The recent pandemic saw online shopping increasing a full 65 percent. When interviewed, shoppers indicated that 68 percent would be continuing this practice. They have come to enjoy the greater convenience involved.
Amazon set the standards for shipping expectations over fifteen years ago. A survey of Amazon users tried to determine what made customers keep returning and the answers weren’t surprising:
- 79.8 percent stated fast, free shipping
- 68.9 percent liked the broad selection
- 49.2 percent cited pricing
- 43.7 spoke of the easy returns
A large company like Amazon is able to provide all these things easily but customers have come to rate other businesses, even small ones by the same shipping standards. In fact, seventy percent of consumers say that a negative shipping experience impacts their view of the company more than it does the carrier and many will go elsewhere if they have a bad experience.
There are ways small and medium companies can even the playing field when it comes to shipping. First, let’s take a deeper look into what consumers are looking for in this area.
WHAT CUSTOMERS WANT
Shipping is one of the things smaller businesses don’t normally put a priority on when they are thinking of customer satisfaction but the numbers are in and business owners need to take a closer look at their policies.
When people order items, they don’t like waiting. This is especially true for high-end products. In the past, people were willing to wait up to a week for an online order to arrive. Today, it has become almost mandatory to have the product in their hands within two days.
FREE OR INEXPENSIVE DELIVERY
Not only do they want it fast, but people expect to pay very little and preferably nothing for the delivery. It is estimated that 53 percent of the people who abandon their shopping carts at checkout do so because of high delivery costs. A survey also showed that 83 percent of those polled would add items to their cart if it helped them qualify for free shipping. People are even willing to wait an extra day or two if it means free shipping.
One of the most frustrating things for a customer is to finally find an item they are looking for and then discover it is not currently available and they will have to wait for the item to be restocked. In most cases, the customer will look for the item somewhere else.
A whopping 83 percent of customers want to be able to see where their package is. They want it to be in their hands on the day it is promised and want direct communication if there are going to be any delays. With transparency, many will make allowances for one delay but without it, the majority will view your business unfavorably.
Over half of customers polled noted this as being important. When they have had a difficult time returning an item, 81 percent have rated a business low on customer service. Ideally, having a prepaid return label in the original package is the most preferred but customers are satisfied if they can reach a person and make the return as quickly as possible without having to jump through a number of hoops.
This was a surprising one on many polls. At least 77 percent of those polled stated they were very aware of or cared deeply about the environment. They opt for fewer boxes whenever they can and show concern about wasteful advertising in packages. Many state they never read the inserts but instead immediately toss them in the trash.
This may seem like a list of demands that are difficult for a small business owner to meet, but there is a way you can offer many of these wants to your customers, and save yourself stress, time, and money while doing so. You can do what 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies do and partner with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider.
MEETING CONSUMER DEMANDS WITH 3PL
Now that you know the demands of today’s consumers, you can start to implement a plan that can meet these demands. As a small business owner, and even as a medium business owner, trying to meet these needs on your own can be difficult for a number of reasons.
- You are limited on warehouse space, which limits the number of items you can have on hand.
- Meeting postage costs can be overwhelming.
- Packaging needs can cost so much it takes money from other important areas.
- Computer programs that allow for tracking can be expensive, and difficult to set up and learn.
- You don’t have the manpower or the time to do it all yourself.
Let’s look at how partnering with a 3PL can take care of the roadblocks.
A 3PL very often has several warehouses throughout the country. It can provide you with more than enough space to keep the necessary amount of stock readily available at all times. The added storage space also allows you to be increase the number of different products you have available. This gives customers more choices without having to go somewhere else.
The warehouses have their own staff, which eliminates the need for you to hire or train workers.
QUICK, INEXPENSIVE SHIPPING
Most 3PL partners will have numerous ways to ship products. The different locations they operate in will allow them to choose shipping distances that are the shortest and most cost effective. In addition, many offer packaging and mailing supplies as add-ons. Because they are so large, they often qualify for bulk discounts on these supplies, which passes the saving onto you. You can then pass these savings onto customers.
Another thing that many 3PL partners offer is 2-Day shipping. This meets the need for you customers to get what they want quickly.
Some 3PL partners will provide a return service. This helps take the stress away from you and provides the customer with a quicker, smoother transaction that creates a positive customer service experience.
While you may not find a 3PL that provides tracking information directly to the customer, many do offer a client portal that will enable you to keep track of orders. You will be able to obtain tracking information and pass it onto customers so they can keep an eye on their package as it goes from warehouse to doorstep.
This will vary with individual 3PL partners. At the very least, you will be able to eliminate the unviewed content that customers aren’t looking for. Having warehouses that shorten the shipping distance to customers will lower the amount of dangerous vehicle emissions that are put into the air. Having all your different items available in the same place will also allow you to pack more items in fewer packages, eliminating much of the cardboard waste. These may seem like small things, but they all add up to a smaller footprint.
SUMMING IT UP
Today’s consumers are more likely to demand exactly what they want and will not hesitate to look elsewhere if they don’t get it. As a small business, you can’t practically provide for all their shipping demands on your own. It is too stressful, costs too much, and requires more time than you have available.
By partnering with a 3PL and allowing them to take over your packing and shipping needs, you will be able to offer your customers better shipping rates, quicker service, and a wider variety of in-stock merchandise. This will help even the playing field with the big retailers. At the same time, you will be saving yourself stress, time, and money. In the end, everybody wins.