4 Ways to Turn Ecommerce Shipping into Your Competitive Edge

For ecommerce, 2016 has set new record-high expectations for consumers, leaving many merchants playing catch up. With large and small businesses competing for consumer attention by offering free shipping, in-store pickups, and same-day delivery, you have to wonder, how well are these tactics working? Which should you consider offering? Which are just wasted efforts?

At Shippo we recently surveyed both consumers and merchants to find what consumer expectations are and what other businesses are offering. We found key areas of improvement that businesses can consider to turn shipping into a competitive advantage.

Pair Free Shipping Offers With a Specific Action

Get smart about free shipping. According to survey results, 63% of consumers indicated that free shipping matters only somewhat to them. The main decision point is price — if they can find the same product at total cost cheaper elsewhere, paying for shipping doesn’t matter.

Whether there is a free shipping threshold over a certain order value, or for a specific category of items (to clear out old inventory), make sure to always pair free shipping offers with a specific call to action. Using it to incentivize an action from customers is the best way to utilize shipping to drive sales.

Free Returns Can Trump Free Outbound Shipping 

Often, returns are considered a cost center. As a result, return logistics is often the most overlooked opportunity for merchants when it comes to shipping.

Up to 34% of consumers said that they will only make a purchase if they know that they can return or exchange an item for free. However, 59% of businesses do not offer a returns shipping service at all, suggesting a missed opportunity to reach a significant subset of consumers.

Return shipping offers can be tactfully setup. For instance Zappos offers a 365-days return policy that customers love. But realistically, those who will actually return their purchase will do it within a very short time period, while those who are on the edge may end up forgetting it completely. Since the time window is so long, many shoppers will never get around to completing a return at all.

Shipping Speed Doesn’t Matter As Much As Fulfillment Time

In 2016 especially, Amazon Prime and Prime Now have been dominating the headlines by touting next-day, same-day, or on-demand delivery options.

However, based on survey results the payoff may not be worth it. Only 4% of consumers indicated they would want same- or next-day delivery. Drilling down even further, only 1% ended up paying for the service when offered.

What is important though, is fulfillment time. Up to 69% of consumers expect a shipment tracking number within 24 hours of when they click buy. So it’s important to keep on top of your orders to ensure that customers can see that their orders are being processed in good time.

Customers Don’t Care Who Ships It

Ecommerce shipping doesn’t need to have a significant impact on your margins. But the majority of savings have to be done in advance and behind the scenes.

Nearly all consumers in our survey (94%) said they don’t care which carrier is delivering the package, yet 36% of merchants only use one carrier. By expanding your toolset with multiple shipping providers that cater to different needs, you can save a lot of money.

For instance, Amazon only displays shipping options to buyers based on delivery estimates. But in the background, they use a variety of different carriers from UPS and FedEx for express packages to the U.S. Postal Service for regular delivery, and regional carriers like OnTrac and Pitt Ohio for localized deliveries.

Use shipping to help you drive sales, capture new customers, attract return shoppers and save money. Get a pulse on what your customers are asking for and turn shipping into your competitive edge.

Laura Behrens Wu is the Co-Founder and CEO of Shippo

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