10 Ecommerce Shipping Best Practices

November 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Articles, Marketing Strategies

With the holidays just around the corner it helps to know at least some of what customers search for in the way of promotions online. You should already know what your customer base likes as far as promos go, but there hasn’t been a better time to take a good look at your shipping policy and process.

By now you should know that free shipping is a sales driver—it always has been and likely always will be. But for some, a good refresher helps. A quick view of Google Trends shows you the weight that free shipping plays especially during the holidays.

Here’s some more proof that free shipping is high on customer want lists. And here’s a post that shows the sales results generated from testing various types of shipping promotions (although there were tested during none holiday seasons.)

Shipping Best Practices

1. Don’t Make Customers Login to Get Shipping Rates: How would you feel if you went shopping on the internet and found that you had to login just to view shipping rates? Lousy huh? It’s not right, and your customers won’t go for it. The questions of “how much does shipping cost” and “how fast can I get it” are top of the customers mind and to make them login in order to get it will cost you precious sales. Customers should be able to see the cost for shipping on the shopping cart page and it should be an option on the product pages as well. If you base your prices on the location where the order will be shipped, give people the ability to enter their zip code for a quote.

2. Include Shipping Info on all Product Pages: The product info page is one of those pages where shipping questions often arise. Customers want to know if “I add this item to my cart, how much is it going to cost to ship it.” As a result, giving the customers the ability to see shipping times and costs from or on the product pages should be an option. Offering a link to the shipping rates and policies is a good idea but an even better one is using something like AJAX or a tabbed view to enable the customer to get their shipping rates without the need to leave the page they are on.

3. Link to Shipping Page from Shopping Cart: In the shopping cart where customers select the shipping method, be sure to provide more information regarding each what they can expect with each option.

4. Don’t Try to Make a lot of Money off Shipping: Customers are shoppers and can find shipping rates for similar items (on competitor sites) very easily. They are often sensitive to high shipping prices. Don’t attempt to make “more money” (profit from) raising shipping and handling rates. It will backfire on you.

5. Consider Offering Free Shipping at Level Above your Average Order Value: If your average order value is $45, consider offering free shipping at $55 in to increase that average value. Here are 4 more tips for increasing for increasing your average order value.

6. Show Delivery Estimates by Region: On your shipping page, show a map of UPS or Fedex estimated delivery times based on region. These graphics are often provided by your shipping carriers and can easily be downloaded and placed on your site.

7. Ship Next Business Day as a Norm. Ship Express Orders Same Day: Customers want things fast. Even if they purchased 3-5 day shipping, you need to make sure you get all orders out the door the next day (that being at least the day after the order arrived.) In general, make it a point to process orders within 1 business day. There is no reason to sit on orders and doing so increases your chances of the order not arriving on time—and that leads to unhappy customers.

For those that choose “1 Day Express”, “2 Day Express” etc… shipping methods (if you offer them), consider shipping these orders the same day you get the order in (up to a certain cut-off time.) Express means that and you should treat the shipment that way. An example of terminology for this type of method might be “All orders received before 1:00 PM EST are shipped the same day”.

8. Provide Tracking Numbers: You should be doing already this but it needs to be mentioned. A critical time to start building customer relationships is directly after an order. Customers want to know that the order they placed has in fact been received, and want to be able to track that package’s progress to their doorstep.

As soon as you receive the tracking numbers and shipping information you should promptly email your customers promptly and relay that tracking info to them. If your system enables it make the tracking number a link directly to the carrier’s website (or your own) which pulls up the delivery schedule for them. It provides an extra layer of usability and that small gesture will be appreciated by your customer in the long run.

9. Don’t Ignore or Point Fingers on Lost Shipments: If you ship any level of items over the Internet it is bound to happen at some time. A shipment will get lost in the shuffle. Although it may not be your fault, you need to work with the customer to correct the situation. Don’t point fingers. Instead help solve the problem. If that means re-shipping the order then do it.

10. Under Promise, Over-deliver: Don’t try promise something you can’t back up. Give yourself a shipping cushion. To avoid unrealistic delivery times, you may want to add 1 or 2 (or even 3) days padding on to your delivery times estimates (except for overnight, 1 and 2 day options of course.) Companies like Dell and Amazon.com tend to do this pretty well (for the most part). They say “3-5 day shipping” (for example) and you get the package in 2 days.

I like to provide the cushion so that if it gets to the customer in 5 days they are still happy. If it gets there early they are excited. But if you offered 2 day shipping and they got it in 3 they would be mad. Get the idea? Give a window and deliver asap. You’re customers will thank you for it.