Small ecommerce businesses have a lot to live up to. Large retailers like Amazon have completely changed the customer experience when it comes to shopping online. More specifically, the company’s free shipping model for Prime customers has caused many buyers to grow accustomed to receiving their online orders free of charge.
However, fast and free shipping isn’t always possible or reasonably affordable for small retailers. And in some cases, customers might not actually value free shipping as much as other aspects of the buying process. So rather than focusing all of your efforts on trying to beat Amazon when it comes to cost and convenience, you could be better off creating a positive experience in other ways. Here are some of the most important things to think about as you shape your shipping processes and policies.
Improve the Shopping Experience
You might not be able to compete with Amazon when it comes to large warehouses full of ready-to-ship products . But as a small retailer with a specific niche of customers that you serve, you do have the opportunity to tailor the experience to their preferences or provide them with fun extras they can’t get anywhere else.
For example, you might offer product customization so people can add unique details or personalized messages to their orders before they’re shipped. Or you could provide a shopping app that offers product suggestions tailored to each individual’s preferences. Research your specific customers and the types of experiences they’re drawn to when shaping these extras.
Reduce Shipping Costs
Even though free shipping is not a must for every consumer, most buyers still do not want to pay exorbitant prices to receive their orders. But reducing costs as much as possible isn’t just about shopping around for the best rate.
You also need to consider how the shipping process impacts your business. If you can quickly print product labels and schedule pickups when orders go out, you can reduce the amount of resources that you need to dedicate to that part of your business. SendPro® Online from Pitney Bowes is one system that allows you to easily set up processes, print postage and schedule pickups online. This allows you to cut down on those trips to the post office or other shipping providers and dedicate your efforts elsewhere in your small business.
Avoid Cutting into Profits When Offering Free Shipping
If you do offer free shipping on all or select orders from your shop, you can do so without passing all of the costs along to customers through increased product prices or extra fees. You might choose to only offer free shipping on certain products with a high margin or for customers who have shopped with you before, since you’re not investing in extra marketing to bring in those customers. You could also set a minimum order value as a way of increasing your margins for each package you have to ship out. These options, along with streamlining your shipping processes, can help you keep costs manageable, both for you and your customers.
1-Day Shipping vs. Free Shipping
In some cases, customers might value fast shipping over free shipping. This may be especially relevant for gift items or products of convenience, like tools or materials used in home projects. It’s not always possible for small businesses to offer both free shipping and one-day shipping, since you’ll likely need to work outside of your normal shipping processes to get items out on time. However, you could simply offer fast shipping as an option and give customers the ability to pay more for it. If they don’t need the item right away, then they can just opt to have their order shipped for free or a lower cost at a later date.
Follow Up After Purchases
The shopping experience doesn’t end once the customer has received their item. By following up with them afterward, you show them how much you value their business. And it gives them the opportunity to ask questions or raise concerns if they have them, rather than just complaining to friends or writing a negative review online.
For example, say you recently sold a set of glasses to a customer and they arrived broken. When you reach out to them on the day their product is scheduled to arrive, or perhaps a day later, you can simply state that you hope they enjoy their product and to reach out if they have any concerns. Then when they receive their item, they know exactly how to contact you. They don’t have to search around your website for a number or email address. It simplifies the experience for them. And if the products arrive in good condition, this type of message still lets customers know how much you care about their experience.
Offer Hassle-Free Returns
Returns and exchanges are also essential for many online shoppers. Since they do not have the opportunity to see your products up close and interact with them before buying, they’re essentially taking a risk when pressing that buy button. The ability for them to return items without an extra charge or a huge hassle can dramatically mitigate that risk.
You should always have a clear returns policy available to online shoppers so they know what to expect. And you should have a method in place to quickly process those returns and get a refund or exchange out to those customers right away. Not every customer will take advantage of this option. But it’s important to build in some returns to your operating budget. This gives you an opportunity to turn around any negative experiences that customers may have had and make it right so they continue to patronize your business going forward. SendPro® Online can also help you track packages and manage aspects of the return process so you are able to streamline this step and provide all the necessary information to customers.
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