Are Your Shipping Options Up To It?

Written by Jon on 25th March 2016

In this ever competitive industry it becomes harder and harder to separate yourself from your competition. While price can be a factor, I’d argue that it is no longer the key decider and customers are looking for quality service, and one that is tailored to their requirements.

Depending on which website you read, the statistics for cart abandonment vary between 35% and 50%. Regardless of which number you pick, it is still high enough to warrant some time to be spent on how you communicate your shipping options throughout the website and what options you provide.

In my mind, an analysis of your shipping options should start from the point your customer first visits the website, all the way through to when your customer receives their order.

The best bit of advice I received about this was when I was at college working in a posh restaurant to pay the bills/bar tab. My dramatic boss at the time (a french Maître D) told me:

‘Jon, the whole meal is important, however when a customer asks for the bill, this should be served promptly. If they have to wait for an overlong period of time, it will be the last thing they remember about the experience and regardless of how much they enjoyed the food, it will be the wait for the bill that takes over the conversation when informing their friends of the experience.’

If we translate that to ecommerce, your website might be awesome and matched by your lightning fast customer service but if your order arrives 3 days late in a tattered soggy box or thrown over the fence only to be chewed by your unblamable dog, then this affects the experience of your user and should be taken into consideration.

So for a customer who loves your product and would love to purchase again but is not convinced that it will arrive in a safe and secure manner, it will put more than a little doubt into their mind and will quite likely prompt them into searching for a competitor of yours.

You might decide to offer a simple delivery option: free for all orders. Well, that is great as no one likes to pay shipping costs, but ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is a free service enough?
  • Is it quick enough?
  • Does it offer flexibility or choice to your customer?

If your free service includes 3-5 day delivery but I want it tomorrow what then?  Do I simply order and bide my time or might I go looking for another website who will get the product to me in a timeframe I am happy with?

Free delivery will of course have an impact on conversion rates, particularly if you are competitively priced from the outset, as you are effectively reducing the potential friction at the final stages of the checkout process. But as we have just gone over, this should not be the end of it.

So, let’s have a look at two websites who in my (humble) opinion have got it bang on:

Amazon

It would be remiss to leave the world’s number 1 ecommerce retailer out here, though really they are a complex logistics company who happens to also sell their products as well.

Amazon offer a wide range of delivery options, including the ability to click and collect. Their Prime service is very slick, and if, like me, you have an Amazon Prime membership, you’ll benefit from a wide range of products being available for next day delivery at no extra cost.  (I actually signed up for Black Sails and The Man in the High Castle, so this is an added bonus!)

Larger areas such as New York now have same day shipping for certain products which offers a degree of flexibility that we have never experienced before. It’s amazing to see how quickly it becomes the norm for all customers.

I also probably shouldn’t miss out drone delivery! It might be a way off but when it does happen it will change the shape of delivery as we know it (and our skies).

Amazon set the bar high for delivery options and 9 times out of 10 exceed their delivery estimates which is great customer service.

AO.com

Once known as Appliances Online, this website offers a range of white goods with a huge range of delivery options to take the pain away from waiting in the house all day for your new refrigerator to arrive, what a waste of annual leave!

Once you have made your order you are provided with a range of helpful options, including taking away your old model and also assistance in the installation of your appliance.

You are then provided with a calendar and a range of options of when you would like your order delivered.  Some of these options are free but also provides you with a range of paid options to choose from to suit your individual needs.

Also note the benefits bar underneath the delivery options reassuring you of the arrangements in place to minimise any inconvenience to you as the customer.

AO.com Shipping Options

There are many good examples of websites offering a strong range of shipping options and if you feel it’s time to re-assess your shipping options, these are the steps I would take:

  1. Analyse your competitors. If you don’t, you can guarantee your customers will, and if you are not competitive you risk losing these sales!
  2. Review the steps in your delivery process. How are customers kept informed throughout the order process, could this be improved?
  3. Look at new logistical partners. It never hurts to keep an eye on what is available on the market and the latest technology available, let them know how you would like to improve your service and ask them to provide suggestions.
  4. Do you have a free delivery option?  Is this possible?
  5. If free delivery is not possible, do you have a free delivery threshold?  (This can be a great way to increase average order value.)

When ordering online I personally tend to look for flexibility and speed: while I am not a fan of paying delivery charges (who is?), I will happily pay if the service meets my requirements. My main priority is to get my parcel to my location by the fastest, most efficient means possible.

Delivery was once an area of the website that once setup, was left alone using the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, but this in my mind is not the correct approach.  With delivery options affecting so many areas i.e. conversion rate and cart abandonment rate, it is important to carry out these reviews of your business. Look to identify:

  1. How you can improve the service provided to your customers, and;
  2. How you can provide a delivery service that ensures you stand out from your competitors.

As boring as it might be, I think the delivery area of a website is one of the most interesting and overlooked.  If you know of any great examples of delivery options please let me know below.