The shipping experience is an important factor for shoppers when making online purchase decisions. Meeting your target audience’s preferences for the delivery of your products and ensuring a positive experience throughout the delivery process will increase sales on your eCommerce website.
The previous article “Increase Sales on Your eCommerce Website Using Amazon As an Example of What to Do and NOT to Do” identifies free, fast shipping as the top reason internet users in the United States shop on Amazon. For online shoppers not specifically shopping on Amazon, free shipping is also a significant factor when selecting an eCommerce website.
When Shopping Online, what are the most important factors
that influence you to shop at a particular retailer?
The importance of providing your shoppers with good experience in all aspects of shipping is further supported by the following survey showing that, while product quality was most frequently noted as a “common bad online shopping experience” with 50% of respondents giving this answer, shipping was not far behind at 37.8%.
Most common bad online shopping experiences according to
online shoppers in the United States as of April 2017
Let’s look at Amazon’s shipping experience to see how to increase sales on your eCommerce website.
Amazon’s Complex Shipping Options
While most eCommerce sites offer three or four shipping options at best, Amazon offers a complex variety of delivery options to meet the different needs of its range of customers, including “fast free delivery” if the shopper and the product are eligible:
- Amazon Prime Members have the following enhanced delivery options, with availability dependant on product eligibility and in some cases delivery location:
- Free one-day delivery
- Free same delivery
- Free two-hour grocery delivery
- “Amazon Day” – add items throughout the week for free delivery on the day chosen by the customer
- “Key by Amazon” – deliver into your house or garage free of charge
- Customers that haven’t joined Prime or that order products not eligible for Prime delivery have the following shipping options, again with availability dependant on product eligibility and in some cases delivery location and order total:
- Standard Shipping, 4-5 business days
- Two-Day Shipping
- One-Day Shipping
- Free shipping on certain items if the total of eligible items purchased is $25
- Shipping options for products purchased from third-party Amazon Marketplace vendors with price depending on type and weight of items purchased:
- Standard Shipping, 4-14 business days
- Expedited Shipping, 2-6 business days
- Two-Day Shipping
- One-Day Shipping
“Problems” with the Amazon Shipping Experience to Avoid in your eCommerce Website
While frequent Amazon shoppers, especially those that are Prime members, are likely to be able to easily navigate the shipping options, assisted by filters in product searches for “Prime” and “Eligible for Free Shipping,” less frequent Amazon users may find the options complicated and off-putting.
Often the shopper won’t be certain of the delivery date until after checkout and the order is about to leave the warehouse. Amazon notes, “Not all of the items listed on our site are available immediately, so selecting One-Day or Two-Day Shipping does not necessarily mean your order will arrive in one or two days.” Uncertainty and variations in delivery times may cause issues with customer satisfaction.
What Shipping Options and Pricing are Required or Desired by Your Target Audience?
While we are looking at Amazon as an example to determine your own strategy related to shipping, it even more important for you to look at these factors as it relates to your current customers and prospective new customers – your target audience.
- What does your target audience consider “fast shipping?” Fast can have a different meaning depending on the customer and the customer’s situation. Two-Day Shipping seems pretty fast unless you are used to Same Day Shipping.
Usage of Select Fast Shipping Options for Online Purchases
in the United States in 2017 and 2018
This survey shows that more users select two-day shipping over one-day or same-day shipping. This is probably down to cost but appears to show that many users may feel that two-day shipping is sufficiently fast.
- If your target audience desires free shipping, when would they expect delivery? The results of the survey below show that more than half of the respondents felt that delivery in one week would be sufficient if shipping was free of charge.
If the shipping was free of charge,
when would you expect the delivery of your order?
- At what point is your target audience willing to pay for express shipping? The results of the survey below show that approximately one-third of the respondents would never pay for express shipping regardless of how more quickly delivery would be made.
How many days of standard shipping would make you switch to express shipping?
- What are the usual costs for your target audience’s online purchases, on your site as well as on other sites? The results of the survey below show that more than half of the respondents mostly order from shops that offer free shipping.
What are the usual shipping costs for your online purchases?
- How far do shipping costs influence your target audience’s purchase decisions when shopping online?
The results of the surveys below show that:
- Approximately half of the respondents felt that:
- They would cancel an order if shipping costs are too high.
- High shipping costs may make them think twice about whether they actually want the product.
- They would order more from shops if they offered free shipping.
- The majority of respondents felt that they would only pay a maximum of $5 for shipping.
How far do shipping costs influence your purchase decision when shopping online?
What is the maximum amount you would be willing to pay for shipping?
- What shipping companies does your target audience prefer and/or trust when shopping online? The results of the survey below show that the majority of respondents (35%) favored UPS with 22% showing a preference for United States Postal Service (USPS), 21% showing a preference for FedEx, and 21% showing no preference.
Which is your favorite parcel service when shopping online?
- Are “pick-up” delivery options desired by your target audience? While Amazon offers some services for customers to pick-up orders from a local shop or locker, availability of “Same Day Pick Up” is a reason some shoppers use an eCommerce website other than Amazon, whether a local one single store operation, a chain like Walmart or Target or pick-up via a third party location, locker, etc.
Reasons that digital buyers in the United States pick up digital purchases in-store as of November 2017
What else have we learned from Amazon about shipping and the overall customer experience?
- Prime Members are loyal Amazon customers.
While “Amazon Prime” is very successful, mainly because it offers “fast, free shipping” under the right conditions, is this important to your target market?
Amazon Prime services as reason for subscription according to subscribers in the United States as of 2018
Are there other benefits that would make a loyalty program a good way to increase sales for your eCommerce site?
Would it be feasible to set up and manage a loyalty program for your business?
- “Proactive communication during delivery” can win business from from Amazon and other eCommerce businesses that aren’t doing this well. As noted in the survey “Reasons for internet users in the United States to shop on Amazon”, only 17.8% of those surveyed chose Amazon for this reason, so this presents an area where other eCommerce companies can win sales by providing better service.
If not already in place, implement a shipping/fulfillment system and carriers that not only provide the delivery options desired by your target audience but are also reliable and can provide sufficient tracking and notifications through the delivery process.
Which of these services offered by shipping providers have you already used?
3. “Frustration-Free Packaging” is desired by some customers
Is your target audience concerned about sustainability and the ability to recycle packaging materials used? If so, is it feasible for you to provide this type of packaging for your products?
4. Are those in your target audience concerned with the well-being of staff fulfilling their orders?
News reports brought about concern for the welfare of Amazon’s own staff as well as the staff of the delivery companies used, causing online shoppers to question the human cost to having orders fulfilled quickly, particularly with the additional impact of the global pandemic.
Other Considerations to Ensure You Have the Optimum Shipping Experience for Your Customers and for Your Business
- What are your Competitors Doing?
As part of your target market research, look the shipping experience provided by your competitors:
- What shipping options and costs are they offering?
- What can you find out about their customers’ satisfaction with the shipping experience?
- Does it make sense to offer the same or better options and costs?
- How are they fulfilling orders? How does their distribution network compare to yours?
- Can you be innovative like Amazon?
Since starting up Amazon has kept an eye on shoppers’ habits, along with developments in the industry and technology to create an optimum system, that is preferred by many and brought great success for the business. Seeing that free next day delivery is what Prime members want, Amazon has set-up its own delivery service in order to have complete control over this part of the shopping experience. Amazon is continuing to build this part of the company and it will be interesting to see if this will be successful for them to keep customers happy and costs under control.
While it may not be feasible to provide the options or low shipping costs that are associated with Amazon, you can “think” like Amazon and look at innovative ways to provide your customers with an outstanding experience relevant to the delivery of your products.
- Is there a special service or additional product that you can include that your target market will value as much as free fast delivery?
- Are there other businesses that you can partner with in order to provide the required level services?
- Ensure Clear Communication from Order to Delivery and Beyond
- Once you have determined the shipping options and related practices that are best for your target audience and your business, ensure that you clearly communicate these options and policies across your digital channels, highlighting the benefits where possible.
- Maintain sufficient, clear communication regarding delivery status from point of order to delivery and post-delivery if needed. Where possible, use your target audience’s preferred communication methods (email, SMS, etc.) and frequency.
This clear communication is not only important for customers to understand what options are available but also to highlight that you are meeting or exceeding the options and level of service required by your target audience that is the same or better than what is available from your competitors.
What if you can’t compete on the shipping options or pricing offered?
If you cannot compete with Amazon or more direct competitors as far as the shipping options or pricing offered, then you must highlight the other advantages of using your eCommerce website:
- Exclusive products not available elsewhere
- Better product quality
- Better product prices
- Better service
- Add-on products and/or services making a “complete package” not available elsewhere
- Support of a locally-owned shop and/or local employees
- Being part of a community of similar thinking brand-loyal shoppers
Even if you cannot provide free or low shipping rates on a regular basis, consider if you can use free or discounted shipping as an incentive to:
- Sign up for your mailing list
- Turn a window shopper into a first-time customer
- Encourage adding more items to an order to reach a minimum requirement
Most importantly, ensure that your business has the infrastructure in place to provide customers with a good overall shipping experience:
- Are all aspects of your fulfillment system reliable, providing sufficient service to meet agreed delivery methods and times?
- What software, systems, training, personnel, etc. must be put into place to ensure you meet customers’ expectations for communication?
Whether you are competing with Amazon or just looking at Amazon’s practices for ideas for your own business, providing shipping options that are in-line with the preferences and needs of your target audience and ensuring a good experience from making the purchase throughout the delivery process will increase sales on your eCommerce website.