Eight Fundamental Steps To Provide A Seamless Shipping Experience For Your Customer
If you are overseeing digital marketing, customer experience, or order fulfillment at your eCommerce company, you will definitely understand that it is necessary for you to create a seamless experience when shipping to a customer. This article mentions some of the best practices that each merchant should follow in brief:
1. Allow your customer to choose their own deliver options
As part of delivering an omni-channel experience, it is essential to understand that you are not necessarily shipping in every case. The whole idea behind Omni-Channel is that you provide the customers the choice of how they want their products to be delivered. They might want to pick up the order in-store, require consolidated shipping, partial shipping, or do they just want to reserve the product for now? Choose the most optimum shipping method for which you can offer rates varying in price and speed. You might also offer to ship to store or offer to reserve in store. One of the best methods prevalent today is to offer a split (which is time efficient) vs. consolidated (which is cost efficient) shipments.
2. Encourage transparency. Be clear on your shipping and return policies
Instead of having lengthy paragraphs of what you deem as a return, a good piece of advice is to have a very open return policy. Lengthy and complicated return policies often discourage folks from buying from your store. First, they do not want to read a massive document, and second, they do not want to get confused by your complex language. Hence, it is best to offer them a flexible and an open returns policy that will provide your customers a worthy shopping experience. At the same time, you might wonder if the cost of returning that item is worth the retention of your customer. You need not worry as you will not be giving your customer up to the competition!
3. Provide definite fulfillment times
Since you are operating an eCommerce store, in which there is a time gap between the order placement and fulfillment, you need to be very clear with your fulfillment times. You need to absolutely sure on parameters such as how many days do you normally ship once the product has been ordered. What is the procedure you follow to ship from multiple locations? Do customers receive multiple items they ordered as part of the same order as mutliple parcels? Provide answers to simple questions such as ‘do you ship to my area’ or ‘is there a shipment fee on this order’ on your order page. This could make or break your decision to shop with you. You might also want to offer free returns as a bonus for certain customers who order above a certain limit or even offer free returns as a best practice measure.
4. Always communicate
Once you have shipped the parcel to the customer, this is the point where you technically loose control/contact with your customer. At this point, you could technically stop communicating with your customer and they will magically receive their package a few days later. However, this is the worst case scenario that was typical of the eCommerce industry a few years ago.
However, with the advancement of technology and better logistics facilities, customers now expect to be informed about their packages while it is in transit as well. It’s best to call ahead and let your customers know what is happening to their parcel after it has been dispatched from your fulfillment center.
This also applies to issues such as fulfillment delay, order cancellation, product not in stock situations, tracking changes, and such. Make sure that your customers know exactly what is happening to their order after it has been shipped from your end. Utilize best practices such as communicating any or all of the status changes to your customer, contacting the customer appropriately based on the scenario, or utilizing customer service to address any problems.
5. Use reliable shipping techniques
Start by utilizing the right shipping carrier. Not every shipping carrier is reliable for your business needs as well as your customer needs. In the eCommerce business, in the eyes of many customers, the carrier and the merchant are the same. These folks either fail to distinguish between who makes the errors or blame the merchant for the carrier’s fault.
6. Incentivize the current sale by providing the customer an opportunity to shop with you again
While completing the sale with your online customer, you might want them to visit your Brick and Mortar (BNM) store. Alternatively, you might want to inform them about exclusive offers, up-sells, cross-sells, gifts along with purchases, or anything else. You might also want to add a hand written note about who packed the item to add a human touch to it. Add your phone number/contact information on the hand written note in order to facilitate easy communication. Also, try to remain flexible to various kinds of situations, and try your best to sustain your customer’s happiness. Finally remember that happy customers always translate into loyal customers.
7. Make your packages recognizable and identifiable with your brand
In the earlier days, many eCommerce stores would deliver products in plain boxes. However, this is not the case now. Most eCommerce stores ship their products in boxes with their logos printed on them. The idea is to deliver a pretty package. This idea helps create a memorable shopping experience for the customer.
Even if a package is lost or is deemed as untraceable, it is worth to resend the package after thorough investigation to ensure customer retention. This should especially be the case if the package is stolen in transit, hence it is neither the carriers, the merchant’s, nor the customer’s fault.
Finally, know that customers have very high expectations especially if the have ordered from an eCommerce website. Hence, even if they have a notion that things could go wrong, they tend to become very anxious, and things could get nasty especially at this stage. Hence, keep them informed about what’s happening to their product.
Since they have checked out your website, and they have ordered the product, they consider that it is your full responsibility to deliver your product to them. It’s difficult to explain to them that there’s a different person at every step of the logistics chain from fulfillment to shipping to delivery. Hence, you need to understand that managing customer expectations is a huge responsibility.
8. Ask for customer feedback and insight
Many a times, your customers can tell what’s right for you. Many have an uncanny insight that can positively help your eCommerce business. Ask them for feedback and insight. Ask them honestly if everything went right. Iron out the creases if necessary. Revamp any uneven processes. Mend anything that went wrong. Include best practices such as including a customer service card within the package to address potential concerns and even calling your customers to inquire about their satisfaction levels.
To summarize, you need to create a seamless experience for your customer. Shipping is one area where you have the least control. Once the product leaves your fulfillment center, control is split between various logistics elements starting right from shipping to the end of the process, which is delivery. Shipping is thus a major source of frustration for merchants. Develop and implement best practices such as clear shipping methods and policies to manage your customer’s expectations.
Liaise with reputed and dependable carriers to ensure prompt delivery and communicate status changes to your customer. Finally ensure that you deliver a recognizable package with which are included shopping incentives and various follow-up methods for the convenience of your customer.