There are many things that go towards creating a memorable eCommerce experience. From site layout and aesthetic appeal to ease of navigation and intuitive site architecture, ease of use is paramount in eCommerce. Factors like large and attractive product images, upfront pricing and multiple payment options are other advantages that successful eCommerce sites have in common.
Before you enhance this user experience, you need to make sure the functionality – including inventory, ordering, and payments – is foolproof. A robust eCommerce platform that scales is usually enough to take care of all of these challenges.
Now, most of the myriad behind-the-scenes cogs that keep the eCommerce wheel turning are automated. However, there is one piece of the ultimate user experience puzzle that even the best eCommerce platform can’t handle.
And that’s the final mile of shipping and delivery of the goods bought online.
Shipping Options and the eCommerce Experience
For a generation used to instant gratification, eCommerce shipping is expected to be quick and reliable. Even more important than speed is often the price paid for shipping. In an ideal world, eCommerce shipping would be fast, free and unfailingly dependable. But you and I, both know that such utopian expectations rarely have parallels in reality. What we can do is help our deliveries come as close to this ideal as possible. Here are a few ideas on beefing up your store’s shipping muscles.
Be upfront about total costs
According to the Baymard Institute, over 68% of all shopping sessions are abandoned midway for one reason or the other. Being presented with unexpected costs is the number one reason why online shoppers abandon their shopping carts.
This means, your conversion rate could actually be many times higher if only you took care of the reasons why users abandon their shopping carts. Start with the biggest reason – hidden costs.
And hidden obviously includes shipping, because over half of the total eCommerce transactions in the U.S. eliminate shipping charges.
Your customers do not expect to pay extra for shipping and delivery if you’re in the same country. If you thought that abandoned shopping carts are a problem that happens to other sites and not yours, think again.
A creative addition to your site would be a simple shipping cost calculator that actually empowers shoppers and tells them upfront how much they would pay for shipping before they even reach the final payments page.
Offer free shipping above a threshold on an everyday basis
An unbelievably large majority of online shoppers would like to have free shipping as a standard feature on the sites they shop on.
While offering completely free shipping can undercut already wafer-thin margins that most ecommerce sites operate on, a creative way to offer free shipping while also ensuring a larger order value is to set a minimum shopping amount threshold for free shipping.
A study from Wharton suggested that when free shipping is a part of the deal offered by online retailers, shoppers tend to spend 30% more per order on an average. And Red Door Interactive tested it out on a skin care ecommerce website. The result? Orders increased by a whopping 90%!
Thus, research and practical experiments have both shown that minimum order value limits tend to push shoppers to buy more just to qualify for the free shipping offer. Win-win!
Hold fully free shipping days
Specialty retailers like Nordstrom and Zappos manage to offer free shipping all year round, presumably by building shipping costs into their pricing structure. However, that is not a route too many online sellers take, partly due to low product differentiation and partly due to lack of brand recognition.
What the average online retailers can consider instead are fully free shipping days as promotional stunts, especially in the holiday season. With retail heavyweights like Target and BestBuy endorsing free shipping during the holiday season, this is a surefire tactic to grow volumes, if not margins.
December 18 is now celebrated as Free Shipping Day in the U.S., Canada and UK. Nothing’s stopping you from having your own Free Shipping Day, exclusive to your store.
A thing to keep in mind is to not abuse this tactic by running it every now and then. The beauty of this sort of a promotion is that it’s rare and shoppers look forward to it, turning it into an appointment shopping event.
Adopt shipping memberships a la Amazon Prime
Amazon has a long list of firsts against its name. The super successful Prime membership is one of its stellar achievements that has set the stage for the rest to follow. Prime membership offers shoppers the option of getting free deliveries within two working days in return for an annual membership fee of $99.
Studies show that thanks to the free shipping aspect of a Prime membership, members tend to shop more and more often on Amazon than non-members who are forced to pay for their shipping with each purchase.
No wonder then that Amazon Prime has inspired Walmart to launch its own version of a shipping membership program called Shipping Pass, at almost half the price as Prime.
Add a personal touch
Buying online may have its advantages like ease of access, 24X7 open online stores, delivery to your doorstep and more. Yet online retail accounts for only about 7% of total retail sales in the United States. The human factor is where brick and mortar retail still trumps over its electronic counterpart. Very few things can replace a warm smile and a helping hand from a shop assistant or the touch and feel of a silk scarf the customer wants to buy.
One way to make up for this lack of face-to-face interaction in ecommerce is by adding your own personal touch at the delivery stage. A handwritten note, preferably addressing the customer by name and thanking them for their purchase is not just unexpected but unexpectedly heartwarming. Check out this example from Vain Pursuits, which takes “personalized” skin care to a new level with handwritten instructions, suggestions and tips:
Nothing makes your brand more memorable than an emotional chord you’ve managed to strike with your customer.
Bonus: Optimize deliveries
Reducing delivery time, even beyond the promised delivery time is a fabulous way to offer extra value to your shoppers without charging them anything extra. All it takes is a system that can optimize your delivery methods based on various key factors like customer location, location of your warehouses, available shipping carriers, and so on.
A tool like OrderStream helps you minimize delivery times by spreading out your inventory across a network of warehouses across the country and applying real-time algorithms to assign each delivery based on the distance between the customer and the nearest warehouses. It also calculates optimal shipping methods to adopt for each delivery – why spend on air freight or FedEx, when the promised delivery times can be met with ground transport or USPS?
The more precisely you’re able to calculate and estimate your delivery times, the more customer trust you gain. Again, Amazon leads the pack here:
Shipping is all often relegated to the unglamorous world of “operations” and forgotten about entirely. Don’t make this rookie mistake. Expecting deliverance by embracing the power of shipping is a smart business move made by the best in the business.
Feature image credit: Visitor7, Wikimedia Commons
Tracy Vides is a content marketer and social media consultant. She works with small businesses, ecommerce retailers and startups to increase their visibility. Tracy loves to share her insights on business and tech online - her articles have been featured on Tech Cocktail, Steamfeed, Sprout Content, and elsewhere.
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