The Reverse Logistics Landscape

Returns can make or break an e-commerce business. Proprietary research from USPS Delivers, conducted with Provoke Insights, reveals valuable tactics for creating a functional and competitive reverse logistics plan.

Read the highlights below, then get the full slate of insights to see how your business can create a streamlined and successful return policy.

Effective Ways to Manage Customers’ Shipping Expectations

According to a study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of the U.S. Postal Service, logistics professionals are using a variety of tactics to mitigate the negative effects of macro forces. Macro forces are uncontrollable elements and events that can impact customer experience.

These forces include urbanization, globalization and sustainability. They can hamper how effectively a shipping department fulfills its orders by affecting delivery times, costs and the larger supply chain.

Though macro forces can’t be changed, the way an e-commerce business handles them can be. Discover the benefits of managing expectations and six ways your shipping department can do so below.

The Benefits

In the same study, logistics professionals stated the following benefits for managing customers’ expectations:1

  • More repeat customers — 52%
  • Higher conversion rates — 47%
  • Improved upsell — 35%
  • Lower cart abandonment — 31%

6 Ways to Manage Customers’ Shipping Expectations

Consider using some or all of the tactics below to help your business manage the customer experience.

  1. 1

    Show Delivery Dates

    This is a simple way to make customers aware of delivery times, before they place an order. Be sure to show this information on product pages for your customers’ convenience.

  2. 2

    Provide Multiple Shipment Options

    Give your customers flexibility. Let them choose how fast they want their products delivered and for what price. By providing multiple options, whether standard shipping, express or overnight, customers feel they have more control of their experience.

  3. 3

    Integrate Data with Shipping Vendors

    Properly integrating data on the back end using application programming interfaces (APIs) can help manage multiple customer concerns. By leveraging APIs, your website can help customers verify addresses, access tracking information and print return shipping labels. Learn more about USPS Web Tools® APIs.

  4. 4

    Offer Insured Delivery for High-Value Orders

    By providing insurance on high-value orders, your customers can have additional peace of mind. This can be done in two ways: allowing your customers to purchase the insurance themselves or letting the business cover the insurance cost.

  5. 5

    Use Delivery Incentives

    Communicate price or time-sensitive delivery incentives that align with customer needs. One popular time-sensitive incentive is: “Order by tomorrow to receive by Christmas Day.” One popular price incentive is: “Free Shipping on Orders of $50 or More.”

  6. 6

    Allow Free Shipping for All

    Instead of offering free shipping and standard shipping as separate options, combine the two in one shipping method that customers love: free shipping for all orders. While this is an expensive tactic, it is one that customers seek out.

Key Takeaways

E-commerce businesses face no shortage of challenges. As macro forces hit, your shipping department needs to be prepared. Communicate clearly, provide tracking and delivery information when possible, and offer flexible shipping options. Managing customer expectations is crucial to improving the customer experience.

Want an in-depth look at macro forces and the ways logistics experts are combatting their effects? Read the latest white paper below.

6 Shipping Tactics to Counteract Macro Forces and Improve Customer Experience

The retail world is full of outside forces that can negatively impact customer experience. In this white paper, we dive into the macro forces that most affect e-commerce businesses and share six tactics that leading logisticians use to mitigate them.

How Customers Shop Online for Health and Beauty Products

Health and beauty retailers are seeing a trend toward online sales: 18% of total U.S. spending on beauty and personal-care products occurs online, to a price tag totaling $12 billion.1 These items—which include makeup, razors and contacts—are small personal necessities, meaning the orders are inexpensive to ship and get repeated consistently.

By understanding who is buying what in the health and beauty categories, which types of businesses they turn to for these products, and how often they shop, you can confidently plan to start or enhance your online store presence. Read on to see how three of the biggest health and beauty categories are performing online, and how you can leverage their growth to help your business.

Skin care, cosmetics and hair care

This is the largest category for online sales: It saw a boost in web sales of almost 29% last year.1 This growth can be attributed to the availability of specialized products online that can’t be found at drugstores, as well as the convenience of ordering online.

Who is shopping online?

Makeup and skin care sites are especially appealing to younger shoppers.

Millennial (24%) and Gen-Z (14%) shoppers account for the largest group of buyers.1

Where online are they shopping?

These products are being bought from a variety of sites online.

26% web sales growth for brand and manufacturer websites1
19% web sales growth for online-only merchants1
18.4% web sales growth for brick-and-mortar retail chain websites1

Men’s hair care is also a growing market.

Online-only subscription shaving services are booming, and men’s personal-care items are top sellers on popular online marketplaces.1

Vitamins and supplements

The personal nature of vitamins and health supplements makes them strong candidates for online success. In the last year, web sales grew by 20%, powered mostly by online-only retailers.1

Who is shopping online?

The bulk of purchasing power lies with men and women ages 35 and up.

Where online are they shopping?

Most of the category’s growth (43%) came from one online-only merchant that has led web sales for years.1

Brick-and-mortar vitamin and supplement stores are also beginning to use online marketplaces as an additional branch of their store.

They list the same prices and run the same promotions in-store and online, which allows the company to find revenue wherever customers are buying.1

Contacts and eyewear

This category sees frequent shopping. Customers reorder contacts regularly and are often looking for new frames for eyeglasses. This helped lead to its 15% web sales growth last year.1

Who is shopping online?

A majority (63.7%) of online buyers are between the ages of 25 and 54.1

Where online are they shopping?

Consumers helped an eyeglasses retailer that started online-only and offered free at-home try-ons grow its web sales by 30%.1

After rebranding, which included improved free-shipping offers and reordering processes, an online-only contacts retailer also saw web sales grow—by 145%.1

Key Takeaway

The online market for health and beauty products continues to grow. Customers flock to online shops because of quick and efficient shipping, as well as the ease of reordering or subscribing to products online. Take advantage of this growth to develop an optimal experience for your customers online and watch your business boom.

A Guide to Shipping from Your Medical Office

The online healthcare market is booming: As a group, the health and beauty retailers in Internet Retailer’s 2017 Top 1000 grew by 18.3%, reflecting $9.17 billion in spending.1 This means that healthcare providers are branching into the more retail-focused world of shipping products directly to consumers.

As this practice continues to grow, the logistical challenges of in-office fulfillment become apparent: Where are the items stored? Who does the packing and shipping? How can sellers ensure that items will reach the customers in a timely manner?

Most medical offices are not equipped to handle these challenges—but it isn’t difficult to get there. If you’re thinking about setting up a fulfillment space in your medical office to sell recommended lotions, vitamins, toothpastes and medical supplies more conveniently, get started with these steps.

  1. 1

    Learn the in-store fulfillment process.

    Before you can set up your space or train your staff, you have to understand the shipping process and see how it could be implemented in your office. Make sure your online store is set up so that it can communicate in an efficient way with your brick-and-mortar store.

    With a digital e-commerce system in place, there are three steps to prepare an item for shipment: picking, packing and shipping. For example, a staff member sees an online order come in, then picks the item from the shelves, packs it into the most efficient-sized box and ships it quickly and cost-effectively.

    For a more in-depth tutorial on what in-store fulfillment requires, take a look at this inventory-management video as well as this article on training your staff to ship-from-store.

  2. 2

    Find space for storing and processing products.

    When a customer places an order through your online store, it’s important that you have what they wish to buy in stock at your office. Whether it’s blood-sugar test strips or tooth-whitening packs, find a place to store your inventory.

    The area for inventory doesn’t need to be large, but it should allow for easy access, and be well organized. Install shelving in an empty closet or open corner. Then affix labels that make it easy to find items that have been ordered and need to be shipped.

  3. 3

    Set up your shipping station.

    A dedicated space will be needed for your employees to pack shipments after orders have been picked. Set up a small table and keep it clear of clutter. Nearby, have containers or cabinets well-stocked with all your shipping supplies—boxes, envelopes, scissors, tape, pens, etc.

    Keep easy-to-follow instructions and a list of packing best practices accessible. Hang a poster or provide a laminated handbook that employees can refer to as they are packing orders. This will help ensure that items are always properly packed to avoid damage or shipping delays.

  4. 4

    Train staff on their new responsibilities.

    Order fulfillment calls for a different skill set than most medical office employees ordinarily use in their day-to-day routines. Make sure to brief your employees in advance on your plans to start shipping from the office. Then begin training them on the picking, packing and shipping process.

    Hold a training session with the full team to introduce the concept of in-store fulfillment and its benefits. Take them through the dedicated inventory-storage and shipping stations, and talk through how to pick, pack and ship products effectively. Before you start shipping to customers, run a few trainings sessions during which employees can fulfill test orders and nail down all the steps.

    It may also be helpful to set up dedicated shifts for fulfillment so that incoming orders don’t entirely disrupt how your employees work.

Key Takeaway

Once employees are up to speed on what is needed for this new venture, start selling the items you have in stock. Continually streamline the process and train employees to optimize your in-office fulfillment. With a robust shipping offering, your practice can gain a new stream of revenue from new and current customers.

A Brief Look at the State of Healthcare E‑commerce

For healthcare retailers, the new key to revenue growth is e‑commerce.1 Patients are increasingly turning toward the digital convenience, easy shipping and constant access to information that the online healthcare market provides.

As access to online healthcare e‑commerce continues to grow, big players—including the largest online retailer and the two largest drugstore retail chains—and new startups alike are jumping into the game to spur change in the industry.

Below is a high-level view of the industry, consumer expectations and future trends. For more on this expanding market opportunity, dive deeper with our full whitepaper, “Prescription for Change: The State of Healthcare E‑commerce”.

The Industry Today

Sizing up the competition is a vital step to evaluating and understanding a new market. Within healthcare e‑commerce, there is a broad range of products and services in high demand. That means newcomers can profit among the growing ranks of retailers despite a crowded market.

Here’s a snapshot of the healthcare e‑commerce industry:

Includes retailers of equipment, supplies, vitamins and supplements, medical care and prescriptions.

$ 12B was spent online by consumers on healthcare equipment and supplies in 2017.2
25% increase, approximately, in the amount spent on all forms of healthcare from 2007 to 2017.2
55% rate of repeat buyers to the largest drug store chain.1
(The second largest has a 40% rate, while the median of the top 1000 web merchants is only 33%.1)

What Consumers Expect

Businesses should think about how to uniquely address customer wants and needs in a way that sets them apart from others in the space and serves an unmet need in a new way.

Here’s a look at what consumers expect from healthcare e‑commerce experiences:

Service must be fast. Healthcare e‑commerce is only an improvement if it can deliver (literally and figuratively) more quickly than a stop at the drugstore or doctor’s office would.

66% of consumers would prefer a video doctor’s visit if it resulted in a faster prescription refill.1
$ 200M prescription refills completed online are processed each month by a leading drugstore retailer.1

Customers want free or affordable shipping options, package tracking, fast delivery and the ability to manage recurring deliveries.3

Future Growth Trends

For businesses to effectively enter and compete in the healthcare e‑commerce market, it is important that they monitor evolving trends.4

Here are a few emerging trends that may guide the future of healthcare e‑commerce:

Customers have indicated that incorporating new technology1 to deliver quality care, personalizing care5 to make it simpler to find specialized practitioners and making insurance pain-free6 are things they most want tackled as this industry grows.

75% of patients see technology as an important component of managing their health.7
95% of hospitals across the nearly 6,000 in the U.S. have electronic patient records systems in place, but less than half are using them to coordinate with other provider teams.8
59% of Americans think that online doctor ratings are important, especially online where 54% look to find new doctors.5
33% of people would rather deal with a lost credit card than manage their healthcare benefits.6

Key Takeaway

As new opportunities emerge within established markets, businesses should look at what companies are already there, who the customers are and what the future holds. With a solid competitive entry point, businesses entering the healthcare e‑commerce market may find it a potentially fruitful avenue for revenue.

For a more in-depth look at the state of healthcare e‑commerce, read our full white paper, “Prescription for Change: The State of Healthcare E‑commerce,” created in partnership with Internet Health Management.

Cross Border E-Commerce Trends

In today’s online shopping world, country borders don’t stop shoppers. Increasingly, shoppers worldwide are turning to e-commerce sites in search of products and prices that might not be available in their country. As U.S. businesses try to take advantage of this trend, here are several countries they might want to consider, based on trends revealed by a PayPal/Ipsos report.