Every year, the cost of shipping increases alongside customer demands for shipping accuracy and speed. The more mature ecommerce becomes as an industry, the higher the expectations.
No time of the year is more critical for shipping than the holidays. Poor or sloppy shipping efforts have a direct impact on the bottom line in terms of lost revenue and increased costs. The following are a few simple tips for staying on top of shipping this holiday season:
1. Always provide tracking numbers.
Provide tracking numbers to customers as soon as the goods are packed and ready to ship. For most ecommerce companies, inquiries about shipping status puts a huge burden on the customer-support team, which translates into decreased efficiency and increased costs (companies need more people on staff during the holidays to handle these inquiries).
By providing tracking numbers right away, the majority of the time customers can answer their own questions, preventing them from calling. What’s more, tracking communications can serve as a free marketing channel, enabling you to include discount codes and other offers in an email you know customers open and read.
2. Get orders out the door ASAP.
Speed is key for saving money on shipping. The quicker orders get out the door the sooner they get to the customer. If you become efficient at shipping orders out, you can even start purchasing cheaper (essentially, slower) shipping.
This can be accomplished by having existing staff put more emphasis on preparing orders. Often, orders are left for the end of the day or the next day, and if you tack on another day or a weekend that's the difference between a first or ground rate and an express rate (and money out of pocket).
Once you have the order-prep process down, promote it via your website Every customer should know you ship within 24, 12 or six hours of an order. It's a huge differentiator, and will lead to increased sales and customer satisfaction.
3. Have tight packaging.
Don’t pay to ship half full boxes. Packaging should be as tight to the goods as possible. With almost all carriers and service levels, there are huge advantages to shipping the smallest amount, dimensionally. The savings for these types of optimizations are often 50 percent or more.
4. Don't make returns too easy.
If you have a return policy, make your goods easy to return, but not too easy. For example, don't include a return label in the box. Instead, provide a form or a simple process to get the customer a return label. By including a label in the box, it makes it too easy for customers to make frivolous returns that in turn cost your business extra dollars.
5. Make up for the costs of “Free Shipping.”
With Amazon as the model, all customers expect free shipping. But their expectations are often not as high in terms of the product price. As such, offer free shipping but bulk the costs into the items themselves.
Remember, the commitment is to free shipping, not fast shipping. Many sellers worry about the cost of providing free shipping. However, if you're selling unique goods, and you're not up against a competitor selling the same goods, you can bulk the shipping costs into the cost of the item. An item that costs $29.99 with free shipping is always a better price than $24.99 plus $5 shipping.
As the pressure continues to increase for faultless shipping, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve. These are simple tips that will make your ecommerce operation seem bigger, better and will make you more equipped to handle increased customer demands, all of which will not only save you money but also promote sales.