5 Reasons Why Your Shipping Strategy Matters for Customer Experience

Customer experience has become one of the most vital brand differentiators in the world of online shopping. ECommerce brands are diversifying and optimizing their offerings to increase customer loyalty and win their audiences over. 

Some strategies to improve customer experiences are more obvious than others, like diversifying payment options or enhancing omnichannel offerings. However, the oft-neglected shipping strategy is a less-prioritized strategy that can significantly improve your customer’s experience. 

Here’s how. 

1. Customer satisfaction 

The shipping process provides brands with opportunities to delight shoppers and increase customer satisfaction. For the most part, it’s important to meet consumer expectations and keep your promises. But you can also get creative.

For example, some popular strategies for increasing customer satisfaction include:

  • Leveraging tracking pages to provide customers with continuous, real-time updates. Order tracking increases transparency and keeps shoppers in the loop about their purchases.
  • Sending shipping updates via email or SMS alerts to keep customers informed. 
  • Providing memorable unboxing experiences through customized packaging. Give your customers an experience worth remembering when they open their first package.

Improving the shipping process and how you communicate it to customers is a core way you can tackle multiple causes of shopping cart abandonment. For international shipping, the big focus is going to be tracking an order across countries to its final delivery. Some platforms can do this for you and your customers, like Shopify’s native app, but you may need a mix of tools and plugins to not only create but share these details.

Customers want to know the status of their orders at any given moment. Talk to your carrier partners, freight forwarders, 3PLs, and others to ensure you’ve got visibility for each move, mode, and handoff. The better you can get at automating this data capture and delivery to end consumers, the fewer trouble tickets and support requests you’ll see around tracking details.

2. Customer retention

A poor return policy could be killing your customer retention. More than 60% of customers are unhappy about paying for returns processing, including shipping and packaging fees. So to improve shoppers’ experiences, you’ll need to design a transparent, customer-centric returns policy.

Many eCommerce brands shy away from generous return policies because of the hefty costs involved. However, not offering free (or almost free) returns might do you more harm than good. So, the way out is to optimize your shipping processes (decreasing return requests) while simultaneously offering customer-first return policies. However, getting it right can lead to greater profitability, customer retention, and reputation, even as the eCommerce space sees record return rates.

And a negative returns experience isn’t the only reason why brands are losing customers. Two-thirds of shoppers won’t order again from a brand after a bad delivery experience, presenting another case for optimizing your shipping process. Your customers don’t care about who is actually at fault in the supply chain – you’ll get the blame. This poses a significant risk for companies relying on international shipping, especially if you’re running a dropshipping business.

One often overlooked support system is your international shipping insurance provider. They can provide support for packages that are damaged or lost during transit. Many providers also have relationships and partners who can help you prevent damage, improve document retention, and avoid other issues that lead to delays, replacements, and other order concerns that harm customer retention.

3. Order fulfillment 

Delays. Wrong orders. Damaged packages. These problems make up the trifecta of a terrible customer experience, and unfortunately, many eCommerce brands regularly face them. 

But you can fight these challenges by optimizing each stage of your order fulfillment process, with the help of robust technology, a skilled team, and sometimes a fulfillment partner. Some steps you can take to improve order accuracy and fulfillment efficiency are:

  • Using an integrated inventory management system that generates picking tickets
  • Leveraging barcode scanners or the more advanced RFID scanners to pick the right items
  • Using boxes of the right dimensions with appropriate dunnage to secure products
  • Diversifying your fulfillment network to increase shipping speeds and reduce costs

Or, you can partner with a third-party logistics provider (3PL) that delivers these services. 3PLs focusing on eCommerce support can provide your store with customer and order data, ways to optimize your packaging and reduce shipping costs, and control how much you have to invest in inventory to meet demand. Your 3PL should directly support integrations with overseas providers, carriers, freight forwarders, and other partners. 

Seek out a 3PL that has a presence in the country you’re shipping from and to, so they can assist with every aspect of fulfillment. Ask how they improve your capabilities to sell internationally, including partners with round-the-clock support for freight.

4. Customer trust 

Gaining customer trust is a long game that involves keeping your promises, maintaining transparency, and providing customers with a great experience. And your shipping strategy should also reflect these values. 

You can increase transparency by providing real-time shipping costs calculations at checkout, creating clear and concise returns and shipping policies, and providing customers with shipment tracking updates. Some eCommerce brands use SMS to send live updates, while others create dedicated self-serve tracking pages for consumers to view at will.

And beyond providing transparency, honoring your promises and policies is also vital. If you’re promised free, no-questions-asked returns, then make sure you come through. Being true to your word is crucial to cultivating long-term trust. Not sure how to start building trust while fighting fraud? Think about your shipping practices. Tackling freight and shipping fraud can eliminate many customer concerns, build trust, and help you look out for areas that breed mistrust on both sides of a purchase.

5. Customer loyalty

All your efforts to improve customer experiences, foster trust, improve retention, and optimize order fulfillment collectively drive enhanced customer loyalty. And with 43% of revenue coming from repeat purchases, establishing a loyal customer base is crucial for growing eCommerce brands.

Customer loyalty correlates significantly with how consumers perceive your brand. You’ll want them to perceive your business as trustworthy, reliable, and fair. So you can achieve this through strengthening your branding (like through custom packaging), resolving shipping problems quickly, and providing excellent delivery experiences.

Why are fast shipping speeds so important?

Fast shipping speeds aren’t becoming vital—they already are. Consumer expectations have evolved to a point where you’ll lose 85% of prospects to competitors if your shipping speeds are too slow. A lack of fast shipping speeds is also one of the most significant drivers behind abandoned carts. 

The message is clear: providing Amazon-level shipping speeds is crucial to secure conversions. In fact, expedited shipping convinces 68% of consumers to purchase from your eCommerce store. The correlation between logistics and sales is strong.

So what do these trends mean for the future? Well, it means offering two-day shipping options won’t be enough to stay competitive. ECommerce brands will eventually need to offer same-day delivery, at least for some products and shipping zones. Same-day delivery has become a key brand differentiator. Thankfully, it’s easy to afford fast and free shipping offers by targeting your offer to your audience and building pricing into products or order value requirements.

How do brands achieve fast shipping speeds?

Businesses have to optimize each stage of their fulfillment process to achieve same-day or even two-day shipping speeds. You’ll need to start by optimizing internal processes, including inventory and warehouse management. When customers place orders on your eCommerce store, you’ll need to process them immediately.

Additionally, your fulfillment team must pick and pack orders quickly and accurately. If your customer base is spread far and wide, you might need to invest in multiple distribution centers to reach them faster. ECommerce brands and fulfillment experts that offer expedited shipping leverage technology throughout their order fulfillment process. They leverage automation for processing orders, generating picket tickets, and managing inventory, and rely on IoT and mobile devices to reduce pick and pack times.

It all gets more complex as you expand your international efforts. This requires tracking bills of lading, adding international shipping estimates on product pages and shopping carts, establishing relationships to move freight, and integrating with tools that allow you to purchase freight moves and last-mile deliveries around the world. International shipping and fulfillment is a technologically intense effort, but looking for automation and strong partners can make it as seamless and possible, reducing friction for your operations managers and your customers.

Last word

Optimizing your shipping strategy is vital to providing the best customer experience. A great shipping strategy should:

  • Be transparent and keep customers in the loop. This involves outlining clear, concise shipping and returns policies, displaying real-time shipping rates at checkout, and providing customers with order tracking options and updates.
  • Inspire consumer trust and confidence. Strive to keep your promises by delivering orders on time, honoring your policies, and resolving any problems swiftly.
  • Optimize internal processes to improve efficiency and reduce inaccuracies. An effective fulfillment process is the heart of successful shipping; it ensures order accuracy and reduces damages and delays.
  • Expand your roster of trusted partners. Rely on 3PLs and freight forwarders to help you create a global supply chain and fulfillment solution to meet customers anywhere.

As with any aspect of eCommerce strategy, shipping strategies should be customer-centric and geared towards delivering the most value.

Jake Rheude is the Vice President of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.