In 2016, nearly eight in 10 Americans shopped online, and that number is likely to rise as e-commerce grows even more prevalent across industries. Now that more customers are skipping crowded shopping malls to order online, shipping has become a vital part of running a business.
Large companies like Amazon have honed shipping into an art. In light of this competition, it can be difficult for many small businesses to develop shipping practices that both satisfy customers and leave room for a modest profit. But to thrive in the digital marketplace, quality shipping practices are essential.
Here are several ways small businesses can improve their shipping strategy to see more success.
Compare Rates Across Carriers
Many businesses have one carrier that they use for all their shipping. While this strategy might save time, it may not always be the most cost-effective method.
Different carriers have different strengths and charge different rates for their services. While one carrier may charge exorbitant prices for next-day shipping, another carrier might specialize in that kind of delivery, allowing them to charge less for the same thing. Businesses can lower shipping costs by comparing rates across all available carriers.
Additionally, small businesses may be able to negotiate better rates by working with a third-party partner that can provide additional discounts and guarantees that carriers don’t offer directly.
Mail Packages Quickly
Small businesses can impress customers by ensuring their orders arrive as quickly as possible. This plan requires two things: fast order processing and coordination with the carrier of choice.
To get packages to customers’ doorsteps quickly, business owners need to process and package orders almost as soon as they arrive. In general, online businesses should ship packages within 12 hours of when an order is placed. To streamline the process, some businesses pre-package popular items so that they can simply add a label and send the box out the door.
Timely delivery also requires businesses to coordinate with mail carriers, however. Once a package is out of your hands, it’s up to someone else to deliver it on time.
To keep customers happy, businesses need to communicate with them and ensure the accuracy of estimated delivery times. During busy periods like the holidays, some carriers may have delays due to an influx of business. Businesses need to ship sooner rather than later, adhering to drop-dead shipping dates, or risk losing repeat customers.
Offer Free Shipping and Other Deals
Fast shipping can make the difference between a happy customer and an annoyed one, but the cost of shipping may be even more important. In one survey, 88 percent of respondents said they valued free shipping more than fast shipping.
For customers ordering online, free shipping can be the incentive that convinces them to buy. Likewise, expensive shipping can push buyers away. Businesses that offer free shipping can sell more and make up for shipping costs incurred.
With that said, many small businesses can’t afford to offer free shipping on all purchases. Luckily, alternative deals can also please customers. For example, allow customers to pick up purchases in-store, or provide free shipping only for certain types of purchases.
Consider Scheduling Package Pickup
Understandably, most small business owners aren’t eager to spend more to ship packages. However, spending a little more for package pickup could save money during the busy season.
Shipping quickly involves trips to the post office every time an order arrives. If online orders are rare, this strategy works fine. However, if a company mails many packages every day, package pickup could save time and money by limiting the amount of time employees spend in transit. This investment can help streamline the shipping process.
Bring People Back for More
Small businesses need to impress customers even after their order arrives. Some small additions to a box can turn a one-time buyer into a loyal customer. To bring customers back for more, some businesses include a piece of marketing material or a free gift inside the box. For example, they can include a coupon for a future purchase, a handwritten note that thanks buyers for their purchase or a small gift with the company’s logo on it.
These small touches help businesses grow a pool of loyal customers, which allows them to compete with more established online retailers.
Impress Customers with Quality Shipping
The popularity of online shopping is growing fast. To keep up, small businesses need to make sure their shipping practices are up to date. Quality shipping can impress customers and increase sales, making it a worthy investment.