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.

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.

Preparing Your In-Store Staff for Ship-from-Store Fulfillment

Optimizing a brick-and-mortar retail store to manage ship-from-store processes is a complex and intricate task. One of the biggest hurdles is training and motivating retail sales staff to accurately fulfill online orders. These employees are hired to assist customers in person and most likely don’t have training in picking, packing and shipping inventory.

To successfully implement ship-from-store fulfillment, retailers need a well-trained and highly motivated staff that can execute sales on- and offline. Here are four important tips for building a staff that will support ship-from-store.

Think (and Staff) Ahead

If you anticipate a greater demand for shipping, bolster your ship-from-store operations by staffing up. Bringing in dedicated support for picking, packing and shipping can help offset training time and concerns about commissions for your regular sales staff.

Train Your Staff on Fulfillment

Adding in-store fulfillment for online orders calls for a different skill set than that of a customer-facing sales team. Develop reference materials like booklets and posters, and use them as part of ongoing training programs to help employees performing fulfillment functions implement easy-to-follow processes. Training should include:

  1. 1

    Picking

    Train your staff to pick products for online orders in the most efficient way. This is best done in batches when in-store customer traffic is low, like before the store opens, after it closes or during slow periods throughout the day. Scheduling it during these time periods will cut down on in-store distractions that slow down the picking process. Having staff members assigned to either fulfillment or customer sales also makes picking easier to implement without hurting the customer experience.

  2. 2

    Packing

    Next, you’ll need to teach your staff the proper way to pack items. Create a dedicated packing station that is stocked with all the right tools—boxes, envelopes, fill material, scissors, tape—and that displays instructions for properly packing items to ship. It is considered best practice to use consistent packaging across fulfillment channels to avoid any issues. If a product is improperly packed, it could be damaged, lost or delayed, causing a customer to ultimately lose trust in your store.

  3. 3

    Shipping

    Shipping time is a huge factor in customer satisfaction. Develop a process that takes into account pickup times and also ensures that employees check off all the necessary steps before sending. For example, a package being shipped internationally would need different paperwork and postage than a local one.

Provide Emotional Motivation

Adjusting to ship-from-store standards and processes can be taxing for everyday sales employees. They may see the addition of fulfillment as losing productive hours and commissions or feel underappreciated and overworked. In your orientations and trainings, make sure to address these emotional pain points—transparency and reassurance helps show your appreciation for your hardworking staff.

Provide Financial Motivation

Hand in hand with emotional motivation comes financial motivation. If your employees are worried about losing in-store sales, adjust your commission structure to fit the new ship-from-store strategy. Bring ordering technology into the store with laptops or eCommerce apps that employees are trained to use. This will improve the experience of a customer who can’t find what they need in person, and will help your sales staff seamlessly close deals for products bought online.

In Conclusion

Implementing a ship-from-store process in your brick-and-mortar stores requires understanding and participation from employees. Transparency along with robust, ongoing training for staff members can help any store optimize its new fulfillment strategy.

5 Ways to Start Distributing from Your Retail Store

More and more store owners are turning to a ship-from-store fulfillment strategy, leveraging in-store inventory and shipping directly from their retail locations. There are many potential benefits to this method: fewer markdowns, improved asset utilization and, with stores shipping to nearby customers, lower costs and quicker delivery times. But it takes detailed planning and effort to make the transition seamlessly. Here, we take you through the five all-important steps to turning your stores into effective distribution centers.

  1. 1

    Make Your Inventory Status Transparent

    Creating system-wide inventory visibility is the first step to implementing in-store fulfillment. This will allow you to have the right product available in the right locations at the right time. Assess your current inventory management system and make sure it can track and reallocate products when needed. If you have multiple systems in place across stores and distribution centers, integrate your inventory management to ensure that your inventory is visible across channels. This is essential for managing consumer demand and keeping orders moving efficiently.

  2. 2

    Define Which Stores Will Turn Into Distribution Centers

    Next, you’ll have to choose which stores will double as fulfillment centers. This is critical to success. It’s important to note: not all of your physical locations need to answer your fulfillment needs. Focus on converting larger stores that have both the backroom space and a sizable amount of inventory. This will ensure that there’s enough supply in stock and enough space to manage it. Also consider the locations of the stores. Use data from past sales to see which regions order the most and could benefit from having a fulfillment center nearby. Fulfilling orders from a store in proximity to a large number of customers means shorter delivery times and lower-cost deliveries.

    Choose stores that also have inventory-management technology that will allow you to catalog products correctly and have orders fulfilled in a timely way. Be sure at least one of your stores fulfills these characteristics before starting to ship from store.

  3. 3

    Organize Your In-Store Distribution Center

    Typical distribution centers have streamlined processes in place for picking, packing and shipping. Mirror the process on a smaller level in your stores, so that products are handled and packaged just as professionally as in your traditional distribution centers, and you create efficient shipping practices. Not to mention, your customers will be provided with the same standout experience regardless of where the product is shipped, so they can expect consistent branding and packaging with their order.

    Some employees may not see fulfilling online orders as their main priority, sending out poorly wrapped and packaged orders. Train them in the picking, packing and shipping process, and make sure your in-store distribution center is organized efficiently so that employees can consistently meet your packaging and wrapping standards.

  4. 4

    Set Up a Product Return System

    Easy returns are critically important to customers. Set up a return system that works for you and your customers. Determine whether orders should be returned in person to stores or shipped back to stores or distribution centers. Then set clear guidelines about mail-only or in-store returns and communicate them clearly to your customers.

  5. 5

    Retrain Your Staff

    When you add distribution to the list of items your employees are responsible for, you will have to retrain your staff on new procedures and challenges. Some employees may be resistant to being tasked with supporting online sales in addition to their main in-store responsibilities. To motivate commission-based employees, consider offering incentives to help ensure buy-in or adjusting your commission structure to fit the ship-from-store strategy.

    In some cases, it might be beneficial to hire additional staff to handle in-store fulfillment and train them specifically for that purpose. Naturally, their performance would be measured differently than that of commission-based employees, allowing for a higher degree of control, quality and accountability.

In Conclusion

If you prepare your space, adapt your in-store procedures and work with your employees for a smooth transition, you can begin shipping from store and see the potential benefits to your bottom line and in your customer satisfaction. You’ll not only utilize your inventory more efficiently, but also be able to get items out the door faster and at lower cost.