Most people negate the fact that your eCommerce store’s most important segment of the buyer’s journey is the fulfillment, not the sale.
When you’re running an eCommerce store, your order and product fulfillment can make or break your customer loyalty and brand reputation. Too many bad experiences and your sales begin to plummet because people believe you don’t deliver what you promise.
As an online shopper yourself, you can attest to the fact that “Customers take shipping and fulfillment seriously.” So whether you’ve already launched or planned to, you’ll need a crystal clear shipping strategy that will help you streamline your shipping process from start to finish.
Today I’ll be diving into a super-easy guide to help you to demystify this complex fulfillment and shipping process from packaging to carriers to upselling once the package is sent off. We’ll be covering:
- Shipping Rates
- Picking a Shipping Company or Fulfilment Brand
- Labeling, Insurance, Tracking
- Packaging & Upselling
- Customer Feedback
- Choosing a Fulfillment Company/App
Before you start shipping out products, you should figure out your pricing strategy for shipping. You don’t want to charge too low that you’re losing money from every sale. However, you don’t want to charge high prices, or you’ll increase your shopping cart abandonment rate.
Shopping cart abandonment is the act of a potential customer visiting your eCommerce store, adding items to their cart, and leaves without going to checkout.
One of the top reasons most shoppers abandon their carts is the surprise of unexpectedly high costs, whether it’s taxes, shipping, or product fees.
On the back end, you’ll also need shipping rates to help you cover the cost of shipping the actual product and your fulfillment fee.
It’s a delicate balance that requires a lot of thought. Don’t worry; there are several shipping rate strategies you can implement in your eCommerce store:
Offering Free Shipping
Every eCommerce knows that free shipping is never actually free, yet it’s one of the most used shipping rate methods to date. Invespo found that 93% of online buyers are encouraged to buy more products if free shipping options are available, whereas 58% of consumers add more items to their cart to qualify for free shipping.
Free shipping drives customers to add more and shop more frequently with you. As I said before, free shipping isn’t actually free. Someone has to pay for it. To help make free shipping easy for your customers and yourself, here are some ways you can implement it:
- You can increase the prices of your products to cover the partial cost of your shipping. Essentially splitting it between you and the customer.
- Offer a discount code to certain people for free shipping, so you cap the cost of paying for it. You can offer free shipping during the holidays or new customers.
- You can increase product prices to cover all of the shipping costs, thus offering them “free shipping.”
Charge One Flat Rate
Charge one flat rate when selecting your shipping rates for eCommerce fulfillment. This means no matter what items are added to the shopper’s cart; they pay one set rate when checking out.
This practice is best for products that weigh the same size or a standard line of products with very similar sizes, such as keychains, glasses, or make-up accessories.
Charging a flat rate shipping becomes more complicated and trivial if you have a wide range of products with drastically different sizes and weights.
When you’re also charging a flat rate, you also want to consider making sure that you’re not under or overcharging customers. To help, you might have a flat rate specifically for domestic shipping, and another for international shipping as these costs can vary.
Charge Real-Time Carrier Rates
If you’re using eCommerce carriers like USPS or Canada Post, you can integrate an app or use Shopify to help you generate shipping options and prices based on what various carriers have to offer. This allows the customer to choose which option suits them best, giving them control and giving you peace of mind when it comes to shipping cost.
Offer In-Store Pick Up
Not all shipping options have to be done via a carrier. If you have a brick and mortar store or a set location for your business, you can give customers the option to pick up their orders whenever they want instead of waiting on shipping.
Use Multiple Shipping Rate Methods
Here’s the thing about pricing shipping rates; you can either use one or multiple options when charging rates. There’s no set rule against it. For example, you can offer “free shipping” to orders over $100, but one flat rate on orders with sunglasses only, while giving the option to use in-store pick up for locals.
At the end of the day, you want customers to feel like they have options or a great shopping/shipping experience.
Now that we have an idea of what kind of shipping rates we’d like to charge, let’s take a look at how to select a company or fulfillment brand. (If you already have a fulfillment brand, you can skip to the next section of this article).
Firstly, doing self-fulfillment, selecting a shipping company or fulfillment brand depends on whether or not you provide the products or drop shipping them.
eCommerce Fulfillment with Self-Fulfillment
Self-fulfillment means that you’ll be shipping out your products on your own, so once an order comes in, you’ll package and head to the UPS store to send it off on its way.
This is a good practice for eCommerce stores run by solopreneurs who want to save on certain expenses.
The downside to self-fulfillment is that you need time to send off these packages on time. So you’ll either need to practice shipping off packages in bulk, which can affect delivery time, or ship your orders one by one each day.
eCommerce Fulfillment with Drop Shipping
If you’re using a dropshipping company, then you might want to choose an all-in-one service. A dropshipping company that provides the products and allows you to ship them off.
If this is not possible with platforms like Shopify, you can have an app for dropshipping and integrate another for fulfillment to streamline your process without moving from platform to platform.
To help, here’s a guide from BigCommerce on Finding Dropshipping Companies & Suppliers (Free Directory Updated for 2020)
eCommerce Fulfillment with a Fulfillment Brand
Using a fulfillment company is ideal for eCommerce store owners who want to have their customer orders stocked, packages, and shipped on their behalf. Fulfillment companies usually have warehouses in central locations, and a few offer international shipping for your global shoppers.
With third-party fulfillment companies, you’ll have to provide the product, which means you’ll have to:
- Consider how much it will cost to send products in bulk, your labeling process.
- Research the minimum amount of stock your fulfillment company may require of you to ship to get started.
- Calculate the cost of storage fees, shipping, and fulfillment costs associated with using this company into your product or shipping rate.
The upside to using a third-party fulfillment company is that as you grow, you might need to upgrade your plan with this company instead of hiring more people who work out best in the long run. Not only that, but you can offer cheaper shipping rates and shorter shipping times regardless of your shipping volume.
If you’re in the market for a new fulfillment company to work with, Finances Online great list of the 20 Best Order Fulfillment Services & Companies of 2020.
Once you’ve selected what method of eCommerce fulfillment you’ll be using, it’s time to consider labeling, insurance, and tracking for your package, both on your end and for the customer.
Insurance & Tracking for eCommerce Fulfillment
Insurance is vital to your eCommerce fulfillment if you plan to ship specific items of high value or with certain restrictions. For example, if you’re shipping laptops and high-tech items, you’ll need to consider insurance when shipping just in case it gets damaged by the shipping company on its way to your customer.
Next to insurance is tracking. Tracking plays a vital role in not only fulfillment but customer service as well. Customers rely on tracking codes to have a clear understanding of their order’s process. Ensure that whatever method is used offers straightforward and easy to use tracking codes. This can come in handy if an order is delayed, lost, or needs to be returned.
Labelling for eCommerce Fulfillment
Labeling packages help to keep your orders organized and processed successfully. Whether your labeling your products yourself or having a fulfillment company do this for you, it should do the following:
- Have the correct customer information (name, location, shipping address).
- Your eCommerce brand logo to let customers know who sent them the package.
- Helps your fulfillment center ship out the correct orders to lower your shipping return rates.
When your creating or using label templates for your fulfillment method, be sure to do the following:
- Have product labeling to help track your inventory. This can be a product identity like barcodes, EAN, or a merchant SKU.
- Have label specifications that should be used for every labeL. This includes your product identifier, standard label sizes, font, and layout or segments that must always be used for consistency.
- Create labeling guidelines that help you to position your labels on specific areas or surfaces on your product or packaging.
You’ll also have to put some thought into your packaging as well. This can mean the difference between customers getting their order in one piece or broken pieces.
Some products might require primary, secondary, or even tertiary packaging. The level of packaging depends on how valuable or fragile your package is when shipping.
Your packaging is also an extension of your branding, so spend time finding the best package that will contain, keep your package sale and make it a memorable experience.
On the other hand, you don’t want to go overboard with your packages. It should be light and small (or reasonable) to avoid affecting your shipping or fulfillment cost.
For more on how to master packaging for your eCommerce fulfillment, check out Pakfactory’s E-commerce Packaging: A Beginner’s Guide 2020
You can also upsell even after you’ve shipped your package to customers. Add a thank you card with a special offer to entice your customer to repeat purchase by:
- Offering a discount code
- Points/discounts for referrals
- Free shipping
- Ask for an honest online product review
- A subscription offer for refills
- Ask them to follow you on social media to keep them engaged with your brand
Lastly, the most important thing you should do after you’ve gone through all these steps is to ask your customer for feedback on their shopping or shipping experience. After all, you’re doing order fulfillment for them.
They know first hand what’s working and what’s not. Mind you, each person will have an individual experience, but it can tell you a lot about your eCommerce fulfillment strategy when looked at collectively.
For example, if customers located in a certain location are all collectively complaining about their orders being late, there could be a problem in your shipping process.
You can get feedback on your brand, and it’s eCommerce fulfillment process by doing the following:
- Send follow up emails once the order has been delivered for feedback on their overall shopping experience and where you can improve.
- Take a look at common complaints sent to customer service about shipping. Find out if it’s an isolated or commonly occurring incident. Customer chat request
- Use social listening to see what customers have to say about you online. Not everyone will file a customer service complaint. Some might go straight to social media to vent.
Sign, Sealed & Delivered
When it’s all said and done, eCommerce fulfillment is the final and most crucial part in ensuring that customers come back for more. Without a strategy or the right measures in place, you can lose customers and online credibility.