The festive season is upon us and tons of online shoppers are doing their last-minute shopping to get their gifts in time for Christmas. The pressure is on for online retailers to ensure that those presents are delivered in time.
According to a report by MetaPack, 38% of shoppers indicated that they would never shop with a retailer again if they had a poor delivery experience. Another study by Arvato revealed that 53% of shoppers consider speed of delivery as a major factor in their online shopping decisions.
With so much at stake, online retailers must map out a defined shipping strategy from day one so that things don’t go wrong during the peak seasons. Here’s how you can streamline your shipping and fulfilment process to avoid losing your customers.
Define your shipping rates and methods
Before you start shipping your products, you’ll first need to decide on your pricing strategy. This depends, in part, on your shipping options.
1. Free shipping
While it might be great for retailers to offer free shipping, it might not be feasible for your bottom line. That said, here are some ways you can still offer free shipping without breaking the bank.
Factor it into your product prices right from the start
Offer free shipping to selected high-value customers
Set a minimum order amount for free shipping so your shipping costs are buffered by your profits
2. Integrate third-party shipping options
If you’re working with a third-party to ship your products, you can consider integrating their shipping options and pricing into your website. That way, your customers can compare rates across different providers and choose to pay for the option that best fits their needs.
3. Charge a fixed fee
If you already have a regular shipping provider, and your products are of similar weights and sizes, charging a flat fee for shipping might be a better alternative. This will potentially help to reduce abandoned cart checkouts as buyers are made known of the shipping fee right from the start. But do be careful not to overcharge or undercharge your customers.
Another thing that will help in your shipping strategy is your order fulfilment model. Whichever model you decide to use depends on the volume of your orders, the types of products you sell and what you’re willing to manage in-house. Here are some common order fulfilment models.
i. In-house fulfilment
As the name suggests, in-house order fulfilment means you maintain inventory, pack, label and ship yourself. While this method offers better control and possibly lower cost, it is extremely time consuming. Managing manpower against fluctuations in business volume is also a challenge.
ii. Third-party fulfilment
If you have enough volume to outsource, third-party fulfilment might work better for you. Besides freeing up time spent on packing and shipping, there’s the added benefit of higher shipping discounts as fulfilment providers are often able to negotiate low bulk shipping rates from carriers due to the huge volumes they are shipping out every day. The only downside is your customer satisfaction level for fast and reliable delivery will be dependent on a third-party contractor.
Dropshipping is a model that’s particularly popular for those starting out in ecommerce or testing the water for new products. In dropshipping, all orders are sent, either manually or automatically, to the manufacturers who will produce, pack and ship the orders out.
The advantage of dropshipping is the online store owner can concentrate on marketing and branding. Everything else is managed by the dropshipper once the order is in.
The disadvantages are:
You are reliant on the manufacturer’s inventory. If they run out of stock, it will result in longer lead times and even lost customers, especially for popular items.
With dropshipping, a retailer cannot reduce cost by buying in bulk first. Therefore, your cost could be potentially higher and your profit margins lower.
Some dropshipping platforms offer limited options for shipping. Many manufacturers also offer only shipping by sea to reduce cost and attract sales. This results in delivery that takes as long as three weeks to a month.
Impress with your packaging
If you decide to manage your own fulfilment, you will need to source packaging supplies right from the start. In shipping, the rule of thumb is every inch counts. That means you’ll want to use the smallest, lightest and flattest box, mailer or envelope possible while maintaining brand identity and quality.
Packeverything.com offers a great selection of packaging materials.
Besides protecting your products and ensuring that they are delivered in pristine condition, packaging can also be used to enhance the customer experience.
With online shopping on the rise, many online retailers have upped their delivery game with beautiful and stylish packaging that shoppers are delighted to receive. Here’s one from Trunk Club, a monthly subscription service that sees shoppers receiving a specially curated box of clothing and accessories. Gorgeous, isn’t it?
Happy Socks is another great example of packaging done right. Just like the socks they contain, each box is colourful, vibrant and quirky. Plus, the packaging doubles up as a storage solution.
Ship out your products
Once you’ve settled on your shipping rates, your preferred shipping provider and your packaging, there’s just one last thing to do: creating a packing slip/invoice.
Packing slips are a handy way for you to crosscheck orders and items for accuracy before sending them off to your customers. The only difference between a packing slip and an invoice is that one has prices and the other doesn’t. For gift orders, always use a packing slip.
Some sellers also include a personalised thank you note or small gift in their packaging to create that extra special touch. It definitely helps to increase customer satisfaction and the chances of them spending the time to write a good review online.
Packing and shipping can be a stressful and boring process. But ensuring you do a good job can mean the difference between a repeat customer or a damaged reputation.
Set your shipping rates
Decide on a shipping and order fulfilment method
Use the right packaging materials
Jazz up your packaging
Use a packing slip/invoice for easy checking of orders