The culmination of every sale and arguably the most important step is the prompt picking, packing, dispatch and shipping of the goods to your customer. Apart from the product itself, it’s probably the stage in the process upon which the customer most heavily bases their judgement of your service. Speed and accuracy are critical.
When selling through a single sales channel, the process can be time-consuming and complex but both the time and complexity are multiplied significantly when it comes to handling orders derived from multiple sales channels. Even accessing your orders requires logging in to several different systems each with their own login credentials, workflow and user interface.
First there’s the application of shipping rules, label printing and invoicing. Then dispatch confirmation and customer messaging and then the provision of tracking information – for each and every order in every system! This complexity inhibits your performance, introduces delays and errors and ultimately impacts customer satisfaction which in turn results in poor seller ratings which hurt your seller reputation and put future sales at risk.
Here we’ll consider and share our top 7 tips and best practices that will help you to ensure that you provide the best end to end service for your customers, optimise your seller ratings and feedback scores and so turn customer experience during the logistical phase of the sale into a catalyst for further sales:
1. Rethink your shipping charges
One of the most common causes of cart abandonment is the presentation of excessive shipping charges at checkout. When you have invested time, effort and money to draw a customer to your webstore or marketplace shop and then provided them with a great shopping experience culminating in a sale, it’s tragic to then lose that customer at the final stage in the process simply because you present them with inaccurate or inflated shipping charges.
Most customers now expect at least the option of free delivery even if this entails longer lead times. You don’t have to ship for free, but the option (if affordable) will appeal to a proportion of your customers and satisfy their expectation. For those preferring expedited delivery, you must present the minimum correct shipping charge and this should optimally be dynamically calculated at the point of sale to ensure accuracy and applicability.
2. Offer flexible shipping options
Online customers now demand flexibility from retailers and much research suggests that they are willing to pay for that flexibility. In regard to shipping and delivery, this now includes flexibility in when, where and how goods are delivered. A variety of choices exist for retailers including a broad range of couriers,drop-shipping, self-collection as well as one-day (or in some locations same-day) guaranteed delivery.
As we highlighted earlier, customers now expect your standard, slowest or least convenient delivery option to be entirely free of charge. Free in-store collection is also popular for larger omni-channel retailers and provides an effective way of drawing customers into your stores where they may choose to put more of your goods into their basket.
Fulfillment by Amazon and some otherdrop-shippingservices can offer you fixed-cost, next or same-day services and many couriers offer guaranteed express and / or time-specified delivery at a price premium.
3. Provide delivery timescales
As well as specifying reasonable shipping charges and a range of shipping options, customers will expect pretty concrete specification of delivery timescales. Of course for domestic shipping, premium shipping options (whether or not the cost of these is passed on to the customer) come with their own service levels making it easy for you to quote precise and guaranteed delivery dates and even times. It is more tricky for international shipping. While it is almost impossible to provide a precise estimate of delivery time for international delivery services, most retailers tend to give a delivery time range (X to Y business days) for specific countries based upon the “best endeavours” service levels of their logistics partners.
4. Ensure proactive communication
Once upon a time, it was sufficient to send a message to your customer advising them of order acceptance and they would happily sit tight and wait for their goods to arrive. Not so now. Today’s online consumer expects real-time updates advising them of dispatch and of the parcel being processed through each stage of the shipping and delivery process. This will include emails, marketplace messages, SMS and mobile application notification. Proactive communication is essential in keeping your customer informed before they start to ask “where’s my item?” but it also avoids customers tying up your time and resources with enquiring calls and messages which are often borne out of frustration and so often lead to poor seller ratings.
5. Provide order tracking options
It is now a must for online retailers to offer trackable delivery solutions, and provide customers with a tracking number or link upon dispatch.
Enabling a customer to track their own parcel offers a great service and means you don’t have to do it for them. Most couriers (and Amazon) provide handy graphical trackers showing each and every step in the parcel’s journey allowing the customer to track its movements with pinpoint accuracy right to their doorstep. Some couriers offer mobile applications as well as or instead of mobile-ready websites that afford the customer greater insight and control including real-time communication with the delivery driver. It’s precisely this kind of efficiency, flexibility and immediacy that consumers have come to expect.
6. Make your order returns policy easy and flexible
According to UPS, almost two thirds of online shoppers have returned a product purchased online. The perceived hassle of returning online shopping was one of the early objections cited by customers to it. But just as free shipping has become less a differentiator and more an expectation, so has a free and a no-questions-asked returns policy. Indeed the ease with which a customer may return an order, quickly get a refund upon returning the goods, and the flexibility and length of time afforded the customer to return an item have become competitive differentiators.
Many online retailers now offer up to five ways of returning orders:
Including a prepaid label in the original delivery box together with the RMA form
Online process for applying for a return authorization and prepaid shipping label
Collection by courier
Return to store
Smaller online retailers still place the onus on the customer to package and pay for returns but we think those days are numbered. Once returned, customers expect rapid refunds and once the goods have been received and inspected, there’s really no excuse for holding onto your customer’s money. As for Giving customers more time to return goods, they are protected by and you are governed by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 which sets out the customer’s statutory rights. But many retailers offer more flexible returns policies and in general these are more likely to enable you to build a more enduring relationship with your customer.
7. Save time with shipping automation
In isolation, Amazon, eBay and other marketplaces have gone a long way to automate this complex process for sellers and buyers alike. Several of the leading webstore platforms have also developed easy integration with couriers as well some for mono-channel retailers, automation is well, automatic. But for multi-or omni-channel retailers, managing the shipping of orders can be the most complex and time consuming affair.
Employing a multi-channel ecommerce platform provides a single user interface coupled to each of your sales channels via system integration. Such a system will save time, minimize errors, and automate processes like the application of shipping rules, the creation and printing of labels, management of tracking numbers as well as customer and courier communication.
ChannelGrabber’s shipping features enable you to manage multi-channel order processing and shipping with the same ease and speed as you used to experience with just your webstore. With it’s convenient, easy to use interface, ChannelGrabber provides you with an efficient and effective means of managing the dispatch of your orders and avoids you logging into multiple systems and websites. And by shipping faster and without errors, ChannelGrabber helps to improve customer experience and your seller ratings too.
And don't forget, ChannelGrabber's multi-channel ecommerce software helps you to automate the management of listings, stock, orders, shipping and messaging so frees up your time to focus on making more sales!