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Four Tips to Bolster the Last Mile of the Customer Experience: Shipping

Today’s consumers expect a seamless customer experience - from the initial interaction to the moment the product hits their doorstep.

Shoppers are conditioned to expect fast, seamless shipping from retailers, big and small, and this final touchpoint can make or break brands. Fine-tuning the shipping experience is critical for brands to ensure customer satisfaction and increase brand loyalty, which ultimately results in repeat shoppers.

With so much on the line, how can online retailers exceed the expectations of today’s shoppers? Here are a few tips on how to bolster your brand’s shipping experience and leave customers with a positive experience.

Revamp your return policy
According to recent research conducted by ShipStation, 66% of online shoppers review a retailer’s return policy before purchasing a product. The first thing that comes to mind when brands think about how to implement a good return policy is offering free returns. But according to the survey, shoppers simply value an easy return process and a free return label.

For example, offering hassle-free returns through an accessible self-service portal that allows customers to easily print branded return labels and track return shipments shows immaculate customer service and confidence in the product. In fact, small-to-mid-sized businesses (SMBs) who used branded returns portals saw a 16% increase in online sales.

In many cases, both the order volume and average order value increased. The research also showed that shoppers who returned an item through a branded returns portal were nearly 30% more likely to be a repeat shopper than consumers who returned items through another method. By providing a clear policy and an easy returns process, SMB retailers can not only optimize the post-purchase experience, but increase brand loyalty and retain high-value customers.

Streamline post-purchase notifications
Shipping is the final touchpoint shoppers have with a brand, and high transparency is key for ensuring customers walk away with a positive opinion. When it comes to effective post-transaction communication, three automated and branded emails are necessary. First, deliver an order confirmation email, including details of items purchased and the total cost, notifying customers that you have received their order and are beginning the fulfillment process. Once the order has shipped, notify customers that the package has been sent to the shipping carrier and is in transit with a shipping confirmation email. Here, brands should include tracking information so customers can check the package location at their discretion.

Lastly, once the package has been delivered, a delivery confirmation should state the time of drop-off and location of the package. Should delivery be delayed, notify the customer of the issue and provide detailed updated information. Having branded post-transaction emails that don’t lead shoppers to third-party websites give customers a sense of consolidation and reassures them that the process is running smoothly.

Optimize shipping processes
In the age of Amazon, perhaps no single factor has gained as much influence over the e-commerce customer experience as the final step in the order process. Due to features like Amazon Prime, shoppers are becoming accustomed to luxuries like two-day deliveries. Making shipping as fast and seamless as possible is crucial to meeting shopper’s expectations, but most businesses do not have the infrastructure to support shipping at the scale of giants like Amazon.

A good way for brands to set expectations is to clearly display the Estimated Delivery Date (EDD) at checkout as well as within the order confirmation email. A growing number of companies are leveraging visibility tools that track and alert EDD from checkout to delivery. Additionally, it’s important to maintain consistency and notify customers if the updated deliver. For the most part, customers are willing to be patient if brands maintain transparency and set expectations from the very beginning.

Prevent stockout
Inaccurate data and lack of communication are two of the most common causes of a stockout. Internally, managers need to be highly transparent with their teams to ensure they are well trained on how to effectively use systems in place. This enables them to accurately update information, review updated data, and identify which insights need immediate action.

Additionally, maintaining communication with suppliers is crucial in staying ahead of deadlines and combating delays should a potential stockout happen. For example, if a product is selling quicker than anticipated, staying in contact with the supplier and placing a new order before the product gets low is key to staying ahead of stockout. It sounds obvious, but product forecasting is imperfect. Investing in tools that ensure your suppliers aren’t left in the dark is imperative for seamless supply chain management.

Perfecting each of these phases will not only leave a customer happy with their journey, but ultimately ensure increased brand loyalty and repeat customers.

John Kinny is GM of ShipStation.
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