Waiting for packages is slowly becoming a lockdown pastime. Prior to 2020, it wasn’t rare for consumers to take a day off work to wait for a package, and the FOMD (fear of missing delivery) was real.
A lot has changed in a year. The ongoing pandemic has changed how consumers shop, with ecommerce reaching an all-time high. As many parts of the world go into another year of lockdown, and even beyond the pandemic, you will need to be aware of how changing customer behaviours and expectations will impact your shipping strategy. In this post, we’ll look at shipping speeds; specifically how this can fit into your strategy and help you build better relationships with your customers.
What are Shipping Speeds?
Industry wide, this is the time it takes for a package to travel from warehouse or place of origin, to its final destination. Often ecommerce shipping speeds are determined by distance, for example, domestic or international shipping. Shipping speeds are communicated as timelines, for example: one day, two days, etc.
💡 Tip: Shipping speeds within Shopify allows businesses to provide their customers a range of days at checkout that reflect the estimated transit time of their purchase.
Shipping vs. processing time
Shipping speeds account for how long it takes the carrier to… carry… the order to its destination. Your processing time is the amount of time it takes for your business to prepare an order after it’s received. Once that order is handed off to your shipping carrier, it’s no longer processing.
Customers may be aware of this, but it’s better to give specifics on the distinction between processing and shipping times than to assume they know the difference. This is especially important if your products take more than a business day or two to process.
As each product at Waist Beads by Fatou is handmade, they provide detailed information on processing times at the top of their shipping policy. They list the different processing times for different products. Notice they also call out that processing times change if there’s a sale and around holiday season.
How Shipping Speeds can help your business
There are few things more important to your customer’s experience than shipping. This research study reveals that 73.6% of shoppers believe shipping is key to their overall shopping experience. So much so, that 83.5% are unlikely to shop with a brand again after a poor shipping experience.
Consumers have increased expectations for clear and transparent communication, one study finding 60.7% of customers are more likely to make a purchase if they see delivery times in their shopping carts. And 47% will avoid re-ordering because of a lack of delivery transparency.
Adding shipping speeds at checkout is one way to communicate your delivery promise to customers. Including those sought after ETAs will help establish trust with your customers, reduce cart abandonment, and help you improve fulfillment operations.
Increase customer confidence and brand trust by providing clarity and transparency
Providing clear and transparent details help your customers feel more confident shopping with you. Estimated delivery times set clear expectations, and work to establish trust.
Clear communication means three things: a) letting customers know how long it takes for an order to be processed, b) how long it will take for the order to be shipped, and c) how much everything will cost, shipping included.
You can see how loungewear retailer Smash+Tess communicates all three elements at checkout. Their customers are able to decide how quickly they want to get their product and how much it will cost them to get it to them faster. Even before money has left the customer’s account, they trust that the retailer they’re buying from will deliver.
Reduce customer cart abandonment—while increasing sales and revenue
Cart abandonment can happen for many reasons ranging from unexpected shipping costs to site errors. But we know that checkouts with shipping rates and delivery time estimates have higher conversion rates than checkouts that omit this information. At the very least, you can mitigate any ambiguity about when it will be delivered.
Adding shipping speeds to your checkout will help to reduce cart abandonment because it adds a level of certainty and initiates trust. Providing this information upfront sets expectations for your customers and provides them with a clear sense of when they can expect their purchase, making them less likely to back out of the order if they do not agree with the shipping terms. It’s the first way you can encourage customers to come back, and how you can initiate more sales and more revenue. When you don’t add them at checkout, you risk driving away customers to your competitors.
Improve customer service and experience
Customers have come to expect up to date information at their fingertips, and that goes for knowing all the details of their online purchases. Why are customers so keen to know when their package is going to arrive? It ties back to the fear of missed delivery and out of fear of stolen packages, especially high value items, fear of packages lost in transit, or even fear that someone else in the household picks up the package that may have been meant as a surprise—think birthday gifts!
Providing merchants with shipping speeds at checkout, combined with tracking capabilities and an integration with Shop or another package service, will arm your customers with information and clarity. They will be less likely to contact your customer service department with questions about their orders and delivery status. Fewer delivery questions means a better customer experience which also means a lower impact to your customer support team. A better customer experience means happier customers which means they’ll be more likely to come back to your store for repeat purchases.
How Shipping Speeds fit into your shipping strategy
The first two questions customers will ask when they have made a decision about purchasing your products: how much will it cost to deliver and when will I get it?
Whether you’re developing a new shipping strategy or revisiting your existing one, it is a lever that can influence your business as a whole. Adding shipping speeds should be a key consideration for your shipping strategy - just as important as which methods you make available and how much you charge.
You might decide to pass the cost of shipping onto your customers, or offer free, or flat-rate options. Showing shipping speeds will give your customers clarity on what they’re paying, even if shipping is free, and how long it will take to receive their package. You will want to do the same for any alternative shipping method you offer, such as curbside pickup or local delivery. It can mean the difference between a sale and an abandoned cart.
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The checkout is an obvious place for you to communicate your shipping speeds and costs but you can also add these key points wherever you communicate your shipping policy to minimize any hesitations your customers may have about making a purchase.
Sneaker brand Koio, communicates their shipping speeds for each delivery method and the respective costs, on their shipping page. They also include processing time on that same page.
Customers also expect a communication after their purchase is complete confirming when they will receive the things they buy online. Traditionally, this is managed with an email post purchase summarizing the purchase, the cost of the product, any shipping fees, and estimated shipping speeds or delivery times.
What to do when shipping delays happen
Shipping delays happen. Peak periods, inclement weather, and increased ecommerce volumes can all lead to overwhelming volumes for shipping carriers, causing packages to be delivered later than expected. What can you do in such a situation? It goes back to clear communication. The more you share about what’s going on, the better your customers will feel about purchasing with you.
Customers need to know what’s going on and if any delays will impact them. Once you take the step to communicate shipping speeds to your customers, it is necessary to continue sharing information about their purchase, including delays. Failing to do so will work against you and risks the brand trust and loyalty you built with your customers pre-purchase.
Communicate proactively. Be specific about delay information; which regions are impacted and any information on when the delay will end, if you have it. Consider also adding a notification on checkout pages to let shoppers know of potential delays before they buy.
Use your communication channels. Customers have their eyes in multiple places throughout the day, so a message on the website will go unnoticed by customers who don’t visit regularly. Share delay information on your site, email list, and social channels to cover all of your bases.
Check with other retailers. If you’re experiencing delays that are completely outside of your control, keep an eye on what other stores similar to yours are doing to deal.
It just takes one
It takes one good experience to create a loyal customer, and one bad experience to turn a shopper off forever. Unfortunately, negative experiences can sometimes be exaggerated.
After a negative experience, a consumer is more likely to completely avoid shopping with that business again, if they can. Many times they will go out of their way or deal with minor inconveniences to never have the same experience.
On the other hand, when a customer has a positive experience they’re more than eager to share it with others, whether that be people in their network or in positive online reviews. Consumers are eager to find brands they can be loyal to, especially, as we’ve discovered over the course of the pandemic, if that brand is local.
This is the kind of positive word-of-mouth marketing most merchants want to generate. The good news is, for the most part your customer experience is under your control. Shipping and delivery is an essential component of this. And with pandemic lockdowns changing nearly everything about how we shop, your shipping strategy cannot be overlooked.
Often, awareness is the difference between a positive experience and a negative one. You might not be able to offer free and fast one-day shipping using a local delivery service to every customer, but you can provide the information your customers need to know everything about how and when their order is delivered.
The information gap between your customer’s delivery expectations and the reality represents one of the primary factors that determine their experience. The cost, speed, and flexible options are additional factors.
With more options and rapid changes to how consumers shop and receive orders, knowing how long it will take for an item to be processed and shipped is quickly becoming table stakes. Communicating shipping speeds at checkout can help you improve cart conversion, drive sales and build brand loyalty with your customers.
Add Shipping Speeds to your Shipping Rates in Shopify
When you add shipping speeds to your shipping rates in Shopify, your customers see a range of days at checkout that reflect the estimated transit time of their purchase. This is automatically estimated - you will avoid relying on inaccurate information or manually estimating delivery times when you create manual rate names.
Ethical apparel retailer Good for Sunday displays their shipping speeds at checkout. You can see how the customer is presented with shipping options, related costs, and how long shipping is anticipated to take - all from the checkout and all without the retailer having to do any manual calculations. The customer can make an informed choice and can plan for when they’ll be able to get their cosy new WFH outfit!
Learn how to add shipping speeds and whether your business is eligible.
See our guide on epacket for exporting to China.