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6 Ways SMBs Can Meet Online Shoppers' High Shipping Expectations

By Richard Adhikari
Dec 22, 2017 5:00 AM PT
online-shopping-shipping

For many online shoppers, shipping has become a pivotal issue, and one of the worst things an etailer can do is allow a shipment to be late.

On-time arrival is such a high expectation that many shoppers find late delivery worse than other notoriously disagreeable things, a recent DHL survey of 1,400-plus online shoppers suggests. Here are some of the things respondents preferred to getting a package late:

  • A root canal - 27 percent
  • Spending the weekend with in-laws - 23 percent
  • Telling their kids Santa is a myth - 19 percent

Also, consumers want shipping to be free.

Sixty-one percent of shoppers abandoned orders because of high extra costs such as shipping, taxes and other fees, according to Rob Zaleski, digital content marketer at ShippingEasy, citing recent research.

Fifty-two percent dropped their order when they realized there was no free shipping, he told the E-Commerce Times.

Holiday shipping likely will be costlier for small and mid-sized online retailers this year, because UPS announced it would levy per-piece peak charges for U.S. residential shipments on selected dates between Nov. 19 and Dec. 23.

Looking ahead, how can SMBs satisfy customers they're getting a fair shipping deal even if they can't offer the two-day "free" shipping Amazon offers its Prime members? It's not an impossible mission.

1. Focus on Quality of Service

"Customers love and even expect free shipping, but they also care equally, if not more, about the purchase and delivery experience," said Sriram Sridhar, CEO of LateShipment.

"Have your customer experience team keep customers informed about their order at every stage, track shipments until they're delivered, proactively fix delivery issues before they affect customers, and follow up with them after delivery," he told the E-Commerce Times.

"A retailer should focus on enhancing the customer experiences from selecting products through the final delivery," observed Louis DeJianne, director of retail marketing for UPS.

2. Be Innovative

One approach SMBs can take is to offer free shipping on orders with a minimum value, said Ryan Sit, CEO of Everystore.

Or, they could offer an expedited shipping option for an additional cost, he told the E-Commerce Times.

"Most customers who want a shipment in time for the holidays will pay a fair price for a quick turnaround," noted Andrew Paul, SVP sales and pricing at DHL Express U.S.

Other customer-pleasing options, UPS' DeJianne told the E-Commerce Times, include the following:

  • Offer promo codes.
  • Offer ship-to-store options.
  • Let customers select a later delivery date for free shipping.
  • Offer a loyalty program with benefits.

3. Reach Out to Shipping Companies

"Many stores don't realize you can negotiate better shipping rates by building relationships with shipping carriers," Everystore's Sit pointed out. "DHL supports small businesses, and I would recommend reaching out to them and seeing how they can work with you."

DHL offers On Demand Delivery, a free service that helps customers receive shipments when and where it best suits them, DHL's Paul told the E-Commerce Times.

UPS works with customers to offer a variety of shipping options tailored to individual needs, DeJianne said.

Another option is ShippingEasy, which provides online retailers with Commercial Plus Pricing shipping rates, and sweetens the pot with automated email marketing campaigns and product recommendations.

4. Plan Ahead for the Holiday Rush

It's not too early to start preparing for the 2018 holiday season.

"Companies should have a plan for rush orders, DHL's Paul said. "An experienced shipping partner can help small and medium-sized enterprises identify the 2017 deadlines for specific destinations."

Also, online retailers should clearly define and broadcast their offers, estimated delivery dates and other information, Paul suggested.

It's a good idea to reiterate deadlines through the online purchasing process, he added.

5. Focus on Unique or Hard-to-Find Items

Unique products were a top reason to shop at small retailers for 56 percent of shoppers who responded to the 2017 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper Study, observed UPS' DeJianne. In 2016, it was 50 percent.

"Customers may be willing to pay for shipping [if] they can't find the same item at a big chain store or on Amazon," ShippingEasy's Zaleski said.

6. Track Shipping Costs

"Most businesses, especially SMBs, overpay shipping carriers," LateShipment's Sridhar pointed out. "They can be overpaying by up to 20 percent on every shipping invoice."

That's partly because getting refunds is time-consuming, he noted, adding that LateShipment's software ensures automatic refund claims from carriers for more than 50 service failures.


Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology. Email Richard.


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