4 Shipping Predictions Ecommerce Businesses Need to Watch in 2015

USPS, U.S. Postal Service, ecommerce, ecommerce returns, returns, shipping strategy, omnichannel, omnichannel best practices, free shipping, Amazon, Amazon Prime, Priority Mail, free two-day shipping, return labels, return shipping labelsSmall and mid-sized ecommerce businesses are facing unprecedented competition from retail giants with a strong online presence. In 2015, business owners will need to take a closer look at their technologies and tactics in order to compete.

One thing that will make a major difference this year is an effective shipping strategy. Ecommerce business owners who don’t have an effective strategy in place will run the risk of losing to their competition.

So here are my four shipping predictions for 2015:

Businesses will grapple with free shipping

Consumer expectation for free shipping isn’t going away anytime soon. According to a recent comScore study, the number of online purchases in the United States with free delivery hit an all-time high of 68% in the third quarter of 2014.

In 2015, we’ll continue to see major players in ecommerce find ways to deal with free shipping. For example, last year Amazon Prime — popular for its free two-day shipping — raised its annual fee to $99, largely to cover mounting shipping costs.

In order to compete, ecommerce business owners will need to reevaluate their shipping mix to look for ways to lower costs.

One carrier to explore is the U.S. Postal Service, which lowered rates for Priority Mail in September, making them a much more competitive and affordable option for packages weighing up to 40 pounds.

Returns will take center stage

When it comes to delivering a seamless online shopping experience, product returns are often seen as the final frontier. Delivering this experience is no longer just an expectation of large retailers; small ecommerce businesses will also need to provide easy and convenient returns or lose out on a lot of market share. After all, 89% of shoppers will revisit an online store if they have a positive returns experience.

For small ecommerce businesses, creating a positive returns experience could mean including return shipping labels in outbound packages, or providing the ability to print a return label on-demand. A  good returns solution will be critical for maintaining positive customer relationships.

Ecommerce will become even more consumer-centric

Ecommerce has always been about the consumer, and online fulfillment reflects that. In 2015, we can expect to see more tech players come to the forefront with solutions to appease consumer appetites. Take the nascent Doorman app, for example, which provides consumers with the power to determine when and how their ecommerce parcels are delivered.

As retail evolves to become more omnichannel — the new gold standard in ecommerce – innovative services and companies will crop up to create a fluid shopping (and delivery) experience across the board. Smart ecommerce businesses need to be ready to greet these new services with open arms.

More cross-border trade between Canada and the United States

International shipping is becoming the norm for online businesses, and with trade boundaries lowering, there’s never been a better time to go global, or at least accommodate our neighboring consumers to the north.

If U.S.-based small ecommerce businesses want to expand abroad this year, Canada’s striking number of potential customers is a great place to start.

According to Canada Post, four out of five Canadians have purchased online, and two-thirds have had items shipped to them from outside Canada. It’s no wonder that Canada has become an attractive market for U.S. goods. We’ll see new technologies and opportunities spring up in 2015 that will simplify international commerce, leaving no reason for U.S. ecommerce businesses to not be selling to Canadians.

2015 is going to be an exciting year for ecommerce, and I’m looking forward to seeing how small businesses adopt new shipping strategies as they fight to stay competitive.

Amine Khechfe is co-founder and general manager of Endicia