How To Offer Customer Service Through Your Order Fulfillment

June 15th, 2016 Comments off

sdc_ShippingStrategyCustomerServiceTo run a successful business, you need to have great customer service. While brick-and-mortar stores capitalize on the face-to-face communication we often associate with customer service, online businesses can still master the art of communicating with their customers – namely, through their shipping process. Here are five ways to master customer service by improving your shipping strategy.

1. Be clear about shipping expectations
Negative feedback is overwhelmingly related to issues associated with shipping. To hedge your bets and negate this, provide very realistic expectations for when an item should arrive. Be transparent, and explain the difference between shipping (when an item leaves your possession or warehouse to begin its journey to the customer) and delivery (when the package arrives on the buyer’s doorstep). During high-volume times like the holidays, provide a shipping time table that lets buyers see how soon they need to order packages to expect them by Christmas. Always try to get items to the Post Office the day the order was placed or within 24 hours, if possible. If and when packages show up early, buyers will be pleasantly surprised and more likely to leave positive feedback.

2. Include a custom packing slip
Marketplaces like Amazon have strict rules on how you can contact and interact with a buyer. The packing slip is a safe way to connect, and can help personalize the buying experience. Write a brief note within the packing slips thanking buyers for their patronage, letting them know that they are welcome to contact you, if necessary, and leaving the best method of contacting you. This will reassure buyers that you care, and that you’re just a phone call or email away should they need to reach out. The best packing slips I’ve seen also include a handwritten thanks with the signature of the employee that packaged my item. A reported 68% of customers will stop supporting a business if they feel that the company is indifferent towards them. Bring some humanity to the shipping experience and let buyers know you care.

3. Offer a discount for their next purchase
Discounts and coupons encourage repeat salesand demonstrate that you appreciate a customer’s business. As always, you must abide by each marketplace’s rules when offering discounts or coupons. It is legal to extend a discounted offer, but you cannot do so in exchange for positive feedback. A coupon for their next purchase may encourage feedback organically, but you can’t use it an as incentive.

4. Brand your packaging
The more you can make your buyers’ shopping experience stand out, the better. A 10-year study found that brands that can evoke an emotional connection with buyers can effectively charge up to 200% more than competitors. Branding your packaging will contribute to this. If you sell on your own website, you have free rein to package as creatively as you like. That said, you can still offer a unique experience on stricter marketplaces. After you have the appropriate packing materials, like bubble mailers or sturdy boxes, what can you add to set yourself apart from competitors and create a fun experience for customers? What unique addition would make sense with your brand persona? I recently ordered balloons from a small, party supplies seller on Etsy. When the package arrived, I opened the bubble mailer and confetti came out. It was fun, surprising, and totally consistent with the brand. Creating a genuinely fun shipping experience for me set this seller apart from her competitors, and demonstrated to me that she thinks about her customers from start to finish. I loved it, and I will definitely purchase from her again.

5. Make all returns free
We know not every seller is able to make free shipping work with their budget. Free, unconditional returns is a great alternative to offering unlimited free shipping, and benefits the customer and retailer alike. Here’s why:  a reported 49% of consumers believe shipping costs to be the most exasperating aspect of returning an item. Another 88% of consumers would rate free return shipping as either “important” or “very important” when making purchase decisions, and 82% of another test group affirm that they would complete an online purchase if the seller offers free return shipping. Making returns easy and free for the buyer is a great way to nail customer service and promote buyer trust. And if a buyer does make a return, they are more than likely going to shop from you again in the future, if your return shipping is free.

Offering exceptional customer service through your shipping process doesn’t just impress customers – it encourages future purchases, stewards repeat buyers and helps you win out over competitors. Get creative with branding, be generous with returns and communicate with buyers that you’re a reliable and considerate retailer. If you can nail this, you will reap the benefits. Happy selling!

ecomdash_logo_smallEcomdash is an award-winning multichannel inventory software for e-commerce retailers. It offers an end-to-end e-commerce solution to complete workflow, including inventory and sales order management, product listing, dropshipping and fulfillment management, reporting and more.

How to Offer Free Shipping on a Small Budget

May 25th, 2016 Comments off

267203_Blog-Free-Shipping-on-a-Small-Business-BudgetJust as e-commerce evolves, so do its shoppers. Online shoppers span across generations, interests and buying habits. Though we all tend to browse for products a little differently, there’s something just about all online buyers look for when shopping – free shipping. In fact, they almost demand it. One comScore report found the following data regarding free shipping for e-commerce orders:

– 81% of consumers would rate free shipping as a top priority
– 93% of shoppers would take some type of action (add more items to their cart, search online for promo codes, etc.) to qualify for free shipping
– 58% would add items to their cart to qualify for free shipping
– 83% are willing to wait two extra days for delivery, if the item would ship for free

separate report by comScore found that Free Shipping Day 2012 helped increase sales the final week before Christmas by 16% compared to the previous year. That was a boost kicked off from a single day promotion. Imagine what your profit margins would look like if you offered free shipping all the time.

Great stats aside, a small business doesn’t have the budget that an enterprise might, and therefore may not be able to offer free shipping year round. Free shipping is too great an opportunity to pass up, and even small businesses can partake in it. Here are five ways a small e-commerce business can offer free shipping without breaking the bank.

Offer free shipping during holidays
Allowing free shipping during the holidays is a great alternative to offering it all the time, and won’t cost you beyond what you’re able to spend. Orders will be higher during this season, which will help eat the cost of shipping goods for free. Another option is to offer free shipping during a specific holiday. One-day sales and free shipping incentives are popular on Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve/Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

Set a minimum cart value
Target does it. There’s no reason you can’t, too. Determine the minimum order value a buyer must purchase in order to qualify for free shipping, and offer it under those conditions. A case study found that when one company added a minimum shopping cart threshold to earn free shipping, orders increased by 90%. Moreover, the average order value also increased by 7.32%. Pull together some numbers to help determine a minimum order value that would work for your business. You need to know:

– Total Orders Received
– Average Order Value
– Average Profit Margin
– Shipping Fees per Order
– Shipping Costs per Order

Once you have these variables, plug them into this calculator, which will tell you your shopping profit. You can then find your minimum shopping cart threshold for free shipping with the following equation:

[(Minimum Cart Value – Average Order Value) x Gross Profit Margin] – Shipping Cost = Minimum Order Value

Plug and play with different estimated Minimum Cart Values to find an order value that works for you.

Offer it to email subscribers
Extending free shipping to customers on your distribution list is essentially creating long-term profits. Subscribers will be the first to be notified of new products, sales, offers and marketing efforts. These customers are already your biggest source of revenue. E-commerce businesses that have 40% of their customers making repeat purchases generate nearly 50% more revenue than other sellers with only 10% of their customers returning. By offering free shipping to your most loyal buyers, you’re encouraging them to make new purchases and shop from you long-term.

Free shipping for returns
More and more online businesses are implementing free returns as part of their return policy. Zappos offers free, unconditional returns for all products (in addition to free shipping). Offering free returns works for small businesses for two reasons: 1) you will pay for return postage only sparingly, and 2) free returns create buyer trust and encourage shoppers to follow through with a purchase…which they likely won’t return, anyways. Researchers found that businesses that offered free shipping on returns saw sales increase by up to 357%. Even if you have to bite the bullet and pay for a few returns, you’ll more than make up that cost with better profits.

Make it available for certain products
If you don’t have room in your budget to offer free shipping on all your products, try making it available for just a few. Have any product you need to move in order to make room for new inventory? Offer to ship it for free. In industry speak, this is called order-level shipping. Offer free shipping on best sellers, sale items, or products that will be popular during a given event. If you’re an online florist, you could offer free shipping on red roses in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day. Or, if you ordered some new stock and want to test its popularity, advertise it with a free-shipping guarantee. You’ll incentivize people to buy it. If it does well, you’ll feel safe ordering a large quantity from your supplier.

Free shipping positively impacts profit margins and customer relations. It is increasingly becoming the norm across e-commerce industries, and shoppers are growing to expect it. Offer free shipping in a modified way that makes sense for your business, and you can reap the benefits too.

ecomdash_logo_smallEcomdash is an award-winning multichannel inventory software for e-commerce retailers. It offers an end-to-end e-commerce solution to complete workflow, including inventory and sales order management, product listing, dropshipping and fulfillment management, reporting and more.

 

First Class Package Service: Summary of 2016 USPS Rate Increase

January 22nd, 2016 Comments off

First Class Package Service is a fast, affordable delivery service for packages weighing up to 15.99 ounces. This mail class offers 1 to 3 day delivery within the U.S. and includes free USPS Tracking.

blog_first-class-package-service_2016-rates-box2

Stamps.com is printing the cheaper Post Office rate of $2.54 instead of the $2.60 Commercial Base rate for First Class Parcels weighing 1 to 3 ounces. To get the cheaper rate, you must download Version 13.3 at www.stamps.com/download/


Changes to First Class Package Service in 2016

Maximum Package Weight Increased to 15.99 Ounces
USPS has introduced a new maximum weight limit for First Class Package Service. You can now print up to 15.99 ounces when printing First Class Package Service using Stamps.com. Previously, the maximum weight limit was 13 ounces.

Online Discounts
When you purchase First Class Package Service postage online, the maximum discount off Post Office rates will increase to 26% (previously 25%)

7.6% Average Rate Increase for Online Rates (Commercial Base Pricing)
First Class Package Service rates will start at $2.54 (previously at $2.04) for Stamps.com customers. Rates are increasing by an average of 7.6% for Commercial Base Pricing.

Stamps.com Exclusive: Save $0.06 per package!

If you print First Class Package Service for packages weighing between 1 and 3 ounces, you can save $0.06 for each package. While online rates are typically  cheaper than the Post Office rates, prices at the Post Office were not increased during the January 2016 postage rate increase.

This created a unique situation where the Post Office rate for First Class Package Service packages weighing between 1 and 3 ounces are cheaper than online rates (Commercial Base pricing). Stamps.com has incorporated this cheaper 2016 Post Office rate into our program!  To get this discount, you MUST download Stamps.com Version 13.3

Easy Guidelines To Follow For Effective USPS Shipping

August 28th, 2015 Comments off

Blog-Guidelines-To-Follow-USPS-ShippingA smooth shipping process not only helps streamline your operations as an e-commerce seller, but also ensures your products reach your customers without undue delays.  Moreover, you can focus your efforts on growing your business instead of dealing with customer complaints and questions around package delivery status or postage due at the time of delivery.

What can you do to ensure a seamless shipping experience from the time your package leaves your hands and reaches your customer?  Follow these five easy USPS shipping guidelines!

Pay Attention To Your Package

Guideline #1 – Round up on Weights:  Did you know that the USPS rounds up package weights to the nearest ounce or pound depending on the mail class used?  To avoid underpaying for postage or even worse having your customer pay postage at the time of delivery, always round up your package weight.  As an example, if your package weighs 10 lbs. and 5 oz., you should use the shipping rate for an 11 lb. package.

Guideline #2 – Check the Dimensions:  Your package size can make a difference in how much you pay shipping!  Dimensional (DIM) weight may apply to a USPS package that is larger than 1 cubic foot (12″ x 12″ x 12″).  Pay attention to the dimensions of your package and avoid unnecessary empty space to lower shipping costs.

Does Your Shipping Label Match Your Package?

Guideline #3 – Verify the Mail Class:  What mail class should you use to ship your package?  This depends on the weight of your package, how soon you need it to be at its destination and also how much you want to pay for shipping.  Remember, each mail class allows packages up to a certain weight limit only.  Choose First Class Package Service for packages weighing up to 13 ounces and Priority Mail for packages over that weight limit!

Guideline #4 – Double check the Shipping Zone:  USPS Shipping Zones are calculated based on the distance between the origin and destination addresses.  Stamps.com customers should verify that the origin zip code (the zip code for where you ship your packages from) is set up correctly.

Guideline #5 – Match the Label to the Packaging:  Your shipping label should match your package!  For example, based on the package weight, size and shipping zone of your package, if you have decided to use a Flat Rate Priority Mail Box for your package, make sure to choose the corresponding mail class while printing your label.  Also, your Flat Rate label must only be used on a Flat Rate box.

USPS Shipping Made Easy With Stamps.com

When you ship with Stamps.com, you don’t need to worry about underpaying for postage.  Use your Stamps.com digital scale to accurately weigh your package and the software will automatically use the rounded up weight and charge you the appropriate shipping rate.  Next, enter the package dimensions so Stamps.com can determine whether or not DIM weight applies to your package.  Select the correct package type or enter the dimensions of your package.  Also, make sure to set up your origin zip code correctly. When you enter the destination address, Stamps.com automatically calculates the correct shipping zone for your package.  Finally, choose your mail class and Stamps.com will print the appropriate USPS shipping label for your package.

 

 

3 Steps to an Easy Returns Process

July 24th, 2015 Comments off

We hear you – managing returns is frustrating. It can feel complex, time consuming, or even like the death of a sale. That said, 60% of shoppers who make at least one return to an online store, a whopping 95% of them will purchase from that store again if the return experience is positive. Moreover, if those shoppers feel that their return or exchange was an easy process, 64% of them will refer that online shop to friends. So even though returns may feel like an e-retailer’s nightmare, they can actually be the catalyst for more sales and new customers. In order to win back those sales, you have to make sure your return process is a walk in the park.

Here are 3 simple ways to guarantee a better return experience for your customers:

#1. Make It Clear
Your return policy must be easy to find on your site, with all policy information clearly stated. Be detailed and include all rules, like what you will provide (return postage, for example), and a step-by-step guide on how to proceed with the return. If you’d like an example, Zappos.com has a detailed and clearly outlined returns process that appears simple for the customer. Model your return policy webpage after theirs.

Zappos

#2. Know The Worth Of Returns vs. Customer Service
Figure out ahead of time the value of letting buyers keep the original item and sending them a replacement, vs. asking that they go through the return process. There are some cases where it is actually better for your company’s reputation, even if you end up eating some of your profit. See below for an example from Practical Ecommerce’s 4 Tips for Better Ecommerce Returns and Exchanges where this special circumstance played out:

A guitarist for a popular party and event band recently ordered a new guitar strap from a merchant on the Amazon marketplace. Unfortunately, there was an error in the shipment, and the merchant apparently sent a shorter strap than expected. When this guitarist contacted the seller about an exchange, he was told that a new strap would be shipped that day and that he could simply keep the smaller strap.

This solution was great for the customer, who did not have to repackage the strap or arrange for a carrier to pick it up. He was generally happy with the experience. This was probably also better for the merchant, who might have simply been able to order a new guitar strap from its distributor for about the same cost as having the strap returned.

In order to determine whether or not you can provide this kind of special customer service, you need to know all applicable variables. This includes cost of return shipping, cost of processing the return and profit lost on the item. Sometimes, a small (or fairly insignificant) loss will lead to a huge gain later. A customer could be so impressed with your service that they will not only shop from you again, but they’ll refer friends. Don’t forget, 64% of buyers will speak highly of retailers that gave them a positive return experience.

#3. Bring The Policy To Them
You already know not to bury your return policy landing page somewhere on your website where shoppers will have a hard time finding it. To keep them in the loop, consider posting (just once) on your social media sites either a link to your return policy page or a cliff notes version for them to quickly scan. Doing this will communicate that you are on their side and want them to be happy with their purchase – and if there is an issue, you want to make the return easy for them. This can be especially timely during the holiday season, and may be a smart post for December 26th. Drive it home with a follow up post inviting social media followers to share pictures of themselves with their new products. The more you can establish an emotional connection between your business and your buyers, the better your business will perform. According to a 10-year study conducted by Hiebing, brands that evoke a strong emotional response can sell more, drive customer loyalty and successfully charge up to 200% more than competitors.

With these tips in your back pocket, you can simplify the return process for your e-commerce store. Your buyers will appreciate it, and so will your bottom line. Of all the customers who make returns, are you ready to bring back the 95% who will shop from you again?

ecomdash_logo_smallEcomdash is an award-winning multichannel inventory software for ecommerce retailers. It offers an end-to-end ecommerce solution to complete workflow, including inventory and sales order management, product listing, dropshipping and fulfillment management, reporting and more.

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