Running an E-Commerce business can be a complex task and it is frustrating when something out of your control is the cause of customer dissatisfaction; such as shipping delays. While large corporations such as Amazon work towards same day or next day shipping, storefronts and shop platforms such as Lazada, Shopify, or Shopee struggle to have competitive shipping rates and quick delivery times. More often than not, longer shipping times have nothing to do with the business but are from external forces. Especially today with the Covid-19 pandemic disrupting air travel, the world’s air cargo capacity has diminished exponentially, pushing back delivery times. Luckily, there are some “best practices” when it comes to handling the inevitable shipping delays like a professional that will help you to keep a great reputation as a seller.
Know All The Potential Shipping Methods
The first step is to do the prep work when you are developing your shipping methods. This involves logistics such as how you’ll be tracking orders, calculating your shipping costs, your packaging, and more. Have you decided to pass on the full cost of shipping onto your customer, or will you offer flat-rate or free shipping on your dime? If the customer is paying for shipping, then you can give them the option of regular or expedited shipping, and then they're theoretically accountable for how long the shipping takes.
And yet, one of the best ways to reduce shopping cart abandonment or entice an indecisive buyer to make a decision is with free shipping. As many as 83% of E-Commerce customers will decide not to buy if they have to pay for shipping. You have to find the fine balance between offering the best possible shipping experience to the customer, without cutting into your profits and seller ratings. One way around this is finding a partner that offers localized shipping, which cuts down the time and cost for the last mile. The more well thought out and organized your shipping processes are the less likely you are to experience delays and other issues.
Remember that shipping delays will always be a cost to you as a seller so putting in the work beforehand can only save you time and money in the long run. Along with cost, delays create unhappy customers that could seriously injure your reputation and ratings on your shop platforms. If there is a delay that is out of your hands, then it’s time to be proactive. If your customers are not dealt with in the correct manner they could leave harsh reviews on your site or even affect your future sales through word of mouth. Of course, it is always preferable to stop delays before they happen, but when it is out of your control there are still opportunities to mend the situation - with full transparency, traceability, and accountability.
Constant Communication With Your Customers
The best way to maintain a positive relationship with your customers is to be as honest as possible, even when it might upset them. It is always better to prepare your buyer for a possible delay in advance than have them waiting on something they were expecting.
Having a system in place to notify consumers of delays is the best practice when it comes to the E-Commerce business. Whether it is a pop-up when they go to place an order or an email afterward, it is crucial to have a notification that informs the buyer that there are longer than normal fulfillment or shipping times. This should be done before they hit checkout, so they have the option of canceling. Odds are, most won’t. On average, 75% of E-Commerce customers still go ahead with their purchase, despite the fact that delivery would take longer. One of the most frequently used systems is a series of emails informing the buyer of what stage of the delivery process their package is in. By letting them know when the order is ready, shipped, in transit, and/or delivered is a great system as the customer remains informed throughout the process and can be easily contacted if unexpected delays occur.
Another important aspect is to take responsibility for whatever happens. Do not blame the shipping company or make excuses for your buyer. Nor should you be baited into an argument/disagreement with your buyer - this is one of the biggest mistakes an E-Commerce seller can make. At the end of the day, they don't care what the issue was or who’s at fault, only that they are not receiving what they paid for within the expected timeframe. By handling the situation on your end calmly and respectfully, and keeping the buyer informed that it is being dealt with you will save them stress and make it a better experience for the both of you. It’s all too easy for potential customers to leave a bad review on your website or your social media, and impact future sales and your seller ratings. A positive experience only bolsters your reputation and builds lasting relationships with your customers.
As a small business, you have the opportunity to use great customer service as your own selling point. The larger corporations are not known for personal connections or speedy customer service. Make sure that you are communicating well with your buyer and working as quickly as possible to resolve the situation. This will leave the buyer feeling cared for and knowing they can trust your business even when things don’t run smoothly.
One platform to leverage as an independent seller in order to stay connected to your buyers is social media. This is an easy way for your customers to reach out to you and a great way for you as the buyer to be available as often as possible. In the Asia Pacific, social media users are spending 10+ hours online, and 89% of APAC social media users are open to brands participating on social media.
Make sure that you stay up to date with your social media and always reply to DMs and comments on your platforms. This is a fantastic opportunity for customer service that is personalized via authentic conversations with your buyer. In fact, 87% of buyers in the Asia Pacific say that social media helps them in their buying decisions, while in the US, consumers find it’s easier to get support via a company’s social media. In this era of indispensable social media platforms, some buyers just feel more comfortable using social media to connect with a seller than email or another form of communication. It makes the consumer feel like they are speaking with a real person and is a huge advantage for independent sellers and entrepreneurs, so make sure you are taking advantage of this platform. When 93% of Facebook users in Asia actively look to support local entrepreneurs, all the tools you need are found online.
Effortless Return Policy
Having a good return policy is crucial if you want your customer base to respect your business. Return policies are one of the major factors online buyers take into consideration before ordering a product, with nearly 52% of consumers saying this is the key factor they look for. Obviously, you do not want your buyers returning their products, but in the case of miscommunication or delayed delivery, it’s something to expect. That way, the consumer still thinks highly of the buying experience and is more likely to return to your E-Commerce store in the future.
Oftentimes shipping delays will be the cause of online returns because the consumer is not receiving their product when they expected it. This has nothing to do with the quality of the item and should not hurt your business’s reputation. However, if they go to return the product and it is a hassle they may leave a negative review and not return it to your store in the future. Every step you can take to develop a positive relationship with the consumers will encourage repeat sales and is worth taking. Hence, when you’re finding shipping and fulfillment partners, it’s best to find one that can facilitate easy returns, as well as the initial shipment.
One aspect of E-Commerce businesses that can heavily affect shipping times is inventory management. It is up to you as the seller to manage your inventory effectively.
The first step to successful inventory management is being able to predict future demand by using projected market conditions, historical sales data, planned shipments, and production patterns. Through these calculations, you can determine the correct levels of safety stock to manufacture so that you are never unprepared. Again, depending on the size of your business, all the inventory management might fall on you or you may have a fulfillment partner that can help you.
In the same way, having too much inventory on hand can also be problematic because you are occupying valuable warehouse space. Using a set of KPI’s that you continuously monitor to keep track of stock turn and non-moving items, can indicate where changes should be made to optimize production and inventory levels. This is part of the selling process that is in your hands so you do not want it to go overlooked and have that be the cause of your own shipping delays.
Somewhere in the middle of having too much inventory or not enough, is restricted access to your stock via separate inventory pools. If you’re working with multiple shop platforms, marketplaces, and your own website, you might have too many items via one channel, and not enough in another. And you can’t just transfer it over. Hence, you need to find a way to draw from a consolidated inventory pool, so you’re not delaying any shipments.
Make sure you have full visibility of your inventory in real-time so you're on-hand inventory and online inventory are in sync. Also, consider finding a partner that can focus your multi-platform distribution to a hyper-local distribution model in order to shorten your last mile and get your products into consumer’s hands more quickly. LOCAD specializes in consolidating inventory pools, creating integrated dashboards to manage stock levels, and hyper-local distribution. We can offer efficient tools to help you deliver best-in-class customer experiences.
How LOCAD Can Help
Managing so many aspects of your E-Commerce business can be challenging, but we are here to help. LOCAD offers a supply chain platform as a service for multi-channel fulfillment, on-demand warehousing, and distribution. Our product is an easy-to-use technology platform to manage your infrastructure. We work across all aspects of your business in order to assess and consolidate inventory so that you have access to everything in real-time; sales, inventory, and KPIs. In addition to our LOCAD dashboard, our distributed fulfillment network brings your stock closer to consumers, shortening the last mile, making delivery faster and more cost-efficient. Through the on-demand fulfillment network, you can expand your business exponentially.
Let us help you achieve your most profitable and effective business. After years of experience with E-Commerce sellers, entrepreneurs, and Enterprise level clients, we have developed a highly scalable, easy-to-use solution for your business needs.
We know that running a business, especially an E-Commerce business, can be an ever-changing process, which is why LOCAD comes with flexible terms and no commitments. We can consolidate everything you need into one easy dashboard, and help to anticipate and mitigate any shipping delays, while focus on growing your business.
Contact us today.