Shipping Success: Put Your Customer In Control of Delivery Options

Retail shipping | Shopify Retail blog

Whether your retail business is primarily online, you sell mostly in-store, or a combination or both — shipping and delivery is a major sales driver.

A major trend in the world of retail for 2018 is going above and beyond in terms of shipping options for your customers. More and more, consumers expect to receive their items quickly and easily, no matter where they live — which can pose a challenge for small businesses to meet.

Shipping items domestically or internationally can be costly and time-consuming for retailers, but it helps you reach a much larger market and provide a personalized service that today’s shopper has come to expect. And with all the delivery options available, it's a challenge to choose the right ones for your business.

To make sense of market demands and all your options, we've rounded the top delivery services customers have come to expect so retailers can make an informed decision on shipping services.

The Right Shipping Options for Your Retail Business

So, how do you know which shipping option, or options, are right for your business? Customers have certain expectations or ideal timeframes for receiving different types of products. If your customers are ordering grocery items, baby items, or personal items, then the odds are they want to receive those products as soon as possible.

Alternatively, customers tend to wait a little longer to receive items like clothing, electronics, and furniture. Take a look at what your competitors are doing and try to at least offer a similar, but ideally better, delivery experience than they do.

In their 2018 Retail Trends Report, Alliance Data advises retailers to: “Identify customer needs (and pain points) based on region, demographic, and personal preference to enhance and improve your brand’s distribution, delivery, and logistics strategy.”

FURTHER READING: If you're just getting started with shipping for your business, read our Beginner's Guide to Ecommerce Shipping and Fulfillment for more help.

Essentially, you should survey your customers, listen to their feedback, and build a delivery service that makes sense for your business and your customers. Conduct some cursory market research to examine the options available in your area and what some of your competitors currently offer.

Let’s take a look at the delivery options retailers currently offer that go beyond regular ground shipping — as well as if these options could work for you and how.

Same-Day Delivery

It may seem like we’re living in the future, but it’s now possible to place your order online and receive your delivery all in the same day. Yes, same-day delivery is in high demand and is expected to continue growing exponentially.

In 2017, the order value of same-day delivery merchandise was projected to reach $3.35 billion, up from $0.1 billion in 2014. More than half (56%) of consumers aged 18-34 expect to have a same-day delivery option, and 61% are willing to pay more for same-day delivery, according to one study.

Same-day delivery merchandise value | Shopify Retail blogImage: Statista

Retail giants like Amazon and Office Depot currently offer same-day delivery, which requires customers to place their online order by a specified time in order to receive it by the end of the day. It is also usually only offered to shoppers that live in large cities or near distribution facilities — unfortunately, it’s not very feasible to offer same-day delivery in many rural areas.

If same-day delivery is something you want to explore for your business, it is currently an option for major delivery providers like UPS, Purolator, and FedEx. Because of the higher costs associated with express service, you may want to consider adjusting product prices, passing some or all of the express shipping cost on to the customer, or looking for other ways to cut costs so you can absorb the delivery fees without cutting into your profits.

For more on setting prices for shipping that will work for you while satisfying your customers, check out How to Choose a Shipping Strategy for Your Online Store.

In-Store Pickup

Another popular new delivery option for retail businesses with brick-and-mortar locations is in-store pickup. This service allows customers to shop for items online, checkout, and pick them up within a set timeframe at a local store.

In-store pickup is another option more customers are demanding. According to research, 57% of the customer surveyed said they had picked up an item in-store that they had purchased online. But why would customers want to trek out to a store versus getting it delivered right to their door? Well, 73% of them are eager to avoid shipping costs, for one. They also said in-store pickup was the preferred option because the store location was convenient or they needed the item immediately and didn’t want to wait for delivery.

In-store pickup is a great option for refrigerated or frozen items that would otherwise be costly and difficult to ship; small items that are too inexpensive to warrant the cost of shipping; or as another choice to offer your customers to get their items quickly.

Some retailers, like Canadian grocery chain Loblaws and WalMart, even offer a click-and-collect option where customers choose their items online or in an app and an associate collects those items, checks them out, and delivers them at a predetermined time to shoppers waiting in designated parking spots in the lot.

Ecommerce giant Amazon is also offering instant pickup in densely populated areas, like college campuses. According to Alliance Data: “Prime and Prime Student members can purchase a selection of essentials like snacks, drinks, and electronics, available for pickup in two minutes or less.”

In-store pickup services are a great choice that any retailer with convenient physical locations can offer to their customers. Depending on the amount of time and resources that are needed to select the items and package for pickup, you can decide to offer this service for free or for a small charge.

Ship from Store

Ship from store delivery options | Shopify Retail blogAnother option for retail businesses with multiple retail or logistics locations is to offer a ship-from-store service. Retailers turn their offline locations into fulfillment centers that cater to both in-store and online shoppers.

Shipping from your store prevents unnecessary costs from having to ship unsold inventory back to warehouses, cuts shipping costs by keeping delivery distances shorter, and helps prevent product pile-up at stores by offering an extra avenue of sale. According to UPS, the option “captures sales that might have been lost otherwise” by “fulfilling web orders from store inventory when the warehouse is out of stock improves revenue 10 to 20% percent.”

Consultant firm Kurt Salmon also estimates that revenues can increase by 10 to 20% simply by avoiding lost orders and offers a specific example of this option working: Menswear Men’s Wearhouse adopted the ship-from-store model, which has prevented some 1,000 lost orders per day.

Scheduled Delivery and Other Shipping Options

Whether you choose express shipping or use traditional ground shipping options, offering your customers scheduled delivery times is another way to put your customers in control of their delivery. Most major shipping companies offer customers the option to schedule their deliveries within a set window for a small fee or for free if they are members of their loyalty program. This prevents major customer frustration from missed deliveries.

If shipping and delivery options are something that you want to offer your customers, but isn’t something that you want to handle internally, you can always outsource to third-party logistics companies. These companies offer services that include storing your products, fulfilling orders, and shipping items to your customers. If this is something that you think might be right for your business, check out Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Third-Party Warehousing and Fulfillment.

Finding the Best Shipping Options for Your Business

As you can see, there are plenty of shipping options for retailers to explore. With the availability of same-day delivery, in-store pickup, and click-and-collect services, you can get products delivered faster and increase customer satisfaction in the process.

Have you had any success or pain points trying to set up delivery services that exceed your customers’ expectations? If so, tell us about it in the comments.