Natasha Jones is European Channel Manager for SmartFreight, a leading supplier of shipping software solutions.

If you thought ecommerce held all the aces in the retail pack, think again. You rarely see an abandoned shopping trolley packed to the brim with goods at a checkout in a bricks and mortar supermarket. It’s very different online where it’s common for shoppers to abort their purchases for a variety of reasons, leaving millions of pounds worth of orders in their carts.

As more and more of us shift to online shopping from the comfort of our homes, it makes sense that customers would be a little wary of committing to buying a product you can’t feel or touch. It’s so easy to have a change of mind and abandon purchases at the last hurdle.

However, it’s a sobering statistic for online businesses that according to Smart Insights only 3.3% of product sessions on an ecommerce site end with a transaction – and one big turnoff is delivery. So how do e-commerce retailers bridge the crucial gap between just window shopping and converting a purchase? It’s all about the customer experience.

Putting the cart before the horse

The online shopper is fickle and expects a seamless customer experience; any unexpected or unclear shipping costs, limited delivery options, a poor returns policy and a restricted checkout process can all lead to a moment of apprehension and hesitation.  

One of the single biggest reasons for shopping cart abandonment is shipping costs – customers absolutely loathe paying them! But they hate being surprised with shipping costs even more. Shipping time is also a major factor. Many customers will baulk at a standard delivery charge that is perceived to be poor value, whilst P&P that works out more expensive than the actual goods purchased will undoubtedly lead to customer frustration.

How do you streamline delivery options to tempt shoppers to part with their cash? Offering free or expedited shipping will click with customers. Free shipping can significantly boost conversion rates whereas for some shoppers speed is of the essence and they want same day or next day delivery. The environmentally conscious will nearly always plump for the greenest choice.

Clearing the final hurdle

When customers commit to a purchase, an ecommerce business that doesn’t have an integrated Carrier Management Solution (CMS) is likely to be manually processing the same data multiple times through different systems which is time-consuming and raises the risk of human error.

Let’s make it even clearer: if you are doing this process manually you might have to run to the warehouse to pick the product, then go to the PC and type the address in, input the weight and volume, print a label, put it on the box, write down the details, input the details into the WMS and then manually send an email to the customer. If this is done 50 times a day, that’s an entire day gone and only 50 orders out of the door. There is a culture shift going on due to COVID-19, meaning it’s impossible to get ahead with manual processes. Ditch the legwork! With solutions like SmartFreight, orders can come across in under one second, with label printing in two seconds and the data back in the WMS in four seconds. Now that’s efficiency!

Similarly, shipping orders on sub-optimal routes or services causes delays, additional costs and a poor customer experience. Retailers still operating with a single carrier system are really missing a trick. You can’t cross compare and you can’t run reports. If you use a smart system, you can use freight profiles whereby you can set criteria to select certain carriers depending on the locality, postcode or county for example.

Giving customers control

Managing high volume deliveries through one channel gives retailers the flexibility to match their customers’ expectations of a smooth, stress free experience that will motivate them to spend more,  while tracking the final mile gives visibility. Everyone wants to know where their goods are: whether they are still in a warehouse or in a van on the road to their destination, you need to know where they are at any given time on their journey.

An integrated solution receiving tracking data provides shipment information to customers via a branded tracking portal. This data is enhanced via email alerts and SMS which identify where the items are within the delivery journey, regardless of transport provider used. This substantially reduces inbound calls on shipment status while at the same time constantly reinforcing the shipper’s brand. Not to mention enabling the customer to feel in control of their parcel.

With ecommerce penetration reaching record highs during Covid-19, many retailers have struggled to keep up with demand. The current pandemic has provided a challenging scenario to all sectors of the UK economy, yet the ‘new normal’ has led to thousands of high street dependent businesses turning to ecommerce and commencing, or massively increasing, remote deliveries to customers.

Flexible shipping will click with customers

This increased reliance on ecommerce puts even greater pressure on businesses to deliver goods and parcels efficiently and effectively to avoid customer disappointment. Those with the slickest operations are able to cope best with the dramatic shift to online sales.

Businesses also need to consider customers who place numerous orders, not necessarily at the same time, but are anticipating receiving them on the same day. Why despatch multiple parcels to one address when an integrated CMS will consolidate all the orders placed in one day to send out as one consignment, reducing shipping costs, product miles and helping the environment?

That’s the beauty of an integrated CMS: businesses can slice and dice their distribution pie any way they like to suit specific needs. It’s all about making a commercial decision based on customer requirements. For the retailer, there can be so many cost and efficiency benefits sitting behind this simple interface.

Whether price, volume, delivery service or environmental impact are at the top of the shipping priority list, an integrated shipping platform and delivery tracking technology offer quick and flexible solutions for e-commerce so that the customer experience is the best it can be – and, ultimately, so that fewer carts are abandoned midway through the process.

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