The true essence of a business is to innovate the offering and reach customers. You have to do both to be successful and scale, and every aspect of your operations should be aligned with the reach that marketing generates, including shipping.
Sometimes it’s hard to think about shipping as part of marketing, because fulfillment is just getting your products from point A to point B correctly and on-time. But you can get there if you just think of the last purchase you made online that was delivered wrong or late.
The anger and frustration you feel can quickly turn into a critical review, social post, or you telling a friend that they should shop elsewhere.
Or, if the company went above-and-beyond to deliver something early or right a wrong, you’ll quickly be singing their praises.
Shipping plays a role in how your customers experience your company, good and bad. Waiting for it to show up in reviews and repeat business is a passive, reactive way you can rely on fulfillment to help. However, there’s no reason you can’t be proactive and turn your shipping into one of the reasons why a customer buys from you.
Let’s dive into how you can leverage your shipping and build a better customer relationship through marketing and more.
Match Goals, Strategy, and Customers
Marketing is all about making the right offer to the right person. So, your shipping-marketing foundation starts with learning about your audience. Do your homework and pick up industry data to look for preferences. If you want to focus first efforts on existing customers, look at when they’re likely to buy an expediated shipping option or how many people get to the shipping section of your checkout process and then abandon their cart.
People will tell you what they want by what they do and don’t finish. If that’s too much for you, there are big trends you can look at, including National Retail Federation data saying 75% of your buyers want shipping free on every order. And other studies show that the majority of your audience will spend a little more if you set a minimum order value for free shipping.
Ask what you want shipping to do for your business. Do you need more orders? Want to increase total order value? Encourage return shoppers? Or focus on controlling per-order costs to make your business more predictable?
Then, find a way to relate to what your customers want. That’ll help you understand what strategies might be useful for your business.
For example, if cost control is a big driver for both you and your customers, then setting standard shipping pricing can be a compelling option. Customers know what they’ll pay per order, you know what carriers charge on your average order, and everything is more predictable for everyone.
Shipping is a line item and a marketing component. When you’re done understanding how you want that line item to work for you, there are a few extra ways to leverage shipping in your marketing.
Your customers love their phones and updates about orders. Updating someone via text is a smart way to ease any worries about products and orders. Order tracking not only helps your customer plan for their package, but it can get them excited about what you offer.
An alert that a driver is 10 minutes away or will arrive between noon and 2pm builds anticipating and — if you provide a high-quality experience with your products — gives customers a strong reason to buy from you again.
It’s also a smart way to create a longer paper trail for your products, including getting verified delivery and creating a chance for customers to check for issues early. If you start texting when an order is processed and list the products, your customers can do a quick review and contact you if there’s a mistake long before things ship.
Use Data to Inform
Texting is based on the data you get from carriers, but that’s only one side of the shipping data world. The other is what you have in your warehouse(s) and how long it’ll take to get from there to the customer. Marketing and messaging should be informed by this information and real-time data is best.
Knowing what you have in-stock and what can or can’t be delivered in two days will help your marketing know what to advertise.
For example, let’s say you have a product shipment to the U.S. that is delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak. You can only sell the inventory you have because that delay could be significant. So, instead of just running a standard offer on your site, you can create a countdown for the final 100 units of that SKU.
You turn a shortage into a “limited-time offer” and are leveraging the impact of ecommerce fulfillment.
At the same time, knowing that all of your standing desks are in a warehouse in Portland, Oregon and must be shipped via freight would tell you that your site can’t advertise two-day shipping to customers in Key West.
The strategy helps you leverage what you have to offer while also protecting your business.
Advertise Big and Deliver
A surefire way to kill your business is to be late or cost more than you promise. Major fulfillment delays and hidden shipping costs can hurt you before and after a sale, leading to fewer repeat customers and potentially more product returns.
Shipping-related issues, such as not displaying fees until the final checkout page, play a role in roughly half of ecommerce shopping cart abandons. Everything you hide hurts customer trust and damages your reputation.
At the same time, advertising lies can do more damage. Over-promising and under-delivering is also a fast way to kill your bottom line. So, use data to inform your offers and build carrier relationships to ensure that you can meet what you promise.
Order accuracy is part of the promise, too. So, invest in technology that helps you automatically check and verify orders before they get out the door.
Put the Customer First
Thrilled customers buy again, and that keeps you afloat. Marketing efforts, whether it’s shipping or flashy ads, should always be used to build customer relationships and satisfy people.
Don’t led bad offers, hidden costs, or lies make you lose a sale after you’ve done all the demanding work to excite people and get their attention. Errors can break a business. Spend the time and money to get shipping right, promise customers that you will get it right, and then enjoy the positive reviews the