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How to perfect the shipping process

Gone are the days where consumers chose where to shop based solely on product and price. A merchant’s chance at winning market share and remaining competitive is now strictly linked to its ability to deliver an impeccable shopping experience. A key part of this is the shipping process.

If you think the ‘buying’ experience ends after hitting the ‘order now’ button, think again. Once the purchase has been made, the retailer’s job is far from over; and four out of five customers will not shop with the same retailer again if the experience is bad.

Surprisingly, not all retailers have caught on to this: only 29% of businesses are planning to invest in perfecting the final mile of the buying journey and, as a result, 69% of shoppers are not happy with the delivery service they receive.

However, this means the opportunity for shipping savvy retailers to have a competitive advantage is huge.

The power of choice

Delivery needs differ for every merchant and their respective customers’ expectations. With the eCommerce phenomenon booming globally, there is a very diverse range of both products as well as buyer personas out there, all with different logistical needs when it comes to ordering online. Therefore, retailers who offer one generic delivery option will likely disappoint many of their customers.

Supporting multiple shipping methods is the way forward. Vendors should enable dynamic options like hyperlocal or same-day delivery for shoppers based in city centres; and provide specified time-slot deliveries or strategic drop-off locations for those based in the suburbs. Today’s consumer also expects to be able to by online and pickup in store or have a physical store arrange delivery to their home if something is out of stock.

Shipping options such as these make the final part of the buying journey convenient and frictionless for the consumer which results in higher conversions and repeat purchases. Merchants should experiment, test and measure different shipping options and propositions to see what brings the best uplift and outcomes.

Getting it done

We know this is easier said than done. Behind the scenes of an efficient shipping strategy are hundreds of well-planned, smooth-running procedures and logistics. Once the order is processed, it’s picked out from a shelf in a warehouse full of thousands of other items, packaged and put on a lorry to its destination – logistics teams should ensure that nothing goes wrong in this phase in order for the product to get to the customer on time.

Shipping from physical stores, that may be closer to the end consumer, can enable faster deliveries in rural areas. Additionally, this can reduce costs & the need for discounting by shipping stock from stores that have a surplus of certain items.

Ordering online can be a risk since shoppers aren’t able to try on or see their purchases in real-life. So, retailers should also aim to simplify the returns process by allowing the customer to choose the most suitable method. Offering a flexible cross-channel returns service including  free mailed returns, return-to-store or drop-off at a collection point give the consumer choice and flexibility and makes them more likely to order again.

Additionally, traditional inventory tracking systems are often inaccurate, causing sold out stock to appear available on the web store. Trying to fulfil an order with product that isn’t actually there will obviously slow down the process and disappoint the customer. Retailers should choose and integrate a modern ERP system: having real-time inventory visibility will help optimise available stock and avoid costly mistakes.

The money might already be in the bank once the sale is complete, but the customer’s loyalty won’t be secured until the product is delivered. That’s why the final mile cannot be an afterthought. Varied shipping options and automated ordering procedures might just be what retailers need to perfect this delicate phase of the experience.

By David Wise, Director Channel Sales EMEA at Magento, an Adobe company

About the author

David runs Channel for the EMEA region. He helps partners build merchant sites that optimize customer experience and increase revenue. With more than 17 years of experience developing and nurturing partnerships, he has deep knowledge of digital commerce and extended business technologies. Prior to Magento, David held sales and channel director roles at global companies including Oracle, LivePerson, and Verint. He is based out of London.

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