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eCommerce Tips – #1 Delivery & Couriers

I thought about writing some detailed eCommerce tips over the weekend and decided to give it a go. My first tip will cover delivery costs, couriers, communication and general advice.

You would be surprised how often you lose customers, don’t give them an excuse to leave your website by scaring them off with poor delivery prices and/or options.

I receive roughly 20 magazines a month. Most of these magazine’s probably target me from my days of being an MD and undoubtedly spam most directors & CEO’s to falsify higher readership counts, thus increasing chances of more selling advert space at increased rates.

Please stop spamming me

I took it upon myself to email each of these companies to ask me to be removed from their mailing list around 6 months ago. Needless to say the emails were largely ignored and I still receive each edition monthly. However, there was a headline in one of this months magazines which grabbed my attention. “Delivering the best experience. Research results are in” – this looked like something I might actually find an interesting read.

Inspired

After reading the article, as expected, I felt let down. It had no substance and ended by essentially preaching “do what works best for you”. It could have saved readers 20 minutes by just having a headline which reads “do as you please” and left the page blank. However, not all is lost, being let down by the lack of substance in the article encouraged me to look at all the data I have from 10 years of running large eCommerce stores. After analysing this data I have compiled some tips which actually work in the real world - or at least worked for me and my businesses.

Communication

Communication is one of those tips you tend to hear all the time when discussing customer satisfaction. There is a very good reason for this; it is the most important factor!

If you think that good communication sounds like such a simple thing to implement then you are right. If you think that your eCommerce store already communicates well with its customers then chances are you are wrong, things can always be improved.

Take a good look at your store’s entire ordering system. Once your customer has completed their order, what happens? Ideally, each time you update their order, they should get an email from you with an update. I advised somebody who works at a large retailer not that long ago who don’t provide tracking numbers to their customers – this is essential. In my opinion, the emails that the customer should receive – at bare minimum – are:

  • After completing the order; thank them and let them know the procedure. Let them know that they can cancel the order if they wish. Let them know how to contact you. Let them know your returns policy. Let them know of any customer retention schemes you might have (points, discounts, VIP members etc). Make this email the most informative – it really matters.
  • Once the order has been checked by a member of staff; Again, let them know. Tell them that all is well, that their order will now be picked in the warehouse. Give them an expected schedule for the next steps and how long they should wait before they receive their next update. Again, give them a point of contact. The more they see your contact details, the more trust they will give you.
  • When the item has been picked; Give them an email to say that a member of the warehouse team has collected the item. Make this step even more personal by adding the name of the warehouse member and maybe even adding a small bio (how long they have worked for you, what they like about the company etc).
  • When your order has been packaged; As above.
  • When your order has been collected by the courier; This is a key time in order processing. It is vital you get a tracking number over to the customer as soon as possible and this is the right time. Let them know who is sending the item, when to expect it, how to contact the courier, how to redirect the item, what to do if they have to leave their house for the day… Make it detailed and give them all the information they will need. This step alone might save you lots of customers calling your customer care team.
  • When the order should have been delivered; the day after the delivery should have been made, it is a good idea to email the customer making sure it was received.
  • A few weeks later; ask the customer if they are happy with the order. If they are, ask them to review your website and your product. In exchange for them doing this, offer them a discount code for their next order or enter them into a prize draw. The feedback you receive will be vital. Another idea is to ask them to recommend a friend to you, give them and their friend a discount.

Using the above schedule as a bare minimum, your customers should walk away with a nice big smile on their faces. The important thing to remember about communication is that if you get it right then it will largely go unnoticed by the customer (this is a good thing!) but if you get it wrong, it creates a big problem for you. Not only will they not come back to use your store again but your staff will waste lots of valuable time answering emails and calls from your customers.

Using the right delivery company

Finding the right courier can be hard. There are places (like here) you can look for advice and check for horror stories though. Personally, the best courier that my businesses have ever used was DPD. The loss rate was low, claims handling was dealt with quickly and most importantly, they actually send a text message to your customer with a time to expect delivery. Our customers found this feature great.

Remember, however, that the customer will only ever get a microscopic view of the courier. Of the customers local driver makes a hash of things, it will reflect badly on the courier as a whole and your eCommerce store – unless you sort any issues out quickly. You cannot control the quality of your couriers local drivers but you can make a note of the areas of the country that they c%$k up, that way if it happens more than once you can take it up with the courier company or even use a different courier for that area.

Get your delivery charge right

This is a difficult area to talk about because some retailers actually need to make margin on their delivery charges. There are certain markets in the UK where product profit margins are squeezed so low that making £3 profit on the delivery charge makes all the difference to their business. One thing is for certain though, customers expect cheap delivery. There are many retailers that offer free delivery and this has distorted the value of delivery costs and lowered the expected delivery charges.

Analyse your competitors and check how much they charge their customers for delivery – you can be rest assured that your potential customers will be doing the same!

Written by Matt Janaway

I have been involved in the web just about my entire working life. I am a keen writer, digital marketer, entrepreneur & web geek. In my spare time I enjoy photography (or trying!) and playing football.