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Shipping Policy & Delivery Options: Your Most Underrated Marketing Tool

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Social media, content, ppc, referral marketing, email campaigns – these are all eCommerce marketing tactics you may be focusing on to increase traffic to your site and convert more customers. But have you considered how your shipping policy and the delivery options you offer can also be a marketing tool?

As boring as shipping sounds, it’s actually important that you have a variety of solutions in place in order to provide flexibility to your customers and leave a lasting, positive impression of your business.

In fact, eFulfillment Service reports that 28% of consumers believe sellers can improve the checkout experience by offering multiple shipping options.

In this post, we’ll talk about the benefits of working with multiple couriers, what you should be communicating to your customers about international shipping, and how to use the most popular shipping promotion responsibly. Here’s how to use shipping policy and delivery options as part of your marketing mix:

Work with multiple couriers to provide delivery flexibility to your customers.

Online retailers have fewer opportunities than brick and mortar stores to provide personal customer service. Since there isn’t a chance to greet every customer or ask if they need assistance, you can use delivery as one way to demonstrate customer service offline.

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Flexibility and options make for a better customer service experience

One way to do this is by taking a customer-focused approach to shipping, rather than a seller-focused approach. By offering a variety of shipping solutions, you can exceed customer expectations to deliver real value and encourage customer loyalty.

Here’s why multiple shipping solutions are appealing to customers:

  • While some are willing to wait, they may prefer a courier that provides a decent tracking service and quicker delivery time frame. Working with a regional courier can satisfy this type of customer.
  • Some customers prefer using a particular courier based on their location, or simply because of a bad experience with another courier
  • Premium shipping can appeal to those who need it right away for personal reasons, wait until the last minute with no other options, or those who bought a high-value item.

According to ECN, 55% of eCommerce customers declare they won’t reorder from a website that had troubles with their parcel delivery, so it’s worth exploring solutions that provide the best value for customers in service versus cost.

When deciding which couriers you should work with, consider the following:

  • Postal vs express couriers. Postal couriers are the cheapest, and while their low prices could be appealing to some customers, their service quality may not be up to par for others. Although express couriers are pricier, you can expect them to provide a more reliable quality of service.
  • Delivery times. Some customers want fast delivery options, while others are willing to wait. By offering a range of solutions with different delivery times, you’ll have a better chance of satisfying more people.
  • Tracking quality. Choosing a courier with good tracking not only keeps customers updated, but also keeps requests about delivery to a minimum.

Now, you may be thinking that the above makes sense, but is easier said than done. As a busy eCommerce seller, you don’t have the time to research multiple couriers and negotiate rates.

One way to get around this is to work with a logistics reseller. These companies can provide you access to their accounts at multiple couriers with rates already discounted.

For example, at Easyship, we understand the importance of offering options, which is why we offer 250+ shipping solutions on our platform.

Communicate your international shipping policy effectively to ensure a smooth delivery experience.

If you’re new to shipping internationally, note that duties and taxes may apply to your shipment depending on what the item is and it’s value.

You can determine if your business will be affected by researching what the duty and tax rates are for the main destinations you plan on shipping to.

If duties and taxes apply, you’ll have to decide who will pay for them. If you are not willing to cover these additional costs, it’s best to tell your customers upfront that they will be responsible for handling payment.

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Explicitly stating the policy can also reduce customer service queries

There are two ways to handle payment:

  • Deliver the shipment with duties and taxes paid (DDP). For a small, fixed fee, some express couriers can process these payments to customs on your behalf.
  • Deliver the shipment with duties and taxes unpaid (DDU). By choosing this option, your customer will be responsible for settling the amount directly with customs.

Choosing between DDP and DDU can definitely impact the delivery experience of your customer.

By working with a courier that offers a DDP service, you can collect the tax payment from the customer directly at your checkout. This results in a smoother delivery process, as the courier will handle the payment with customs on your behalf and the customer will not have to be contacted.

By choosing DDU, the customer’s delivery will be delayed as customs will not release the parcel until the tax payment has been received. In many instances, customers are unaware of this extra step, causing them to be surprised when they receive a call from customs asking for additional payment.

There is also additional risk, as some customs brokers charge additional fees for each day the parcel stays in customs. It’s impossible to estimate what the total cost will be, which is why it is advisable to use a solution with DDP services to limit costs.

Offer free shipping responsibly to protect your margins.

According RJ Metrics, “60% of ecommerce companies cite ‘free shipping with conditions’ as their most successful marketing tool.”

And thanks to disruptors like Amazon, it’s gotten to the point where customers now expect this offering from every retailer.

ecommerce shipping policy - should i offer free shipping to customers

Free shipping is hard to beat, but Amazon has weaknesses you can compete with

There are a lot of alluring statistics that claim free shipping will help increase sales. However, for many small and medium businesses, it’s simply not possible to pay for every customer’s shipping costs without it negatively impacting margins.

In our view, free shipping is good – but in moderation. Here are some tips on how to make it work for SMB’s:

  • Offer free shipping at a time when your best selling products are in season. If customers are in purchase mode, you’ll have a better chance of converting them as the free shipping offer will validate their purchase.
  • Have customers spend a minimum amount before offering free shipping. This makes customers spend more than they intended, and helps you cover the cost of shipping.
  • Don’t make your minimum qualifying purchase price too high.  This could end up turning customers away. One way to determine your free shipping price is to figure out your average order value and increase by 10-15%.
  • Put a cap on your free shipping costs for certain destinations. Some places can be difficult to reach and expensive to ship to. Should a customer’s shipping cost go over your threshold, you can have them pay for the difference.
  • Only do free shipping for returns. This is a brilliant strategy, as the chances of returns are lower. It also helps build trust with your customer, as it gives them peace of mind that they do have the option to return if they need to.
  • Share how much your customer is saving at checkout. Customers love knowing that they got a good deal!

Conclusion: It’s not just about the free shipping

As delivery will be one of the last touch points your customer will have of your business, it’s important that it leaves a good impression!

Ensure your shipping is helping your business by:

  • Offering flexibility in delivery through a variety of solutions
  • Delighting overseas customers with hassle-free international shipping
  • Attaching conditions to free shipping to maintain margins

Michelle Mondonedo is a content marketer at Easyship, the all-in-one shipping tool that helps eCommerce sellers ship worldwide in minutes.

Raúl Galera

Raúl Galera

Raúl is ReferralCandy's partner manager.