Not so long ago, before the pandemic changed everything and before online shopping was established as the way consumers prefer to shop, online shoppers expected to pay for shipping and wait from several days up to a week or more for their online orders to arrive. Now, however, things have changed drastically. Due to expectations set by Amazon, according to easyship.com:
- 61% of shoppers want their items delivered within three hours of making an online purchase.
- 61.8% of buyers consider shipping costs above all other factors.
- 73% of buyers have abandoned a cart because of shipping costs.
Managing Customer Expectations
Customer expectations change rapidly on the e-commerce scene. Faster and faster delivery expectations with free shipping require e-commerce vendors to optimize their inventory management functions and streamline their fulfillment processes to keep up with these expectations. As consumers shop more online, offering a variety of payment options is important to maintaining and growing your customer base.
Increasing interest in digital wallets and cryptocurrency is causing major changes in consumer shopping behavior. According to a whiplash.com blog post, credit cards are showing a drop in popularity, due to “debt-conscious Millennials and Gen Z opting for debit-based payment methods.
- 60% of millennials and Gen Z reportedly view credit cards as ‘too risky’ – attitudes that haven’t been helped by banks choosing to tighten credit limits during the pandemic.”
- A trend in Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) programs nearly doubled during the 2021 holiday season compared with the same period in 2020, due to younger consumers.
Offering a variety of flexible payment options will help decrease cart abandonment as consumers move through your checkout process. Optimizing your website for ease of use on mobile devices is essential as according to oberlo.com,
- The share of mobile e-commerce sales in total e-commerce sales has increased a whopping 39.1% from its 52.4% market share in 2016 to the current 72.9% market share.
- This means that nearly three out of every four dollars spent on online purchases today is done so through a mobile device.
Shipping And Delivery Options
Another way to keep relevant with your customer base is to offer several shipping and delivery options. Some consumers are willing to wait a little longer for free shipping and many are willing to pay more for expedited shipping. While you might not be able to offer as many options as the big guys do, you can offer at least one free shipping option for 2–3-day deliveries, as well as other incentives, such as:
- Offering faster delivery options if customers order in a certain amount of time or by a given date
- Offering free shipping when order costs exceed a certain amount
- Offering buy online, pick up in-store options
Communicating with your customers when supply chain disruptions or carrier issues occur will help keep your returns to a minimum. However, returns and exchanges are inevitable, and making your return process easy to navigate will make shoppers more likely to continue to shop your brand in the future. Easy return and exchange strategies include:
- In-store returns
- Self-service return portals
- Free return shipping
Minimizing Returns With AI
Did you know that 22% of returns occur because of the discrepancy between customer expectations and the actual look of products when they arrive? Because of this issue, immersive experiences, such as Augmented Reality (AR) have been real game-changers. Allowing customers to try on products, such as eyeglass frames, before purchasing, in conjunction with offering real-time live chat with customer service personnel has been shown to lower return rates. Other immersive experiences, such as virtual store environments and interacting with avatar store associates engage online shoppers to convert to customers. To ensure your e-commerce company can meet consumer demands for shipping and delivery options, the majority of online brands, over 60%, are opting to work with third party logistics (3PL) providers.
Working With A 3PL Service Provider
While many e-commerce vendors sell on Amazon to meet consumer demands for free shipping and faster delivery times, others are finding that they can meet delivery expectations, offer free shipping, and better manage their inventory by partnering with a 3PL provider, such as Phase V Fulfillment Company. Many e-commerce vendors see the value of working with a reliable fulfillment company in the significant benefits and savings 3PL service providers offer growing companies.
For starters, partnering with the right fulfillment company saves e-commerce vendors the headache of sourcing, then leasing or purchasing warehouse spaces and outfitting them with the equipment and staff needed to pick, pack, and ship orders so they meet your customers’ 2-day delivery time expectations. With data-powered warehouse and inventory management technology in place, 3PL service providers can help streamline your fulfillment processes in several ways, including:
- Providing 24/7 real-time inventory counts across all sales platforms
- Forecasting for inventory demand, based on historical data analysis
- Setting up low inventory alerts that allow you enough time to restock products, to avoid stockout and backorder situations
- Finding alternative sources for supplies and products that might be affected by global supply chain issues
Automating Your Shipping Processes
When e-commerce vendors partner with 3PL service providers, they can also take advantage of the automation your 3PL’s warehouses can provide to avoid delays, integrating data with your shipping partners and implementing pre-filled customs documentation and automatically generated shipping labels. E-commerce companies can also leverage the automation your 3PL provides in the picking process, to the expertise of packaging professionals who pack your orders consistently to your specs and can also assemble kitting and subscription boxes ahead of time, to speed up order fulfillment operations.
Offer A Variety Of Shipping And Delivery Options
Fulfillment companies can offer the shipping and delivery options that best fit your customers. Working with all major carriers, your 3PL shipping pros are adept at handling a variety of different shipping options, from B2B, B2C, retail, and international shipping.
Another key factor in reducing shipping costs and improving delivery times is to take advantage of your 3PL’s distributed warehouses, shipping items from regional locations closer to order destinations. With deep carrier discounts, your shipping logistics pros can find even more discounts, saving you more money in shipping costs.
Easy Returns Processes In Place
Your 3PL will have policies and processes in place to handle returns and exchanges in a timely fashion, boosting your customer experience ratings, resulting in return business that keeps your customers happy and your business growing.
Online shoppers now expect faster and faster delivery times, with free shipping, a variety of easy payment options, such as Buy Now Pay Later and the choice to pick up their orders in-store or from other designated locations. Partnering with a 3PL service provider, such as Phase V Fulfillment can streamline your fulfillment operations and give you real-time info about your inventory that can help optimize your inventory management, accurately predict demand, and help forecast future sales cycles.
Contact Phase V to see how we can partner with your e-commerce business to sharpen your competitive edge and ensure your company’s relevance in a world of constantly changing consumer preferences and expectations!