Reduce the amount of time it takes for an online retail order to be picked, packed, and given to the package carrier, and your ecommerce business will have gone a long way toward meeting customer expectations for fast shipping.
Online shoppers often want both free shipping and fast delivery. Consider that in May 2016, AlixPartners, a well-known consulting firm, reported ecommerce shipping expectations for American online shoppers who were or were not members of Amazon Prime.
About a quarter (24 percent) of Amazon Prime members and 15 percent of shoppers who were not Prime members expected online orders with free shipping to take two days or less to arrive, including both the time it takes a merchant to process the order and the time it takes the carrier to transport it.
A majority of the online shoppers surveyed expected free shipments to take five days or less to be delivered, again including not just the transit time but the retailer’s order processing time, too.
The cost of not meeting customers’ expectations for fast delivery may be high. UPS and comScore, the trend-tracking firm, reported in 2016 that one in three online shoppers made the decision to purchase from an online marketplace — think Amazon — rather than another retailer because of faster delivery.
Online businesses not delivering quickly may be losing new and repeat sales.
Process Orders Effectively
Ecommerce retailers have a few ways to address fast and free shipping and the customer expectations associated with them. Stores might choose different service levels from a carrier (such as second-day air versus ground shipping) or use distributed warehouses and fulfillment centers to strategically place products close to likely customers.
A mid-sized or larger merchant might try to negotiate special rates with a carrier to offset more expensive shipping methods or use techniques like zone skipping. Or sellers could simply focus on the part of the shipping process they have the most control over. They could focus on making the time from when an order is placed until when it leaves the warehouse as short as possible.
Again, this order-processing time is often completely within your business’s control and it can have a significant impact on when an order is delivered.
Here is an example.
Imagine that you have an order come in at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday. Your warehouse is just closing down for the night, so the order, which is bound for a customer five zones away, isn’t processed until Wednesday. The order takes three days in transit but isn’t delivered until Monday because the carrier you selected does not offer Saturday delivery on ground shipments.
From your customer’s perspective, this order took a week to arrive. If the customer expected the order to arrive in just a couple of days, there was a service failure.