Brands and retailers are continuing to raise the stakes on consumer experiences. But they’d better not deliver products late or make delivery a hassle. According to 80% of consumers in a new report from logistics software Shipstation, the quality of the shipping experience is the top feature that matters to them in the e-commerce process.
But smaller retailers may struggle to keep up with consumer expectations that have developed as a result of next-day and even same-day shipping.
John Kinny, GM at ShipStation, said he believes there is a way to bridge the gap. Savings are still preferred over shorter delivery times, with nearly 70% of consumers opting to wait longer for their order if it means no delivery fees. With some careful adjustments to their protocols, Kinny explains how retailers can deliver quality shipping experiences with a smaller infrastructure.
How can smaller retailers compete with the shipping options provided by larger rivals, who have more established delivery and inventory infrastructure?
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John Kinny: There’s a reward complex that many buyers associate with shopping online. When someone orders from a more established retailer like Amazon or Zappos, they immediately get an order confirmation email and, shortly thereafter, the shipping confirmation is sent. Retailers should offer customers more immediate ways of tracking orders as well as simple, affordable shipping and return options. Doing this will elevate the brand to consumers and increase confidence and loyalty. A lack of communication and improperly set expectations create doubt.
Negative shipping experiences can be damaging. What contributes to a negative experience and how can retailers avoid these pain points?
JK: In our study, we found that 90% of consumers say a poor shipping experience negatively impacts their perception of a retailer. Whether the issue is wrong items shipped, lost or damaged merchandise, or even a delayed shipment, customers will trace this back to the retailer. Having a thorough returns policy, as well as delivery and shipping guarantees, can help increase consumer confidence and position the retailer as a real competitor to bigger retailers. Additionally, by offering customer-preferred support options like live chat, they can address issues in an engaging way.
What misconceptions might retailers have about consumer expectations?
JK: Eighty-eight percent of customers say Amazon has changed their expectations of shipping speed. But there are more ways to compete with Amazon beyond fulfillment speed and cost alone. In fact, we found that consumers are more than willing to wait three to four days for their orders to arrive.
What advice would you give a smaller footwear retailer that’s looking to overhaul its shipping strategy?
JK: While next-day delivery isn’t required, the amount of time it takes to ship out orders is important — this can be the major hurdle separating a smaller retailer from the big dogs. To quickly fulfill orders, it’s important not to do everything manually. Based on factors like where the order is being delivered and its weight, a shipping software or order management solution can automatically select the most economical and appropriate shipping service. That allows the retailer to print the day’s shipping labels in bulk. With a well-organized warehouse and an effective picking strategy, the team should be able to line up outgoing orders, have them boxed and label them quickly.
What are some of the additional benefits of a more efficient shipping process?
JK: Streamlining this process can minimize the number of workers a retailer needs to hire — full-time or seasonally — and thus reduces packing errors. By figuring out this crucial workflow strategy, they can grow consumer confidence, which will then increase order volume. From here, they can further negotiate carrier rates, driving down shipping costs and allowing for a smoother pipeline for scaling their brand.
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