Last updated: E-commerce shipping: It can make or break your brand

E-commerce shipping: It can make or break your brand


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From the newest brands to some of the most iconic on the planet, the at-home consumer is one of the most compelling targets in today’s economy. To win their dollars and keep them, all these companies will need to figure out e-commerce shipping, especially how they can offer it for free – and as fast as people want.

Shipping is a fundamental part of the online shopping experience, so don’t leave decisions about it up to chance.

Instead, do what your shoppers want and adapt to their concerns, desires, and willingness to spend. Purchasing and intent data are your best plan for success.

E-commerce shipping: Listen to your customers

Getting shipping right isn’t about dictating to customers; it’s about letting your shoppers tell you what they prefer. Get their feedback to create policies to support them. Ask preferences when they land on your site or during the checkout process. Use follow-up emails – if they want emails from you – to see what could be better.

According to our data, shoppers have very strong opinions about e-commerce shipping. They tell us specifically that shipping policies impact both purchase completion and order size.

Nearly two-thirds of your audience will flat-out abandon your store if they don’t like your shipping costs or policies.

This shipping-related cart abandonment happens when someone feels like your costs are too high or were unexpected. Something as simple as clarifying costs while people shop — like putting a notice or estimate at the bottom of the cart from the beginning — can help mitigate this problem.

At the same time, remember that your shipping prices are likely being compared directly against a competitor’s. People like to shop with multiple windows open. Our survey respondents said this means an offer like free or fast shipping not only can win a sale from a competitor, but can also increase how much people order.

Online shipping: Balancing fast and free against profits

In order to use customer data to create robust e-commerce shipping policies, ask customers deeper questions and provide more options. Consider sending out a survey or hosting one on your website that trades answers for a coupon. Or you can expand the offers available at checkout to see what people do with their wallets.

Our survey data in the pre- and early-COVID days shows that more than 10% of people across all audiences are willing to pay for faster shipping.

This has held true in preliminary reviews of more recent surveys, meaning people are willing to shell out for faster shipping, even if they know COVID or other supply chain disruptions may slow overall fulfillment. Consumers are willing to pay more for faster shipping of bigger, heavier, and more expensive products, which helps e-commerce companies protect their bottom line.

When it comes to shipping, who’s willing to pay more?
  1. Historically, younger shoppers and male shoppers were much more likely to pay for faster shipping.
  2. Women are becoming significantly more likely to pay for faster shipping items than in the past.
  3. Men remain the most consistent spenders on expedited options.

Brands can capitalize on the above stats by pairing paid shipping options with smarter, baked-in ways to pay for shipping on your end. Things like increasing SKU costs make it more affordable to add a free option, while having pay-for expedited shipping options help avoid cart abandonment with some audiences and improve revenue potential with others.

Maximize your ability to afford various delivery options

Knowing that people want more e-commerce shipping options, you might be tempted to offer it all. The question: how do you afford it safely and reasonably without gutting profit margins?

The most common tactic is to cover the costs of shipping within standard product pricing. That’s often best positioned for goods that people aren’t buying regularly — don’t surprise customers with a price increase out of the blue. It also works well on high-priced goods and unique items.

People also respond well to outside incentives and purchase limits to receive free or fast-and-affordable shipping options. About one-third are willing to use ship-to-store options, or to sign up for a membership program if that means free shipping.

Shoppers are also receptive to limiting which products can get free shipping, or setting a minimum order value for the offer.

Determine your average order’s shipping cost, and look for ways to bake that into product pricing. Setting a threshold for free shipping also ensures you’ll cover the average pricing.

Bonus tip: match these offers with spending habits. Americans tend to spend 20% more on e-commerce purchases during the holidays. This means you could extend the free shipping offer to everyone during this time and still walk away with better margins and overall profitability.

Patience is a virtue: Provide options for non-expedited delivery

People can choose to buy from you or many other companies. For many products, consumers have multiple places to buy from, like your site, social channels, or marketplaces like Amazon.

If your audience is patient but price-sensitive, it might be best to include options to wait a little longer for delivery – this is especially true if waiting allows them to get free shipping.

Importantly, marketing needs to make this clarification, for example offering “free, standard shipping” versus “faster shipping for $X.”

88% of shoppers are willing to wait longer for free shipping rather than upgrading to a faster, paid solution. On average, they’re willing to wait about a week, and their patience increases as purchase sizes increase. The good news is that you can cut shipping costs by up to 50% by offering varied delivery options.

The goal is to give people options, rather than assuming what they’d prefer. Your business has many potential carrier partners and products to use, and plugins make it simple to share those with customers on your website and elsewhere. By providing flexibility, your e-commerce company will be well-positioned to thrive.

Fast, flexible e-commerce
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