A multichannel approach is essential for online retailers.
An Econsultancy study found that 86% of consumers use a range of channels before they make a purchase. In addition, research by UPS found that globally, cross-channel purchases are growing and argued that retailers must optimise their sales channels and purchasing journeys for today’s ‘highly evolved shoppers’. An eCommerce merchant clearly has to cover all the bases and sell via every platform, to ensure they are getting maximum impression share.
Aside from achieving maximum reach across channels, how can merchants ensure that their shipping offering is appropriate to consumer demands?
If the strategy is to make delivery more flexible, scalable and adaptive to externalities, here is a range of essential tactics that an online seller must consider implementing.
Utilise Multiple Carriers
Because multichannel retailers tend to have broader customer bases, they are likely to have a greater need for differentiation.
Offering a range of carrier options will give your customers the power to choose how quickly they receive their item, depending on their level of urgency.
It is important to be able to adapt quickly to external influences. Retailers who are reliant on a single parcel carrier can experience a halt in service if the carrier has issues.
Utilising multiple carriers also empowers the retailer with the most appropriate shipping service for each country and market they serve. Carriers can also be suited to particular product categories, which can vary enormously by dimensions and weight.
Carriers also offer different levels of insurance; therefore online merchants must decide whether it is worthwhile paying the extra for more cover. Additionally, they must strike an effective compromise between item value and transit cost.
In addition to the overall delivery time, it’s increasingly important that items are tracked effectively during the delivery process. Greater visibility helps the multichannel retailer in many ways. Not only are they able to send clients delivery status notifications; with sufficient data transparency they can notify customers proactively.
This allows the shipping provider’s customer service team to have detailed parcel status information readily on hand for if the customer calls in.
Not only can shipping status notifications be on hand for the carrier’s customer service team; they can also be pushed to the end user via text and email if required, helping to avoid ‘return to sender’ incidents and to reduce the number of tracking queries, which ultimately can increase a merchant’s seller ratings, improve customer feedback and carrier experience.
Offer Seamless Returns
Offering a clear returns policy is a powerful tool for increasing customer retention rates. Unfortunately this option is not viable for every business model. Apparel retailers, with their lightweight items, can factor returns into their pricing with more ease than, for example, a company which sells bulkier homewares.
19% of consumers in a recent study said they ordered multiple versions of the same item to make up their mind at home. However, the number of product variations within a single SKU is likely to influence the likelihood of customers following this trend.
Offer Free Shipping
As a general rule, you should always offer free shipping and factor the cost into your product price, although how important offering this is depends on a number of factors, one of which being your customers’ age.
The UPS Survey, Pulse of the Online Shopper found that 54% of buyers 65 and older were willing to wait a week to get their packages if the goods were shipped for free, whereas a mere 22% of shoppers between 18 and 24 were willing to make the same trade-off.
Free shipping can also be utilised as one of your key unique selling points; the same study found that 54% of shoppers are likely to take advantage of an email offer for free shipping. If free shipping isn’t viable for your business model, then the next best option would be to use free shipping as an incentive for your website visitors to reach a certain order value.
Another source from Alix Partners found that 69% of 1,016 respondents cited free shipping as a major factor in their buying decisions.
25% of respondents rated the cost of delivery as being a ‘top 3 factor’ that influenced their decision to make a purchase from an online store, catalogue, television program or commercial. 36% of the same respondents rated ‘cost of delivery being too high’ as being one of their top 3 reasons that kept them from ordering products from the same channels.
To give merchants the best chance of success in such a competitive, albeit fast-growing market, they need to be wary of potential threats and be able to deal with fluctuating demand and consumer expectations.
Treat the shipping element of your company’s offering as a unique selling point, and give it as much attention as you do to your products. Utilise multiple carriers to ensure your business can respond to problems with carrier networks by switching seamlessly to a different provider, and ensure that your customer service offering is proactive and not reactive to ensure a happy customer base.
Parcelhub is a multi-carrier shipping and customer services solution. Flexible and scalable, it integrates seamlessly with order management systems, providing hundreds of eCommerce and wholesale businesses with one access point to many of the largest UK and international parcel carriers.
Multi-channel eCommerce platforms are easily integrated and dedicated pro-active parcel management comes as standard.
Distributing more than 4 million parcels on its own carrier contracts every year, Parcelhub’s multi-carrier shipping software grants hundreds of European businesses access to 'pooled volume' discounted rates from its carefully selected range of carrier partners, including: Yodel, Hermes, DPD, UK Mail, DHL, Whistl, UPS, DX, Parcelforce, CollectPlus, SkyNet, Panther Logistics, Direct Link and Palletforce.