Shipping is the culmination of the online purchasing process. Consequently, an etailer should keep in mind that this stage embodies all the efforts of the commercial chain, from acquisition to conversion. It should therefore not be left to the end of the process and only looked at from a purely logistical perspective. Shipping should be considered from the moment initial contact with the customer is made.
Consumers, who are now educated in ecommerce, are always concerned about how their products will be delivered and at what cost. Forrester recently indicated that free shipping is a determining factor in making a purchase for 60% of online consumers, while a global study by UPS showed that a similar proportion of customers abandon their basket if shipping costs increase the amount of the final bill beyond what was expected. Figures which should be borne in mind in an etailer’s marketing strategy.
In its report on shipping and ecommerce last June, the European Commission also highlighted the impor-tant role played by shipping in customer loyalty. In fact, it appears that the main factors that encourage a customer to make a repeat purchase from a webshop relate to logistics and transport: the cost of or free shipping; return options; delivery times and their flexibility; speed of shipments; tracking shipped items; updates during the shipping process, etc.
It can be seen, therefore, why shipping is no longer purely a matter for logistics experts and transport purchasing managers but is a powerful marketing tool for conversion and customer retention.

Highlighting free shipping
One of the main reasons for making online purchases, aside from the abundance of products, is the opportunity to make savings when compared to physical purchases – so if you choose to charge for shipping, ensure you have a marketing argument for doing so!
From the home page, but also on the product datasheet and generally throughout the purchasing process, free shipping should be emphasised. The aim: to reassure consumers and avoid any nasty surprises. In cross-border commerce, etraders also need to ensure transparency when it comes to the taxes that customers must pay, so as not to deceive them.
Offered occasionally, during special transactions, or selectively, on certain ranges of products (such as books on Amazon), free shipping can also serve as an enticement to encourage visitors to explore an et-rader’s catalogue. The shipping slip offered may also be used post-purchase, in order to retain customers.
Be careful, however, to pay attention to the change in strategy on shipping costs – PayPal warns that seven out of ten customers accustomed to free shipping will abandon an etailer who eliminates this service.

But also shipping times and options
Whilst free shipping can be attractive, speed can also be an advantage. Forrester shows that consumers also take into account the shipping times for their orders. Copenhagen Economics observes that 80% of consumers are prepared to make repeat purchases from an etailer if shipping is fast, between 2 and 4 days, and 70% for next day delivery.
This is why Amazon offers an Annual Prime Membership programme for €49 to receive orders within 24 hours. The company has even presented a future project drone capable of delivering an order package of up to 2.3 kg (86% of purchases) within 30 minutes – within a reasonable distance.
To optimise shipping, varied solutions must also be offered. On the one hand, there are the time slots, such as evening or weekend delivery, which enable consumers to fit ecommerce in with their working hours. According to an Ifop/L4Epsilon study, 80% of customers wish to receive deliveries in the evenings or at weekends. And then there are the alternatives: shipping points; post offices; automatic package kiosks.

Let’s not forget the need for transparent information
Things don’t stop at the point of purchase, retention tools need to be used following order placement too.
Some 80% of those surveyed by Copenhagen Economics take into account track and trace options in revisiting an etailer. Transparent communication throughout the shipping process therefore represents real added value.
There are three key moments to communicate: when an order has been dispatched; in the event of a delay and if the order could not be delivered. Proactive communication can be opted for, using email or SMS notifications, or a tracking code can be provided which ensures customers are aware of the status of their order at all times.

From the customers’ point of view, ecommerce is above all a means of practical distribution. They there-fore expect this benefit to be reflected when it comes to shipping.


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