Shipping is not something you arrange and then forget. Every single customer that buys from your ecommerce website will be dealing with shipping, and you can bet that they care about it. This is one of the most important pages on your website. In many cases, shipping policies are both a deal breaker and a deal maker. In fact, shipping provider costs and times are one of the biggest sources of customer complaints and indeed the single greatest issue in the online consumer’s mind. You cannot be too vigilant in this area. Here are a few things you can do to make shipping a non-issue in your ecommerce website.
- Post a shipping policy. Customer will be both more likely to buy and less likely to complain if they know exactly what to expect. This is true even if your shipping is slightly overpriced and time-consuming. People will not buy if they do not know what to expect, so you save a lot of headaches by being open and honest.
- Exceed expectations. Your shipping policy should be the minimum, the worst case scenario. You should be always trying to do a little better than you promised. Consider a package that takes five days to arrive. If you are expecting it to take one or two weeks, you are completely happy to receive it in five days. You will see the ecommerce website as trustworthy and respectful of your needs. If on the other hand, you expected it to be on your doorstep in two days, you will feel disappointed and inconvenienced, even if you don’t particularly need it in a certain time frame. You will probably never buy from that retailer again, or do so with great reluctance because they did not hold up their end of the bargain.
- Show shipping options, along with prices and approximate time frames, on product pages and shopping cart pages. Your customers should always know exactly what to expect. In most cases, they will not expect you to move the moon to deliver their order; they merely want to be informed. This is especially true for large and/or bulky orders. FedEx and UPS both offer tools that make this easy to incorporate into your ecommerce website product pages.
- Avoid USPS. Because it is a government entity and not a private business, the US Postal Service can be downright lackadaisical about delivering within time frames. This can be a business-killer because you will be the one blamed when a package does not arrive on time.
- Reconsider free or flat-rate shipping. Customers love free or flat-rate shipping; no question about that. However, you have to really consider whether your business can support this for the rest of its life. Ecommerce websites that offer flat rate shipping, such as Overstock.com, build additional shipping costs into their product prices. In many cases, customers are willing to pay a higher cost just to get the reassurance on shipping rates. However, offering these prices is a lifetime commitment. Taking away free shipping has killed ecommerce websites, even when the free shipping was part of a special, limited time deal. We aren’t saying no to offer these benefits, merely to make sure they are sustainable and do not cut heavily into your profits or long-term viability.