It's no secret: Shipping is one of the most essential factors in closing ecommerce sales. We know, and it has been proven, that offering free shipping can further boost sales. But step back for a minute and think about how you present your shipping information to your customers. How and when you present it can be as important as the shipping offer itself. Customers want to know how much it is going to cost to ship their order, and you better have the answers easily available for them, or risk losing the sale. Here are ten different best practices to consider when dealing with shipping:
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? Not happy, correct? It's not right, and your customers won't go for it. The questions, "How much does shipping cost?," and, "How fast can I get it?," are first in a customer's mind, and to force them to login 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 places 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 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) by 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, to increase that average 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 the Norm. Ship Express Orders Same Day. Customers want things fast. Even if they purchased three to five 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 one business day. There is no reason to sit on orders, and doing so increases your chances of the order not arriving on time, which 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. An example of terminology for this type of method might be, "All orders received before 1 pm. EST are shipped the same day."
8. Provide Tracking Numbers. You should be doing this already, 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 they want the ability 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 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 your customers will appreciate this small gesture 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 point. 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 reshipping the order, then do it.
10. Under Promise, Over Deliver. Don't try promising something you can't back up. Give yourself a shipping cushion. To avoid unrealistic delivery times, you may want to add one or two (or even three) days' padding on to your delivery times estimates (except for overnight, one and two day options). Companies like Dell and Amazon.com tend to do this pretty well in most circumstances. They say, "3-5 day shipping," for example, and the package arrives in two days.
I like to provide the cushion, so that if it gets to the customer in five days, they are still happy. If it gets there early, they are excited. However, if you offered two day shipping and it arrived in three, the customer will be mad. Give a window and deliver ASAP. Your customers will thank you for it.
How many of these ten best practices do you follow? No matter the answer, this article should help you broaden your perspective on how important shipping alone is to your online business success.
Eric Leuenberger is an ecommerce conversion marketing expert and author of a leading Ecommerce blog at www.TheEcommerceExpert.com. He coaches store owners using his online coaching system www.EcommerceAmplifier.com, teaching them how to increase website sales using his proven six step process. He can be contacted at 866-602-2673.
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