Consumers are expecting more out of their ecommerce shipping options than ever before, which is driving up the cost of shipping for all couriers and, thus, retailers. This isn't an issue for big-box retailers which can afford to lose a little money on shipping because they know they'll make up the losses in overall sales.
But for the small business, and even medium-size online retailers, these increased shipping expectations could put a devastating dent in your bottom line if you're not prepared to overcome them.
In order to help your store stay ahead of the curve, you've got to know what you're up against. I've put together this post that details what consumers are going to expect of shipping in 2016.
More ecommerce shipping options wanted
According to a report from Retail Customer Experience, the number-one thing that consumers want from online stores in 2016 is more shipping options, but what exactly does that mean? Most online retailers offer at least two different options - standard or expedited.
In the report, 1,000 consumers were polled, and 77% of them said they wanted to see shipping options for weekends and after-business hours. Of that 77%, 42% say they'd be willing to pay to have those premium options.
While weekend and after-business-hours shipping may be hard for some small businesses to implement, it's also worth noting that, overall, 61% of the consumers surveyed said they wanted 1-3 hour shipping options, meaning their order would ship within 3 hours of placing it. 80% of consumers surveyed said they wanted same-day shipping, but 47% of the retailers polled in the survey don't offer that service.
So how can you, the small retailer, make their wants a reality?
It's important to note that, for all the premium shipping options consumers said they wanted, they also said they'd be willing to pay extra for that service - something along the lines of Amazon's Prime service. In theory, you could make these consumer's wants come true if you charged the right price for the premium shipping services.
What you need to do in 2016 is identify exactly where, and how, you can offer more shipping options to your customers, and then do it. If you have to charge a "premium" fee for those shipping options, don't be afraid - consumers have proven they're willing to pay for it.
The second most important thing to consumers in 2016 is going to be greater transparency when it comes to shipping. They want to know exactly what they'll be charged and how long they'll have to wait to receive their package.
While most online retailers have embraced the idea of being upfront with shipping charges, there are still some ecommerce stores operating that stick their customers with "sticker shock" upon checkout. Higher than expected shipping charges account for 74% of shopping cart abandonment.
Make sure that your shipping rates are 100% clear and highly visible on your site. If you offer flat-rate shipping, consider putting a banner or sidebar on every page of your site that alerts shoppers to your charges. Or, if you only offer free shipping after a certain amount of product has been purchased, advertise that as well. Regardless of your shipping policies, consumers expect that online stores will be more transparent and honest in regards to shipping prices in 2016.
This is an expectation that's always existed, but once again, Amazon has driven consumers to demand cheaper shipping of every other retailer. According to an article from Business Insider, Amazon projects they may be able to offer their Prime Air service for as little as $1. Drone delivery for $1 sounds unobtainable, but that's what Amazon is shooting for.
So how can you provide cheaper shipping to your customers? That really depends on the size of your business, profit margins, and whether or not you think you can be successful by offering flat-rate or subscription-based shipping.
Customers are only going to expect more of shipping as 2016 continues. Make sure that you're adhering to the advice above and you shouldn't find yourself having many problems with customers who are disgruntled about your shipping policies.
Photo courtesy Steve Johnson.