The internet is a technology that’s revolutionised the way we conduct business. It allows us to order the items we want and have them arrive at our home a few days afterwards (or a few hours afterwards, if we’ve feeling particularly urgent), all with just the click of a mouse and a few taps of the keyboard.
Of course, while this development is a welcome one, it hasn’t entirely replaced everything that came before it. It remains impossible, for example, to send someone a toaster via e-mail. And so we must rely on the postal service. If you’re running an online retailer, and you’re shipping goods to your customers, then you’ll need to avoid a number of different pitfalls. Items which arrive late, broken or at the wrong address will detract from the reputation of your company, and hidden costs and restrictive options will irritate your customers and persuade them to take their custom elsewhere. Let’s examine some of the more common errors made by online retailers, and consider how we might avoid them.
Keep Pricing Transparent
Online retailers will understandably be tempted to disguise the true cost of shipping. After all, the lower the price you can advertise in larger print, the more likely your customers will be to get through to the checkout of your online store. But if, once they reach the checkout, they find that the cost of their goods has suddenly skyrocketed, they’ll often leave your website never to return. In order to foster trust, don’t be tempted to deceive your customers about the true price they’ll be paying – they’re certain to find out sooner or later, after all.
Keep Options Open
In order to reduce the shock that comes from the addition of postage, you might be tempted to offer postage for free, transferring these costs to other parts of the business. If you’re offering free shipping, you might be doing so to the detriment of other qualities your customers might value, like speed and flexibility. If your customers absolutely need an item the next working day, then there’s no sense in denying them if they’re willing to pay for it.By offering a variety of options, you’ll be able to appeal to the widest possible range of customers – and you’ll still be able to lure people in with the promise of free shipping.
Clarity Is King
When you’re sending out products, it’s unavoidable that some of them will arrive unfit for purpose – perhaps because they were in that state when they were sent out, or because they were damaged in transit, you’ll have to contend with customers who want to return those items. There are few things more annoying for a customer than having to trawl through the hidden pages of your website in search of a returns policy. Having to return an item, particularly if it’s an expensive one, is an extremely stressful thing. While you might fear a flood of returns as a reward for telling your customers how they can return their purchases, the likelier result is that your customers will trust your company when they next make an order. Be sure to tell your customers how long they can expect to wait, how shipping will be paid for, and any other relevant details.
Avoid Postage Mistakes
In order that the necessity of a return is kept a remote likelihood, it’s important to adequately package the products you’re sending out. Be sure that the address is legible, and ideally printed, to avoid mistakes and ambiguity. Businesses over a certain size are unlikely to hand-write their addresses, but they can still run into problems with incorrect labelling, either as a result of customer error or their own. Eliminate this likelihood with the help of an address finder – an application that’ll allow you to use a postcode to search for a list of valid addresses. Offer your customers an address lookup function and the possibility of error will be narrowed still further.
You’ll also want to adequately package your products in order to ensure that they arrive at their destination intact. Exactly what sort of packaging this might imply will depend on the item being packaged, but you’ll likely want to make extensive use of bubble-wrap and polystyrene – especially if the item in question is of a fragile or especially valuable nature. While there’s no way of eliminating the possibility of damage in transit altogether, and little bit of extra packaging is a small price to pay to slash the cost, stress and time involved in arranging returns.