This post on shipping practices was written by Barbara Hannan.
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF) holiday sales during November and December hit $691.9 billion, an increase of 5.5% over the same period in 2016. That includes a record $138.4 billion in online and other non-store sales, an 11.5% increase over 2016.
But with this success, comes more work. Consumer expectations have never been so high. To keep up with those expectations and win customers in 2018, businesses will need to make serving their customer’s needs priorities numbers one, two and three. And the secret to satisfying customers in 2018 is simple—focus on how you ship.
For many business owners, they need to be concerned about shipping twice. First, let’s talk about delivering products to your customers. Savvy e-commerce business owners needs to take a hard look at their shipping practices and make sure the path from shopping cart to door step is swift, safe and stress-free for the customer. Now is a great time to review the shipping experience you provide your customers and kick any bad practices to the curb.
You may think shipping is a logistics issue that doesn’t matter. But it can make a difference between a satisfied customer and an unhappy one. You don’t want to lose what could be a new and loyal customer because of your subpar shipping practices.
Checklist for improving your shipping practices
Here’s a must-have checklist to freshen up your shipping practices to gain and retain happy customers in 2018.
1—Offer free shipping. It’s often the first thing a potential customer looks for on a website. Domestically it is usually reasonably priced. You can consider setting a minimum amount customers must spend to qualify for free shipping. Figure out your average order and set a purchase minimum for $10 or $20 more. A consumer will often add on something or order two to gain the benefit of free shipping.
2—Make ordering from regions outside the U.S. simple to understand and execute. Offer different payment methods that are used in different regions. Check out the payment solutions and protection offered by Alipay.
3—When a customer comes to your website ready to buy, be sure they understand the landed costs, duties, taxes, insurance and possible handling fees, before they click Buy Now. Embrace your customers like family and ensure there are no unpleasant surprises when their package is delivered, such as unexpected charges due.
4—Send a confirmation email upon completion of an online purchase, and include a customer service contact phone, email or chat option. It’s important for your customers to know they have access to assistance should they have a concern.
5—Stock up on shipping supplies. Ensure your packages are packed properly in bubble envelopes or boxes sized for minimal movement with ample cushion to prevent breakage and ensure your packages are delivered safely.
6—Pack the right item and ship it on time. This sounds obvious, but mistakes are easy to make.
7—Make your return policy is user-friendly and clearly visible on your website.
8—Provide access to tracking data so your customers can easily track their packages with a single click from a place on your website. They should be able to know exactly where their packages are at any time.
9—Include a personal note with your shipment thanking them for their business, possibly including the name of the individual who packed their purchase. This helps cement the relationship between you and your customer and personalizes the feeling of customer care.
Following these steps will help you create happy customers who are more likely to become repeat customers.
Getting your goods
But before you can ship to customers you need to get merchandise from your suppliers. And that shipping process can be complicated as well. Here’s a guide that makes those logistics easier to understand. If you source your products from Alibaba.com, you can take advantage of their infrastructure to simplify the process. Alibaba.com has introduced a new program that can get your goods from China to the U.S. in 5 days—and everything is trackable. Check out Alibaba.com’s logistics services to see how much easier it is for you to let them do the hard work.
Barbara Hannan is a freelance business writer and former marketing, communications and social media manager for the small business division of Pitney Bowes, specializing in logistics and shipping-related matters and growing businesses globally.