Tomorrow’s Shipping Technologies and Today’s Best Practices

By now, you’ve surely heard the rumors and the chatter surrounding last year’s announcement of Amazon Prime Air, the e-commerce giant’s planned unmanned drone deliver service. In the weeks that followed, discussions rapidly bubbled up and debates boiled about the feasibility of Amazon’s lofty plan. However, even if Amazon’s plan to use unmanned drones is permanently grounded due to FAA regulations or mounting security concerns, it does bring to focus one particularly important question: “What’s the next step in ecommerce delivery practices?”

In today’s blog, we’ll spend some time exploring this idea by looking at a few of the newer innovations in e-commerce delivery methods. We’ll also take a look at the changes you can make today to keep your practices modern and effective.

Delivery and Abandonment

To some, product shipping may seem like an afterthought; a process as simple as putting a purchase into a box and getting it to the consumer. While that might very, very loosely describe shipping from a vendor perspective, the the fact of the matter is that shipping practices are extremely important to the consumer. A recent poll run by comScore asked consumers which aspects they’d like to see improved by retailers. Five of the top eleven responses to the poll regarded shipping–the number one response was “Free/discounted shipping.” In this same report, 42% of respondents had claimed that they’ve previously abandoned a cart due to an estimated delivery date.

Here’s the reality: Consumers want quick and cheap delivery and they’re willing to abandon your site a purchase if they can’t get it.

Innovations

In response to a growing consumer demand for fast and affordable delivery, a number of the largest ecommerce retailers have started offering unique, innovative options to ensure maximum expediency and convenience for the user. Some recent examples include:

Google Shopping Express – Currently running trials in San Jose and San Francisco, California, Google Shopping Express is a new way to fuse online shopping with physical retailers. The concept is simple, yet effective: A dedicated team of drivers receives your order, retrieves your ordered items from the selected stores, and delivers them to your door within the day. Delivery is paid for through subscriptions or a flat fee of $4.99 per order.

While this service obviously isn’t feasible for retailers that don’t have locations across the country, it’s reasonable to expect delivery services like this to start popping up around the country–especially if Google’s trials prove successful. If you’re an online retailer that does a good deal of local business, keep your eyes open and become an early adopters for these services.

Amazon Lockers – In late 2011, Amazon launched the Amazon Lockers program to address consumer concerns of discretion, convenience, and safety. Customers, typically those living in big cities, can have their products delivered to nearby lockers that hold a package for at least three days at no additional charge. By using a unique locker code, customers simply walk up to the kiosk, enter their code, and retrieve their package.

Why deliver a product to a locker instead of a home address? Many of Amazon’s clients are at work or otherwise away from the house when drop-off happens, leaving products vulnerable at an unattended doorstep. The lockers can be accessed on the client’s schedule, away from the house, making them a convenient, discrete alternative to having items delivered directly to one’s house. Although some former partners to the program, such as Staples and RadioShack, have dropped out and no longer host the kiosks, the program is still expanding.

Best Practices Today

Not every company has a collection of assets comparable to the giants of Amazon or Google and without a huge financial cushion, innovation isn’t always the safest move. However, even if you can’t spur on an international effort to install lockers in grocery stores or hire a fleet of drivers to instantly deliver products, you can keep your shipping practices competitive with the right philosophy. Bear in the mind the following principles:

Expedience – Ship quickly. As soon as payment comes through, begin processing orders immediately. If a little hard work can make a 1 day difference in arrival date, it’s worth going the extra mile. Until people have received what they ordered, they’re going to be unhappy with the process. Leaving a customer without their purchased item is a one-way ticket to bad press.

Modesty – As we’ve established earlier, shipping prices are a big point of contention among customers. In fact, some studies say that up to 55% of shoppers now expect free shipping. Take a look at your profit margins and see if there’s a way to offer free shipping on all or select goods. If it’s simply not possible, consider offering free shipping for orders over a certain value. No matter how you handle delivery, never look at shipping fees as a place to make a few extra bucks on a sale.

Clarity – Regardless of shipping fees, it’s essential to be upfront about your policies. In a survey we analyzed in a previous post, 56% of respondents cited “unexpected costs” as a reason for shopping cart abandonment. If you attempt to mask shipping charges by withholding them until the very final stages of checkout, you’re likely to lose sales and consumer trust. Make your policies as simple and transparent as possible–your honesty won’t go unappreciated.

The future may bring swarms of autopilot delivery drones, but that’s probably not on the mind of the customer who places an order on your site today. Whatever the future of shipping may bring, the three primary tenets of expedience, modesty, and clarity aren’t going anywhere. Stick to these rules today, and you’ll be ready for the delivery technology of tomorrow. For more on ecommerce technologies, website abandonment, or email remarketing, give UpSellit a call.

 

Written by Joe Rosenthal


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