Ecommerce shipping has become almost as much of a selling point for any ecommerce merchant as the product itself. Online shoppers are getting more impatient by the day, and with the holidays just around the corner, now is the time to make sure your ecommerce shipping is up to par
How can you provide outstanding shipping service, while also keeping your shipping costs reasonable? Try these tactics:
Keep customers up to date on what’s happening with their shipments. If there’s one thing that makes customers nervous, especially around the holidays, it’s when they place an online order and then get nothing but radio silence from the retailer. To ease consumers’ minds, send out a variety of email alerts:
- An alert when the order is received
- An alert when the order has shipped. Include tracking information so customers can follow up on the status of their packages.
- An alert when the order has been delivered. While this may seem unnecessary, customers who are having packages shipped to their workplace or received by an apartment manager or doorman will want to know when the package has arrived. Delivery alerts also let customers know if their package has been lost or stolen after delivery.
Every email alert should include the order number, order details and information about whom to contact in case of questions or concerns.
Assess your shipping methods. It’s a good idea to regularly assess your shipping providers, and especially before the holidays. Make sure you understand your provider’s rules such as how package size and weight affects shipment costs. Using only one shipping provider isn’t always the best way to save money. You may want to use one carrier for certain types of deliveries or for deliveries to one region of the country. Another option becoming more popular is having a private carrier take the shipment to the local U.S. Post Office and having the Postal Service deliver it to the customer.
Try to predict shipping needs. Based on last year’s holiday sales, see how well you can forecast this year’s annual sales and related shipping costs. Are your product types, sizes and weights similar to last year’s, or have you added new products that are bulkier and will require higher shipping costs? Do you have products such as food or other perishables that require specialized shipping? Once you have a sales forecast, check with your current shipping carriers to see if you can estimate shipping costs based on their rates.
Speed shipments with drop shipping. In drop shipping, you don’t maintain your own warehouse or inventory, but instead buy products from a wholesaler after your customers place orders. The wholesaler (or drop shipper) fulfills the orders and ships the products to customers for you. This “just-in-time” shipping method enables you to ship faster without the overhead or headaches of maintaining product inventory. You can also use drop shipping only for certain products, such as those that are bulky to store or require special storage.
Speed up your end of the process as much as possible. You can’t control what happens to a package once it’s in the air or on the road. Bad weather or unavoidable delays can affect shipment times. Instead, focus on what you can control: Make it a goal to pick and pack orders as soon as possible after they are placed. If you’ll need additional staff to handle the increased volume of orders, start hiring.
Will you offer free shipping? While free shipping can make or break a purchasing decision, the reality is that not every small ecommerce site can afford to offer free shipping all the time. If you need to raise prices to order free shipping, consider whether the psychological value of free shipping will outweigh increased prices. It’s quite possible it will, but it’s important to track how price changes affect sales to see if this tactic works for you.
You can also attract customers while still managing prices by offering free shipping on certain days, for customers who belong to your loyalty program or purchase a certain amount of products annually (VIPs), or for customers who reach a certain dollar threshold (i.e., free shipping on orders of $75 and up).
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Karen Axelton is Chief Content Officer of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her company’s blog at SmallBizDaily.com.