What you do with shipping options, costs, omnichannel, tracking and returns can significantly impact the customer experience.
With 2016 e-commerce sales up more than 15% from 2015, it’s no secret that more and more consumers are choosing to purchase items online. Fast delivery resonates with customer of all ages; more customers than ever are using services such as Amazon’s same-day delivery to receive items just hours after ordering. While customers enjoy convenient, online ordering and speedy delivery, many expect delivery to be free.
Whether retailers use buy online, pickup in store (BOPUS) or ship direct, selecting the fastest route and the most cost-effective option is a critical component of both the transaction cost and consequently the customer experience. The ultimate goal of retailers is to reduce shipping costs while still providing the fastest delivery times and tracking capabilities that consumers expect.
Shipping Options Matter
Today’s consumers choose when and by what method they want their order delivered, and retailers are tasked with guaranteeing customer satisfaction. In essence, retailers are competing with e-commerce giants that offer more shipping options
Passing the Buck
With the right tools, retailers can take advantage of rate shopping for shipping services, including ground service with next-day delivery at a much lower cost. Not all retailers have effective tools for managing shipping rates. That means they pass all, or part, of the shipping cost to customers. However, many times this isn’t necessary.
Say a customer from Alaska wants to order form a distribution center in Florida. Fast and free shipping doesn’t seem plausible. In this situation, retailers must fine-tune their omnichannel capabilities to acquire ordered items from many different channels. Visibility into the supplier, a retail store, distribution centers, vendors or manufacturers closest to the consumer’s proximity enables the use of drop shipments, reducing shipping time and cost.
Drop shipping allows retailers to offer a wider selection of products without having to maintain stock. Instead, when a customer orders an item, the retailer relies on the supplier to fulfill and ship. Some suppliers even provide custom invoices and shipping labels so the order appears to have shipped from the retailer. Retailers benefit by spending less on inventory and not managing warehouses.
These challenges aside, drop shipping enables retailers to compete with e-commerce rivals without added inventory costs. Some analysts predict drop shipping will become mainstream in 2017 as customers spend more time shopping online than in brick-and-mortar stores.
Tracking Customer Orders
Tracking is a key component of an effective shipping strategy as 97% of customers want to track orders and receive communication throughout the shipping process. Customers want real-time visibility of their shipment with live package status, delivery updates and e-notifications. Sophisticated shipping tools offer track and trace features and allow retailers to build them into their e-commerce storefronts.
Creating an Efficient Returns Process
The shipping process doesn’t always end at delivery. Returns must also be handled efficiently and cost effectively. Customers prefer and expect:
- Free return shipping, noted as one of the most important parts of the e-commerce experience.
- “No questions asked” return policy. Customers won’t bother returning an item if they think they will have to discuss why they are returning it.
- Automatic credit/debit card refund. Many e-commerce customers want the same benefits for returning an online item as they do when they are returning an item in the store.
- Pre-paid return label in the box to make the return process easy and convenient.
Streamlining the returns and reverse logistics process is extremely important in providing all of the features above. By providing carrier-compliant return labels or instructions for returning items to the distribution center, service counter in the retail store or at parcel lockers can help retail staff get products back on the shelf more quickly and refunds back to customers when they expect them.
Optimize the Customer Experience
Retailers using multi-carrier shipping software provide the best shipping cost and carrier options immediately at checkout. By implementing this important customer experience tool, retailers can optimize the customer experience to boost efficiency and revenue.