Establishing valuable customer loyalty is highly-coveted for every business. It not only entails repeat purchases, but it also typically includes positive reviews and word-of-mouth marketing. But, it’s not easy to establish that all-important loyalty in a customer; it’s especially difficult if you’re running an online store without face-to-face interaction. One major way that you, as a business owner, can make your customers happy and establish loyalty for your brand and business is through optimizing your shipping and delivery practices.
Keep Customers Updated on Orders
When it comes to fostering customer loyalty, one of the most important elements that they need to have with your company is trust. If customers don’t trust your business and are second-guessing your processes and motives, or are being left in the dark about the status of their order, then the chances that they’ll remain loyal customers starts to plummet. To avoid this problem, be sure to keep your customers updated on what’s going on with their order as often as possible; maintaining transparency is key to establishing trust.
By providing customers with clearly outlined delivery date estimates and an easy way to find real-time tracking information, you’ll boost customer satisfaction while tackling cart abandonment and emails to support. Customers hate waiting for an unknown amount of time for their order, sometimes worrying that their product may never arrive. Give your customers the security in knowing when their order should come and the tools they need to track their order every step of the way.
You’ll also want to stay transparent when it comes to shipping costs; the number one cause of cart abandonment is unexpected shipping costs at checkout, after all. By being upfront as early in the checkout process as possible with how much shipping will cost for each specific customer is a great way to manage expectations and cut down on cart abandonment. When customers see that you’re not trying to hide fees from them, they’ll trust your brand more.
Give Customers Shipping & Delivery Options
Different customers want different things, which definitely rings true when it comes to shipping. By catering to each customer’s specific needs when it comes to delivering their orders, you’ll emphasize that you care about them and that you want them to get their order at the right time for the right price. With the changing eCommerce landscape, there’s a few shipping options that you might want to employ in order to stay competitive and retain customers.
Customers have come to expect free shipping when shopping online, so having that option at checkout can be a great advantage when most of your competitors don’t. Free shipping can be a great motivator to increase customer’s AOV (average order value) as well; in fact, 23% of online shoppers add more items to their order at checkout so they can qualify for free shipping.
But, free shipping doesn’t just bode well for your conversion rate. Customers will be happy to see that you offer affordable shipping options, providing them with a positive brand experience that they’ll remember next time they shop. Some customers prefer shipping even if it means they’ll need to wait longer, so you can affordably provide free shipping via economy ground so you don’t lose money. For faster delivery, you can charge additional fees, bringing me to my next point.
Not only do customers expect free shipping from online stores, but they also expect products to ship fast. Obviously, not every online store can compete with the likes of Amazon to provide fast and free shipping. However, you can charge an extra fee to customers in exchange for their products to have two-day shipping or even same-day delivery (if you can manage it). Customers will appreciate having the option, especially if they’re in a pinch and need their products as quickly as possible. If you can position yourself as the store that came through for them and delivered their products fast, then you’ll become a store that customer won’t forget.
If you outsource your shipping to a fulfillment provider, then try splitting your inventory across multiple locations. This will make it much more feasible to offer fast shipping, because orders for certain customers will be fulfilled at the location that’s closer to them (rather than a single location that may be across the country).
If you sell products that need to be renewed on a relatively frequent basis, then customers will immensely appreciate you giving them a subscription option. Not only does this take the load off of customers having to remember to re-order products, but it also gives you the opportunity to assert special treatment through subscription benefits. If you advertise that your product now has a subscription option, and that it comes with benefits like free shipping, faster delivery, and even discounts, then customers will be much more willing to order from you and rely on you as their go-to store for that product.
Don’t Complicate Your Returns Policy
Returns are an unfortunate, but unavoidable aspect of any online business. Just like you dread returns, so do customers; this gives you an opportunity to impress customers through a flexible and customer-friendly returns policy that’s painless and easy to understand.
If customers find that your returns policy is over-complicated, filled with legal jargon and simply not straightforward enough for them to understand quickly and easily, they may jump to the conclusion that you’re purposefully making returns harder for them. This makes a massive difference in customer perception of your brand, so you need to emphasize that you care about customers even after they’ve made their purchase by writing your returns policy in a helpful and honest way.
Your returns policy should answer these questions:
- Is the customer responsible for shipping costs?
- What is the return window?
- Are there restrictions to accepted returns?
- How will customers be reimbursed for their return?
If you’re able to easily answer all of these questions for customers, while placing your returns policy in various obvious places on your site (checkout, FAQ, returns page, etc.), then customers will notice and be impressed. If you can make the process of returning an item simple and stress-free, you can be sure that customers will come back to your store again soon; even if they weren’t happy with the product they received before.
At the root of all of these strategies is one thing: showing customers that you care about their experience with your store, and that you don’t only care about the end transaction. If a customer can pick that up from your efforts in shipping products to them, whether it’s by being transparent in your processing or helpful in your returns, then you’ll stand out in their mind as a brand that’s worth their business in the future.
Jimmy Rodriguez is the COO & Co-founder of 3dcart, a leading ecommerce solution. As an e-commerce authority, he’s focused on helping internet retailers succeed online by developing digital strategies to drive more traffic to their websites and increase conversions.