Online holiday shopping has been gaining traction in recent years, but the last few quarters in 2020 usher in a truly unprecedented time. More people than ever before will hesitate to shop at brick-and-mortar retailers and will pivot to online purchasing. This means that traditional retail and online sellers alike will need to adjust quickly to meet increasing demand and ensure buyer expectations are met.
With restrictions and uncertainty about how you can get products to your customers, having one shipping method may leave you unprepared, which in turn, can negatively impact your business. Our friends at ShipStation have put together ways you can diversify your fulfillment process so you can build resilience and be prepared for what might be the busiest peak season on record.
Provide Different Shipping Options at Checkout
According to a ShipStation survey, 96% of consumers factor shipping into their online purchasing decisions. This means shipping could make or break a sale for you, so it is important to provide different options for your customers.
Cart abandonment is an ongoing issue for merchants, but not having a free shipping option at checkout can increase the chances of it happening. As we get closer to the holidays (especially Black Friday), free shipping can mean the difference between closing a sale or losing a customer to a competitor. In fact, 69% of consumers would rather have free 5- to 10-day shipping than to pay for an order to arrive faster.
Even though Amazon Prime has changed consumer expectations around the speed of delivery, not everyone needs an express option. The people who want express shipping, however, view it as a premium — and expect to be charged extra for it.
There are certain scenarios that lend themselves more to express options, like sending gifts. A significant portion (76%) of customers say they are more willing to pay for expedited shipping if they are sending a gift to someone else. During the holidays, it is always a good idea to give shoppers (especially the procrastinators) the ability to select expedited shipping to increase cart conversions.
Use Different Fulfillment Options
Switch from FBA to Fulfilled by Merchant
At the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, Amazon had to suspend inbound deliveries of any “nonessential” FBA items, leaving thousands of merchants without a way to get their products to customers. To build resilience in your business in case something like this happens again, be prepared to switch to FBM (Fulfilled by Merchant). This way, you will still be able to ship your products to expecting customers without losing out on revenue opportunities. You can manage the fulfillment process yourself in this scenario, or you can enlist the help of a third-party fulfillment provider (3PL), which we will get to a little later.
Store, Pick, and Pack Items Yourself
It is always a good idea to have backup products at your fingertips to prevent a complete halt on fulfillment if your operations shut down. Many merchants also opt to fulfill all orders themselves. This is a great option, especially when you have a platform like ShipStation that offers workflow features so you can fulfill all e-commerce orders quickly and efficiently. One of the main benefits of shipping items yourself is the ability to retain oversight on everything coming in and out of your warehouse, which can cut down on errors.
Use a 3PL
Third-party fulfillment providers, or 3PLs, are a great resource to tap into when you have increased sales or are outgrowing your current fulfillment strategy. 3PLs can handle many aspects of your supply chain like inventory storage and management, fulfillment and shipping, and returns processes. Choosing the right 3PL to meet your business needs is extremely important, so check out these questions you should ask before picking a 3PL.
Seamless Returns Process
Returns will never be the fun part of a purchase for merchants or consumers. Just because they are a necessary evil doesn’t mean they aren’t important though. According to AllBusiness, 91% of customers factor return policies into their online shopping decisions. Make sure you don’t lose customers based on your returns policy by having a clear and concise description of the process. You will also want to ensure your policy is reasonable and attainable for your customers.
Attending Connect 2020 Digital? You will want to check out the session with Cody DeArmond, Director of Sales with ShipStation, to hear about how to ace the fulfillment process. He will be covering why the shipping process is important and best practices to achieve success this holiday season. With 80% of customers saying the shipping experience is what stands out most when shopping online, you won’t want to miss this session.