts from their experience.
You’ll also reduce the load placed on customer service by minimizing the number of infamous WISMO (Where Is My Order) calls they receive.
Making this step in the process a pleasant one for customers can be challenging, especially if the updating process is conducted through a third party. You want all communications sent out to be consistent, trustworthy and branded. Work with the software or carrier you use to tailor each message to your brand and use positive copy.
No matter what you do, try not to let users click a tracking link only to be sent to a page that says there isn’t any information available yet.
And if a package is lost or delayed, be the first to let them know. Over half of consumers blame the company when a delivery encounters issues, so getting ahead of the problem can ease customer dissatisfaction. Consider offering these customers store credit or a shipping refund to keep their business in the future.
If you get a call or message from a customer, the goal should always be to respond as quickly as possible. If a customer has questions before making a purchase, you could lose their business to a competitor by not responding fast enough. And regardless of whether they are calling before or after ordering, the experience slips the longer a response takes.
Responding quickly is only part one of this customer experience factor. Part two is providing the information and answers they need just as fast. No one likes being on hold, or worse yet, passed around from one customer support representative to the next. You can reduce the number of customer service touchpoints within your company to prevent this from happening.
When creating your shipping experience, getting personal means more than addressing a customer by name – though it helps. It means personalizing their experience and options.
Consider an online shopper who lives close to your shipping headquarters and another that lives across the country. Just because you’re shipping long distances doesn’t mean you have to limit nearby customers to the same five-day shipping. Promoting same-day or next-day shipping to that lead may be what it takes to close the sale, so do it.
You can also customize recommended products to users based on their purchases. If you don’t have the site functionality to do this before checkout, consider including the products in their order confirmation email.
We also recommend wrapping up the final delivery experience with a thank you note. Thank you notes are personal and connect users to your business and brand. Be sure to use their name, quality stationery and hint at a future purchase in your message.
Turn Your Package Into a Present
Thank you notes aren’t the only way to create an exceptional unboxing experience. The growing popularity of unboxing videos on YouTube conveys the value of a well-presented package.
Start by ditching that boring brown box. Colorful, branded packaging excites the user and promotes your brand to everyone who comes into contact with it. If you can’t afford customized boxes, branded packing tape and stickers make a great alternative.
What’s inside the package matters just as much as the outside – and we don’t mean your product (though that matters too). You might consider wrapping your products in tissue paper or nice materials. Throwing in incentives like discount codes or free samples is an excellent way to encourage future purchases and introduce customers to other products.
Many companies have taken to including small branded gifts like pens and stickers to delight the buyer, serve as a reminder of their brand and spread awareness to others who see the items in everyday use.
Incorporating one or all of these packaging tips is a surefire way to make ordering from your company an exciting, memorable experience.
Trying Something New? As Always, Test First
Whether you’re building your delivery strategy for the first time or are feeling encouraged (perhaps by this article) to try something new, test everything first. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new shipping rate, cost calculation, carrier, notification system or packaging improvement.
It’s always better to start small to test out the logistics of the strategy and whether it works. Will that customized tape look good before I print 500 yards of it? Will that pricing strategy convert more buyers before I use it across the board? These are important questions to ask.
Testing also functions to smooth out new processes before you implement them on a large scale. A new system for updating customers may require tweaks to design or be influenced by your carrier and shipping method options.
Shipping Experience Is Part of the Bargain
When a customer buys a product, a transaction is made. As a business, your end of that transaction isn’t just providing the product they purchase; a great customer experience has become part of the bargain. Consumers expect a good experience and will choose brand loyalties that align with that value.
As an ecommerce shop, the shipping experience is just as important as the seamless functionality of your website and the relatability of your brand – and it means more than the product arriving intact.
If you have questions about how to improve your customer’s experience with shipping at any stage of the process, reach out. We love talking strategy.