If you’re in the online or multichannel commerce space, why should you look for methods to optimize fulfillment? Refining this process to maximize speed and efficiency can ensure that orders are delivered to carriers correctly and quickly. This makes fast, convenient, affordable and worry-free delivery more achievable, which can improve customer satisfaction, increase profits, and attain even the most aggressive growth benchmarks. When evaluating eCommerce fulfillment services, e-retailers should consider four factors, as they serve as keys to unlock short- and long-term success.
As online shoppers click through to the checkout page, two factors can make them instantly dump their carts: additional costs and slow delivery. Most customers don’t like to be surprised by unexpected shipping and handling fees. Today’s virtual shopper is also accustomed to receiving their items quickly and can sometimes turn to competitors who can satisfy that need for fast gratification.
Providing affordable shipping costs and faster delivery options require strategic fulfillment relationships. That is where an experienced and qualified third-party logistics (3PL) company can prove invaluable. A 3PL can help improve your business margins by offering competitive shipping rates. Likewise, if they have the ability to leverage in a Transportation Management System (TMS) that can choose the most cost-efficient delivery method available. Partnering with a 3PL who is strategically located near major transportation routes is also advantageous. Your fulfillment team can help you figure out the best shipping options to offer to your customers that is affordable but also beneficial for your margins.
Often times, customers have second thoughts about their online purchases. In fact, eCommerce brands notice significantly higher return rates than brick-and-mortar stores. It’s also common for apparel brands to have shoppers order multiple sizes or styles of an item and keep only the one they like best. This is one reason why many shoppers review a brand’s return policies before making a purchase.
A study by UPS found that 66% of shoppers follow the practice, with many abandoning carts if something in a policy seems unfavorable or unclear. Today’s consumer values convenience, so they may not even want to have a relationship with a brand that doesn’t satisfy this need for simplicity. Clearly identifying reasonable policies during the checkout can protect your brand while conveying your commitment to customer satisfaction.
The simplest way to make returns convenient is by providing access to shipping labels. Whether returns are free (prepaid) or customers have to use their own funds, make it easy for customers to access. Most times, customers are more likely to purchase from an online store knowing that they won’t have to pay to return unwanted items. Brands with physical channels can also utilize buy online return in-store (BORIS). An experienced 3PL can work with clients to examine and determine the most effective and affordable return options.
While quality and price are often the first things noticed, today’s shoppers often buy from – and become loyal to – companies who exhibit social responsibility, such as being eco-friendly. Research suggests that shoppers may even pay a premium if they feel they are helping the environment. Brands who demonstrate a commitment to preserving the planet can reach more customers, especially younger ones, and even increase sales revenue per customer.
Where does fulfillment fit into this equation? Well, packaging and shipping methods have strong effects on a brand’s environmental impact. Using excessive amounts of materials is wasteful, hurts the eco-friendly image and further increases costs. Brands looking to appeal to environmentally conscious customers should use highly recyclable packaging and choose partners who share the same value of sustainability.
Looking to get started down the green path? Check out our sustainable packaging tip sheet for creating a sustainable packaging and shipping strategy.
In most cases, customers prefer to do business with brands who remain transparent every step of the sales process. The same holds true in eCommerce, as our 2017 eCommerce study concluded that shoppers value transparency during the fulfillment process. According to ProShip, people want the ability to actively check on their orders from purchase to delivery.
In addition to our TMS solution, we also utilize APIs that can help our partnered brands better communicate any changes in the transportation stage to their customers. While shipping and delivery hiccups may not always be resolvable it’s better to alert shoppers as soon as possible.
While optimizing fulfillment can be a vital aspect of customer relations, it should also be noted that it’s a key part of scaling an eCommerce business. Staying ahead of rising order volumes is key for online and multichannel brands – especially during growth periods. Understanding this, emerging brands may want to seek the support and guidance of a 3PL before it’s too late. You never want a negative fulfillment partnership to sacrifice your long-term relationship with your customers.