Ecommerce business is not only about storing and selling items. Merchant’s job includes following the order till the customer’s doorstep. Handling the order fulfilment in the right way means earning positive reputation and gaining loyal customers, while leaving shipping issues unattended the moment after the order was shipped causes lots of lost packages, broken deadlines and disappointed customers, which will never visit your online store again. Consumer patronage is built not solely on the prices and product quality, but also on timing, and some e-retailers tend to neglect that.
However, with a decent amount of planning and care you can solve most shipping problems you are struggling with and avoid them in the future. In this article we will cover most common and sometimes not that obvious ecommerce fulfillment problems and offer solutions for them.
1. Lack of shipping options
Every customer is different and you can’t decide for everyone what is best for them. Even if the only shipping option you go for in your store is super fast but also costs a pretty penny, or it is a dirt-cheap flat rate and takes an eternity to arrive, it won’t satisfy a great deal of your customers and strike cart abandonment rate higher.
The solution to this is simply giving customers the choice. Consider getting both flat rate and specific shipping services according to the type of products you sell.
Let your customers choose based on the time period
Let your customers choose when their package will arrive. Some want cheap shipping, and others want fast shipping. You can also provide multiple carrier options within one shipping method with Extended Table Rate Shipping extension for Magento to offer your customers wider choice.
2. Shipping is limited to some countries
Even if you are sure your product range is rather domestic and most of your orders would always come from a specific region, with no international shipping you might be missing out on a bunch of opportunities — from a few occasional sales to a whole new market for your goods.
With geographic shipping restrictions you lose customers before they add an item to the cart. Meanwhile some merchants are scared off by cross-border fulfilment fees and papers, recent ecommerce studies show that 40% of people who buy online order something from another country at least once, and just offering international shipping increases the revenue by 15%.
So, expanding your business to other countries is challenging, but the statistics are on your side. To begin with, consider a possibility of offering an international flat rate shipping option in your online store. Unless you sell goods prohibited for export, of course.
3. Too high or unexpected shipping costs
28% of online shoppers abandon their carts if the shipping costs are too high for their expectations. It’s not that customers are not aware that certain charges may be applied for shipping if they shop online, it is more about not expecting to be suddenly asked to pay more than it was stated before. Applying or increasing shipping costs only at the checkout stage causes customer anxiety, the impression gets spoiled, and the order is never being placed.
The simplest solution, of course, is obvious. Sometimes you can reduce the shipping costs in lots of ways, but not all retailers can afford that. There are ways to increase your sales without cutting costs off. In order to not turn your customers away by unwanted costs, welcome them with logically structured order process:
- Always provide preliminary shipping costs at the product page to prevent unpleasant surprise at the checkout.
- Define customer geolocation to apply valid shipping costs for their region automatically.
- Ask about shipping address and method before asking for billing information, that puts customer interests first and helps avoid confusion.
Be forward with shipping costs
4. Free shipping
No matter how low your shipping price is, free shipping tag is still more appealing and eye-catching. Online shoppers spend 30% more on orders with free shipping, and about 80% are more eager to decide on a purchase if free shipping is involved. Therefore, free shipping option is not a waste, but a measured marketing tactic, which ideally helps you to preserve your profit margin high while driving your customers to increase cart size.
There are ways to optimize free shipping to the sales volume of your store. People would rather pay more for the product rather than pay a little more for shipping, so consider offering a free shipping for certain orders which price amounts exceed a certain volume, or rewarding customers with free shipping for certain actions that benefit you.
Encourage people to get free shipping
To expand the range of products with free shipping, you can adjust the prices so they include basic shipping costs. Remember that people are more willing to pay for the product rather than for the shipping and consider what you spend on free shipping as an advertising budget.
5. Address validation
It takes a single typo or a wrong number to make the order shipping process go completely wrong. If an error occurs, someone has to pay to fix it. In most cases, your business must pay for return shipment, order replacement and other service fees. Needles to say, besides losing money, you can also lose a customer.
Shipping address validation prevents plenty of mistakes that can occur on the way of the shipped order. Using an address verification service reduces the risk of shipping the order to a wrong place and therefore saves you from the necessity to replace or refund the order. Automatic build-in address verification prevents customer from entering invalid address and helps to identify fraudulent orders before they are shipped. You can provide a better customer experience and boost conversion rate by simplifying the process of filling customer information up. Autocompleting saves time and converts customer data to the correct format. Also, address validation is proven to help customers finish and place their order.
6. Item out of stock after being ordered
Sometimes your customers are slightly too passionate about things that you sell and buy more items than you can provide, or there is a mistake in your warehouse inventory you missed. You have not only a warehousing problem to fix, but also a frustrated customer who already paid.
There is actually not much you can do to fix everything immediately. The most important thing for you to take care of in the first place is customer experience. Threat every issue personally, and provide the solution as fast as you can. The best way to round off the edges and not lose a customer is to offer them something better than a plain refund. For example, a coupon code, a discount or free shipping for the next order.
The best way to deal with issues like that is never letting them happen. Keep track of stock levels in your Magento store with Low Stock Indicator extension to always be notified when the product is almost sold out
7. No tracking offered
If there is no tracking number or it is wrong, the chances are high your customer won’t get their order and you are the one who going to pay for that. Even the possibility of that happening can cause buyer anxiety. Customers are not likely to return to an online store which caused them an inconvenience of not knowing their order status. Not offering at least one tracking option is a lottery for both the retailer and the customer, because it would not be possible to find the package if it is lost, or recalculate a more accurate delivery date is the delivery is delayed.
An ecommerce store must always ensure customers in its reliability. Don’t hesitate to use order tracking software because it will save you a lot of money later. It also saves time from replying to customers making endless enquiries about their order status. Detailed real-time tracking makes overall customer experience more positive even if the shipping is delayed, since it gives assurance that the package is not lost and on its way. It is also very convenient for you as a business owner to get shipping information and updates about an order wherever you require it.
8. Wrong packaging
Trying to save money on packaging by using the cheapest materials and fitting items into boxes of wrong size won’t get you too far. Lightweight tiny items don’t need huge hollow boxes, as well as fragile and heavy items require special packaging that should prevent them from being broken. Paying a lot for a premium class product, customers would feel deceived if they get it in damaged cheap packaging. Flexing your packaging to the needs of your product range allows you to set the best possible shipping rates.
- First of all, know your items dimensions to avoid the misuse of boxes. There is no need to pay more for shipping air.
- Secondly, packaging should correlate with the product type and price, be appropriate in size, and be as light as possible considering the dimensions and weight item shipped.
9. Shipping delays
No matter how experienced you are and which sustainable shipping services you use, there are cases when delivery is delayed due to various reasons. You can’t control weather or other external conditions which influence shipping efficiency, but you minimize the risks by completing the following:
- Double-check everything. Make sure you ask your customers all shipping information you need to proceed the delivery.
- Never promise what you aren’t able to do. Customers believe you and expect all information about delivery time and conditions to be quite precise.
- Communicate with your customers. If a delay has happened, the best you can do is to be polite, point out the reasons of the delay as detailed as possible, and be patient about your customers’ questions.
- Make sure to always provide updates. Approximate delivery day is especially important if the package is long-awaited. Make sure to recalculate the delivery day according to order status updates if it is delayed.
10. Complicated return services
Having a return policy is a must for online business because returns happen 3 times more often with online purchases. That makes a little less than 10% of all online orders. Wrong items and wrong sizes sent, and damaged items make it the merchant’s job to provide return policy and handle the consequences. Since 63% of online shoppers check for a possibility to make a return, a return policy that isn't clear and hard to find can frustrate your customers. You can avoid returns and always keep the money, but the chances are high you lose a customer. It costs five times more to attract a new customer than to deal with one return case.
Provide clear instructions for returns
- The key to establishing a functioning return service with reasonable cost is understanding that returns are not customer problem. The worst you can do for your sales is leave customers deal with unwanted items on their own.
- Right return policy is the one that gives customers what they want. Of course, the more convenient and cheap return options are, the more people are going to use it, but also more people are going to repurchase.
- A better organized returning process will persuade customers to trust you and purchase from you again. In order to give your customers an option to file a return request fast and easy from their customer account, you can use Return Merchandise Authorization extension for Magento.
Customer is never the one who is responsible for delivering their order. They just want what they paid for, and they totally deserve that.
It is always up to you, how to establish delivery options and conditions in your online store and decide how much you will charge for them. Customers are not interested in how your fulfilment service works until it works fine. It is not the complexity of the system that makes it handy and useful, but the management and planning you apply to handle it.