How To Make Shipping Work For Your Customer and Your Business

I’m sure the majority of retailers never expected that the process surrounding shipping goods would be just as important to the customer experience as the products being shipped. Yet, here we are in 2019 and shipping seems to have taken center stage. Thanks to Amazon’s promise of fast and free shipping to its Prime members, consumer expectations have shifted, making shipping a critical aspect of the overall online purchase experience.  But it’s not only Amazon.  Walmart is trialing next day, eBay is offering its merchants fulfillment centers to accelerate delivery / lower costs while brick-and-mortar retailers leverage their scale and offer convenient buy online, pickup in store options.


In fact, a recent BigCommerce survey found that 77% of global consumers have abandoned a purchase due to unsatisfactory shipping options, and another 58% have actually stopped shopping with particular retailers as a result of a negative shipping experience. Shipping, it seems, has become the leading cause of online cart abandonment. And while customers place a high emphasis on their post-purchase experience, many retailers struggle to apply the same focus.


Overwhelmingly, consumers today want shipping that is fast, free and convenient. But is this in the best interest of the retailer? Unlike Amazon, who runs 75+ fulfillment centers across North America and depends on a leading supply chain, lowering shipping costs or decreasing delivery timelines comes with a price tag that directly affects a merchant’s bottom line (or may turn away a customer).


What exactly can a retailer do to create a shipping experience that is not only positive in the eyes of their consumers, while remaining a financially sound business decision for the retailer?


Think beyond shipping cost and timeline

Would you believe there is more to a good shipping experience than just fast and free delivery? Realistically, a positive shipping experience begins at checkout. Consider whether your checkout experience appeals to the things a customer is looking for. Does your checkout require the creation of an account, or do you allow guest access? Does your customer have to fill in a lot of boxes, or do you auto-populate form fields? Does your checkout display all costs, including taxes and shipping, upfront ensuring your customer isn’t met with any surprises?


And upon delivery, how are you ensuring that your consumer has the most positive experience possible? Our survey found more than one-third of Gen Z shoppers feel branded packaging adds to the overall buying experience, and are 4X more likely than Baby Boomers to make a repeat purchase from a retailer due to packaging. Creating a brand experience around your shipping – both in terms of what the box looks like on the outside as well as what additional elements you place inside the shipment – is one of the quickest ways to differentiate from Amazon. In fact, one-tenth of the merchants that choose not to sell on Amazon do so because they want the ability to have branded packaging (remember that Amazon sellers aren’t allowed to do this as Amazon owns all the branding within a shipment). Think also about your post purchase engagement with the customer as an extension of your brand experience – tracking updates, product recommendations and a seamless returns experience.


Work with partners that can help replicate the Amazon experience

It can be really difficult to keep up with the shipping expectations created by Amazon, especially for the 80% of merchants that are handling their own fulfillment, so it should come as no surprise that 68% of merchants feel Amazon’s shipping practices have put unfair pressure on independent retailers. But let’s remember that Amazon is a world-class logistics company. It has more than 75 fulfillment centers, not to mention its own fleet of delivery vehicles. A single, growing merchant can’t expect to compete directly at scale – at least not without the use of a 3PL, like ShipBob, UPS, FedEx or others. Third-party logistics providers, or 3PLs, help retailers manage the warehousing and shipping of products. As a partner to hundreds of independent retailers, they more easily enable quick product fulfillment and shipping, giving merchants a more competitive shipping timeline to Amazon. If maintaining a competitive offering is important to your business, but you just can’t conceive of meeting consumer demand on your own, a 3PL is the way to go.


Make your ecommerce platform work for you

Part of what enables Amazon – and other big box retailers, for that matter – to offer free shipping is the sheer volume of packages they are delivering on a regular basis. Thoe retailers are able to use that volume to secure bulk discounts with shipping providers – a luxury that growing independent merchants just don’t have. That said, a merchant’s ecommerce platform may have the capabilities to fill in those gaps.


For example, in early 2019, BigCommerce launched its shipping initiative BigCommerce Shipping, which offers merchants a shipping and fulfillment experience akin to some of the world’s biggest merchants. Rather than trying to negotiate shipping rates as an individual merchant, BigCommerce relies on the shipping volume of its 60,000 merchants in order to secure some of the industry’s lowest shipping rates.


Merchants can then use those cost savings to offer more shipping incentives to their consumers. After all, 50% of global consumers will not shop from a retailer than does not offer free shipping and 84% have added items to their cart in order to receive free shipping, so the ability to offer free shipping in some capacity is a guaranteed way to secure some additional revenue from your customer.


When trying to stack up to the experience consumers have come to love and expect, shipping can be a daunting prospect – but it doesn’t have to be. All it takes is a clear understanding of what your customer is looking for and why that is important to them in order to make small changes that have a meaningful impact on both your customer’s experience and your bottom line.


Contributed by Matt Crawford, GM Shipping at BigCommerce.

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